Horse stalls and horse barns are all part of owning horses. Horses are not only a very personable animal, they are also very costly. So having the appropriate facilities for them in important. Someone once said, "Give me a horse and sell the car, they both cost about the same but at least my horse appreciates me". The bond between horse and human can be so strong at times that some famous actors even contemplated retirement when their horse passed away.
Probably two of the most popular horses in Americana are Trigger and Mister Ed. Roy Rodgers did in fact own Trigger. He purchased him from the stable that supplied him to the studio without the studio's knowledge. For a vast sum of I believe it was $4,500, when Roy Rodgers was making about $100 a week, he obtained ownership of the stallion. Several years later, after the death of his first wife, he even proposed to Dale Evans from the back of his horse. Mister Ed, also a famous Palomino, was very instrumental in taking Allen Young (lead star Wilber Post) from a down time in his performing career back into the lime light once again. Allen Young even considered retirement from show business once Ed passed away just because he had been so attached to this special horse.
When I was reading the autobiography of Allen Young I thought it was really interesting that Mister Ed considered his stall his little domain. On the set, if he had to go, he would simply walk back to his stall and take care of business. Imagine a house broken horse.
Anyway, back to horse stalls and their importance. The main styles of horse barns are shed row, pole barns, and bank barns. A good size for horse stalls is the 12x12 foot construction. Stall doors need to be an average of six feet wide to prevent the horse running into the door or frame as they walk through. The wider doorway also protects people from getting trapped against the horse if one pulls them through the door way.
Barn aisles, typically found in pole barns and bank barns, are the clear paths through the center of the barn. Aisles need to be an average of at least 12 feet wide. Adding a few feet and allowing 16 feet or more is even better. If a barn has a wide aisle and high overhead clearance young horses can be broken and ridden in the aisle way. Another use for wide aisles is letting small children loose on ponies or horses. Having a confined area allows the child some freedom and also a chance to learn some control and steering in a smaller grass free environment.
Shed row barns have the stalls lined up, each opening to the outside typically with Dutch doors. These barns can have a single roof slope and do not usually have aisles built into them.
Bank barns are ones which are dug into a hillside. Many of the horse bank barns are actually converted cow or dairy barns. Bank barns are very cool, more expensive to construct, but very functional for horses if the ceilings are high enough.
Horse stall partitions should be at least eight feet high. This prevents horses from reaching one another over the walls. One horse owner wash brushing her horse in the stall and the horse in the next stall lunged over the wall at the first horse. Missing the horse being groomed, the aggressor instead sunk his teeth into the back of the owner. So having a higher stall wall between is safer.
Many times barns are not built with a high enough clearance. The horse's natural reaction to being startled is to rear up. So having a 12 foot high barn ceiling or even 16 feet makes it safer. The higher clearance also allows for hay wagons, tractors, and people to ride inside the barn.
The higher door clearance on the stalls themselves is also a good idea. Many times the rollers for the stall doors are mounted even with the top of the walls. This gives an eight foot high door way when the ceiling of the barn is twelve feet or better. The potential danger is that a rider will try to ride into the stall and not see the over head door lintel. It is best to extend the lumber on the stall door and mount the rollers as high as possible in relation to the roof.
Horse stall mats are another issue to consider. I have seen horse stalls lined with everything from just dirt raked smooth, to cement covered with stall mats, wood covered with mats, and even railroad ties with sand between the ties. It is not a good idea to leave sand as the top layer of the stall floor. Horses are constantly nibbling off of the floor. The sand then becomes ingested and the horse can then colic. Sand colic is very common in coastal areas or where ever the soil has a high concentration of sand. Mats are a good idea. They reduce the amount of bedding needed. Matting also relieves pressure on joints and bones. Standing directly on cement is about the worst for the horses.
Automatic horse water is another nice enhancement to a stall, but not necessary. Hanging buckets with double ended snaps from rings mounted on the wall does work well. When choosing automatic water options many times one unit can be set between two stalls. This allows two horses to have access to the same water. It is wise to have at least one stall that does not have a shared waterer. That way if a new horse is brought into the stable, then it can be quarantined for a short time. Shared water can spread colds, strangles, and other horse diseases, but this is not a problem when the horses stay at the barn and do not travel a lot. If you have a horse that is constantly going to shows, trail rides, or other functions where it comes into contact with other horses, it is a good idea to not let that horse be turned out or share water with others during the months it is traveling.
Whenever your turn comes to build a horse barn, no matter what style you choose, be sure to still pay attention to parameters that are applicable to all barns. Horse stall size, partition height, door width, horse stall matting, and automatic waters are all things that go into every horse stall no matter what type of barn in which it is located. Safe horse stalls are one very important aspect of caring for our equine friends.