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Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997

Providing Shelter for Your Horse

Alayne Blickle

Providing shelter for your horse can mean anything from a tree in a pasture to a nice, big barn. If you are in the market for a horse shelter, or would like to add one to your pasture, consider a horse’s basic requirements when reviewing design options.

Healthy horses can withstand cold temperatures, but when it’s windy as well, they can lose a considerable amount of body heat. This situation worsens when a horse is wet from rain or snow. Horses should be provided with a place where they can get out of extreme heat, driving rain and wind, and severe cold temperatures. This can be anything from a basic run-in shed to larger structure.

Location Considerations

  • When choosing the location for your shelter look for a high, well-drained area.
  • Stay as far away as possible from creeks, wetlands and ditches, and watch that hills or sloping ground behind or near your structure don't create drainage issues.
  • Locate the shelter facing away from prevailing weather patterns.
  • Consider convenient accessibility - both for people and for vehicles that might need access.
  • Be sure that alleys and paths are wide enough for your wheelbarrows and other equipment.
  • Utilities are another consideration. Plan to bring in the utilities you need in the early stages.
  • Shelters, barns and other areas, such as manure storage, should be located a minimum of 100’ away from wellheads, or as dictated by local regulations.
  • Septic drain fields should not be used for any horse activity so as not to damage or compact the soil and create a possible failure.
  • Check your local zoning and building codes before starting your project.
  • Choose a location where odors, dust, flies and noise won’t upset neighbors.

Building Considerations

  • A three-sided, roofed, run-in shed can provide excellent shelter, and may be the most natural for a horse to utilize.
  • When designing your shelter, consider including a rodent-proof, horse-proof area to store feed and bedding supplies for chore efficiency.
  • The flooring in your stall or shelter should be dry and level. Rubber mats on top of six inches of compacted gravel provide an excellent surface with some cushioning.
  • If you build walls they should be strong, smooth and free of projections. They should be at least eight feet high and extend to the ground, so a horse cannot get its legs caught when lying down.
  • Be aware of metal siding used for horse buildings: horses can easily kick through metal siding and can also injure themselves on any unfinished, sharp edges.
  • Provide enough space: stall size for a horse is typically 12’x12’, or 10'x10' for a small horse or pony. A minimum of 12’x20’ is recommended for two horses. If horses housed together don't get along, consider a divider, or make separate areas to avoid injuries.
  • Feeding on sand or muddy ground can lead to ingestion of dirt, causing serious digestion problems; rubber matting can work well to help provide a clean feeding area.
  • Avoid competition when you feed - include separate feed stations in your design.
  • Plan for convenient access to compost bins so it's quick and easy to keep your shelter area clean.
  • Consider fire safety and prevention; have wiring placed in conduit, outlets or switches placed out of a horse's reach, and all electrical work done by a qualified professional.

Good luck and good horse keeping to you!