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Budget barn design

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Sometimes Less is More

The more I pondered it, the more I began to realize that all my horses needed was a roof. The design I came up with is a version of a California shelter-type barn that I've seen in my travels–basically, a roof with paddocks underneath. In our design a 24-by-60-foot roof covers five 12-by-16-foot rubber-matted stall areas, providing shelter from rain and snow as well as shade from summer sun. We live in the high desert, so rain and mud aren't as big a concern. It can get bitterly cold for short periods of time in the winter, so I figured waterproof winter turnout blankets would be necessary with this setup. We created an 8-foot aisle across the front for storing hay, preparing feed, or handling horses. The uncovered portion of each run is an additional 36 feet long, giving horses plenty of room to move around.

horse barn ideas


This open environment provides a more natural space for the horse to move around and ventilation akin to what В¬nature had in mind. Plus, the horses are next to each other and can see each other as if in a herd, which reduces stress.

horse barn stalls


We chose to build our poles and supports with metal pipe since these would be chew-proof and fire-resistant (a big concern in the dry desert area). A short wall at one end allows me to store hay with some protection from the elements and also provides space for hanging stall cleaning equipment.

horse barn doors


Fencing around the paddocks is five feet high and made of custom-welded recycled drill piping (hollow, thick-walled steel piping used on drilling rigs). I wanted to be doubly sure these paddocks were very secure, since I would be responsible for the safety of other people's horses and because the property doesn't lend itself to perimeter fencing. Fronts of all runs are removable, so we can get in with heavy equipment if needed to add footing or level out existing material. We welded recycled horseshoes into horse-proof, easy-to-use latches and halter hooks.

horse barn house


For lighting we chose four-foot florescent fixtures rated for cold weather. One fixture over each of the five stalls provides plenty of light at night. We also installed outside fixtures to light the pathway to the barn, and we use a remote access to switch these on for nighttime feedings, late night arrivals, or stall checks.

We chose to install automatic waterers in our new barn for chore efficiency and horse health reasons. Automatic watering systems conserve water because they only use as much water as the horse drinks. The health advantage is that cool, clean water is always available to the horse. Plus, the water is circulating and not stagnant so it won't provide a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes. We chose a design that works on geothermal principles of warming water using ground temperature. That, as well as insulation, helps keep water cooler during the summer and warmer in the winter. To guard against freezing we added electrical outlets inside the base so heaters can be installed for the cold months. The waterers also have small water pans from which the horses drink, so when we clean them we aren't dumping and wasting gallons of water.

For feeders we cut recycled 55-gallon plastic drums in half and mounted them securely to the panel fencing. These are easy to clean, and they keep hay off the ground and from blowing away. (For more on how to build these recycled feeders, see our Smart Horse Keeping blog.)

Finally, to reduce wintertime mud around the barn we installed rain gutters and downspouts on both the front and back of the building and diverted the clean roof runoff into a nearby grassy swale.

The Bottom Line

In the end, our structure's finished cost turned out to be less than half the pricetag of a pole building or indoor structure of similar proportions. It more than meets my needs as far as convenience, chore-efficiency, aesthetics, and preserving/promoting horse health.

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