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Horse Barns design elements for a shed row barn

Updated on January 24, 2013

Owning a horse is a dream for many. No matter if you are a small private barn or a larger horse facility, there are some very important design elements that should go into every horse barn. Horses are very active animals that seem to have an extra aptitude for accidents. A well planned horse barn can help eliminate some of them.

For private horse barns, the two most common types of barns are a shed row, a converted bank barn, or a pole building.

Horse Barn Plans

Horses are a passion with me. As a horse owner, wife of a general contractor, and a dressage instructor, I have often been asked horse barn design questions. Here are some main points and pointers for a home barn. There are of course horse barn plans and horse barn designs available, but below I have compiled my own list of important construction points. Many times we only have the opportunity to build a special building like this once, so make sure lots of research is done before you make your final decisions.

Horse Barn Superstructure

The main posts of the superstructure and any others that are buried in the ground should be made of pressure treated lumber. Horse urine and manure, and shavings are very acidic. The treated lumber better withstands this exposure. Also treated lumber should be used for sill plate, the first row of boards for the stalls, and any other place that will be heavily exposed to the shavings, manure, or water. The roof angle is typically a single slope. The lowest part of the angle should ideally have a clearance of at least ten feet.

Horse Stall Dimensions

If choosing a shed row, the stalls should be built with a width of twelve feet. A good standard size is 12’x12’. Even if a barn is only three or four stalls, it is wise to construct one of them a few feet longer. This larger stall can serve as a foaling stall or for stabled injured horse. A 12’x16’ are good dimensions for a larger stall.

Inside stall height should be at least 12 feet. High over head clearance reduces the risk of a rearing horse hitting its head. It also allows for sitting on young horses in the stall. It also improves air circulation and makes the stalls more inviting.

Shed row barns work well with Dutch doors. The option to open only half of the door allows the horses to look out, but still have the door fully shut in poor weather or at night.

Horse Stall Walls

Every stall should be lined with kick boards to a height of about five feet. Some of the best lumber for this is rough cut oak. Many local lumber mills have lumber that is not good enough to make into furniture. Purchased in a bundle or by the truckload, this is the perfect material for building stalls. Other wood species, including some pines, are acceptable for stalls, but never purchase any Walnut, Cherry, or fruit tree woods. These species can cause a horse to founder when exposed to them.

Plywood is another option for the stall walls, but it is easier for the horses to kick through. Also it is much easier to remove one board if it gets kicked or chewed in half than repairing or replacing the whole sheet of plywood.

Above the five foot tall stall walls, between the stalls, chain link, bars, or 2”x4” wire should be installed. The open construction above the stall walls increased ventilation, makes the stalls more inviting, and also allows the horses to look at each other but not touch.

Surfaces of the stall walls and doors that a horse can chew should be covered in wire or metal plates. One set of board horse teeth can do as much damage as a whole tribe of beavers.

Shed Row horse barn kits

Horse barn kits Shed Row from MGC
Horse barn kits Shed Row from MGC

Shed Row Horse Barn

Shed row horse barn pambuda @ flickr
Shed row horse barn pambuda @ flickr

Roofing and Siding

Metal roofing or asphalt shingles are fine for the roof. The metal does make more noise when rained or hailed on. Asphalt shingles are cooler for the building at times, but with proper ventilation throughout the building, the horses are usually fine. When using a metal roof, consider adding skylight panels.

Metal or wood siding can be used on the building. The shed row barn itself should never be used as part of the fencing. If it is, one way to keep horses from chewing and rubbing on it is to mount electric fence insulators and wire in two strands on the outside of the barn.

Horsey proof windows for the horse barn

Windows are vital to good ventilation. Ideally each stall should have one or two windows. Glass in not a good choice, as the horses can push their noses through it and break the panes. A better solution is to mountplexiglass on the wooden window frames and cover it in one inch by one inch wire. The windows should each be hinged and also have a latch so that the window can be opened and closed. A twenty four inch square window opening is nice for the horses.

Prefabricated Horse Barn Kits, shed rows

Some companies even offer shed row horse barn kits, such as this one by MGC Buildings. I have never personally used one, but as with any prefabricated building, it does go together more quickly than building one on site. I would encourage a lot of research into the exact building materials a company uses for the barn, can it be customized in any way, and the stall, window, and door dimensions used in their plans.

Shed row barns are one of the most economical ways to build a quality barn on a smaller budget. For a private barn or only a few boarders, this type of construction is perfect.

And as always, Thanks for reading! Sue


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    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 3 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Great hub. I decided you may be the wife of Dressage Husband whose hub I recently read and loved. It was the story of Caprice. I hope I am right. So you are into other horse amenities, and your horse barn story shows your expertise. I love horses and had fun photographing them in my photography course. Great hub. Shariing, Blessings, Audrey

    • Steel Engineer profile image

      Steel Engineer 5 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine

      Great hub. Voted up and across.

      I design a lot of horse buildings. The equine society still prefers wood. I have had many clients who chose to spend more money to construct wood buildings rather than steel. One thing you might add to this article is inclusion of a special room for storing tack and other equipment specific to the horses housed in the barn.

      A tack room is most often situated at one end of the barn. This keeps the horses in sight of each other. A tack room in the middle of the barn would separate them. Tack rooms are usually one and a half times as wide as the stalls, 12' x 18'.

    • Shaefercd profile image

      Shaefercd 6 years ago from Canastota, NY, United States

      Hello Slemmon,

      I live in upstate NY (country)but from Ennis, MT where are you from looking at your valley in the pic you gotta be close. We are also horse owners and lovers here too.

      The stallion had a very bad bout of colic the other night. scary, he is 30 yrs old this year.



    • profile image

      Cecily 6 years ago

      This was perfect! I am bringing my horse home from college for Christmas break and we don't have anywhere to put her but our neighbors have a farm and said we can build our own little barn. the materials "do and don'ts" was very helpful!

    • Marshs Matty profile image

      Marshs Matty 7 years ago

      how do i write hubs and start one of these i am new

    • MagicStarER profile image

      MagicStarER 8 years ago from Western Kentucky

      This is very good advice if you want to build that horse barn the right way. You have given some very good pointers here. :) great hub!

    • Born Again 05 profile image

      Born Again 05 8 years ago from Honesdale

      Very informative hub. Thanks for sharing the info!

    • Kimberly Bunch profile image

      Kimberly Bunch 8 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

      Great stuff! Here's one I wrote on horses: