Let’s Build a Barn: Creating a Floor Plan

ArticleHow to - Tack and EquipmentThursday 19 January 2012

If you are going to build a barn, it is important to carefully consider what you will need as you create your floor plan.  There are several essential spaces needed in a barn, and unless you plan for them ahead of time, you may find that you are not prepared once your horses move in.

1.    Stalls

This may be obvious, but you will need to plan how many stalls you need, and how big they should be.  The average box stall is 10’x10’.  This is adequate for most horses, but if you have bigger animals or draft horses you might want to build some bigger stalls.  Ponies need less space and can be happy in a 6’x8’ stall.  If you plan on having foals, either build two stalls with a removable divider between them, or build an extra large stall at least 12’x14’ in size.  Standing stalls are another option you might want to consider, but remember that many horses will not be comfortable in a standing stall if they are used to having a box stall.

2.    The Aisle

It is important to build an aisle that is wide enough to lead your horses without incident.  If the stalls allow the horses to hang their heads out, you will need some extra width to prevent biting as other horses pass.  Ideally an aisle should be at least 10’ wide.  If you want to drive a tractor, truck, hay wagon or other equipment through the barn, you need to plan the aisle to be wide enough that such vehicles can pass through with adequate clearance.

3.    Feed Room

You will need to build an enclosed room in which to store the feed.  This room should be designed so that you can keep loose horses from getting into it, reducing the risk of colic due to gorging.  The feed room should be big enough to manage any feed bins that you will be using. . Old, non-functional freezers with intact seals are excellent storage bins for grain, being rodent-proof.  It is useful to have a fridge in the feed room to keep medications in (and cold drinks in the summer!).  A sink with running water is very useful.  A small hot-water tank is a luxury that would be nice for making bran mashes.  

4.    Tack Room

This is where you will store all the tack and equipment for the horses.  This room should be as large as you can manage, especially if you are running a boarding stable.  Consider the size of the average tack truck, and plan enough space for one truck for each boarder.  Some barns choose to design lockers in which boarders can store their tack.  This helps keep the clutter in control and keep boarders from taking up too much space.

5.    Hay Storage

All barns need a place to store hay.  You can store the hay in a loft, or in a part of the barn itself.  Some people choose to store hay in a separate building.  If you do this, be sure to include a small space to store hay currently in use.  You should be able to manage at least 50-100 bales in your barn at all times.

6.    Grooming Areas

Whether you choose to set up crossties in the aisle, or build grooming stalls, be sure to designate a specific area for grooming horses.  If you run a boarding facility or a riding school, you will need to have several grooming areas to manage the traffic.  A wash stall is a nice luxury to offer if you have the room.

7.    A Washroom

While this is more of a luxury, if you are boarding horses it is an essential.  Whether you use an outhouse, a rental unit, or have a real bathroom, you should plan where you will have it set up.  If you choose to use the bathroom in your house, be sure that you are ok with having visitors and boarders coming in to use the facilities as necessary.

8.    Bedding Storage

You will need bedding for your horses.  No matter what type of bedding you use, you will need somewhere to store it.  Bedding should be stored somewhere dry and easily accessible so you can get it when you are mucking stalls.  Beware of open piles of bulk shavings.  The wind will blow it around and the rain will ruin a lot of your bedding.  While a tarp will cover it, you still have to worry about putting the tarp up and down every time you muck stalls.

9.    Manure Pile

Plan where you will stack your manure when you muck.  There needs to be easy access from the barn. The manure pile should not be too close, but not too far, especially if you are using wheelbarrows.  If possible, place it out of obvious sight.  Placing the manure pile downwind from the barn will help keep the odor to a minimum.  

10.    Turn-out

As you plan your barn, keep in mind where your paddocks are.  Plan your exits so that you will be easily able to access all turn-outs.  If the paddock gates are far away from the barn, it will require a long walk to get to them.  Turn-out takes enough time as it is, without wasting time due to poor planning.

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