This article is part of our Safe Property; Happy Horse Awareness Week brought to you by Bekaert Fencing.
Building a new horse shelter is a lot like choosing a new home. You want one that fits your needs and has just the right amount of space, without being too big, too small, too expensive, or too spare for your horse life.
But where do you begin? To help sharpen your focus, we’ll share a few shelter options to suit various needs. We’ll share the advantages and drawbacks of each option, so that you can see how each might fit your horse needs, daily chores, environment, and storage requirements, and you’ll be able to compare your choices side-by-side.
Run-In Shed Shelters
If your horse is lucky enough to spend a lot of time turned out, a simple run-in shed (three sides and a roof) can be an ideal shelter for him. This can be inexpensive to boot. Horses are well adapted to withstand cold and heat as long as they can escape driving winds and scorching sun.
Make sure the shed is large enough—at least 12-by-12-foot per horse. You might need more space if there are pecking-order issues in your herd. Situate it on a slightly elevated spot for good natural drainage on all sides, orienting the opening away from the direction in which the worst storms arrive. Anchor it to the ground so it can’t blow over.
With this option, you’ll have need for a dedicated area for feed and tack away from the shed, where a horse can’t access it. Since the shelter isn’t enclosed, you might be battling muddy conditions and manure removal issues. If you have multiple horses, you might face a struggle with herd dynamics when horses don’t have their own dedicated space. Be sure that your shed is large enough to provide adequate shelter for your herd.
Enclosed Barn Shelters
An enclosed barn is alluring for folks with a small number of horses. Small, but charming and attractive. The enclosed shelter allows owners to keep horses dry/draft-free in bad weather. There is typically enclosed storage for feed and tack. Your horses will stay dry and warm in their enclosed stalls. However, with this option you need a plan to offer turnout every day.
If you’re considering this option, be prepared to lead your horse to and from their turnout area daily. Having to schedule turnout time might not be feasible for many horse owners. For this reason, be aware of that if choosing an enclosed barn without runs.
Barn with Runs
Having a barn with stalls that lead out to runs is another great option. With this, your horses will have access to three-sided stalls to shelter from bad weather or sun. They will also have an attached run to spend time outdoors. With this option you will likely still have space inside the barn for feed and tack, possibly even hay storage. If you have stalls and runs on each side of the barn, the center aisle provides space to tack up and groom horses. If you decide to go with this layout, you might find it is the most expensive of the options with the extra fencing needs.
Keeping your horses in a barn with attached runs gives them more space to move around, but they will still need turnout time for exercise. Your runs might open up to a turnout area, where you can just open gates to allow access. Consider that you will need to not only be cleaning stalls, but picking out runs daily as well.
Three-sided stalls wouldn’t allow you to control whether your horses are out in the elements, though you could add back walls, fitted with sliding doors, to the stalls. (Something to consider if you want them to stay in show shape.)
Whichever option you choose, there are positives and drawbacks to each. Ultimately, the most important thing is for your horse to have the option to get out of the weather, and that the structure is safe and horse friendly.