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Chapter 18 Buildings and equipment.

Horse owners use many types and styles of fences, barns, and shelters. Most people have one type or design they like better than others. But as long as the barn is well built and meets local building codes, the fence is safe and strong, the shelters are strong, and water is always available, the style and design is not particularly important. This chapter provides some general building guidelines for welfare, safety, health, and cost.


After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

* Recommend an environment for horses that addresses welfare, safety, labor, and cost

* List the planning stages of construction

* Identify the space requirements for a horse facility

* Discuss the importance of ventilation in a building housing for horses

* Name materials commonly used for stall floors

* Describe the requirements for a horse stall

* Provide guidelines for the selection of feed and water facilities

* Discuss reasons for fencing horses and how to select the right fence

* Name four types of fences


air requirements


polyvinylchloride (PVC)

R value

space requirements




Horses have lived outdoors with natural windbreaks as their only housing for centuries. So, the simplest housing is the best and healthiest for horses. A large field or paddock along with a simple shelter is adequate housing. When housing is built for horses it should provide for:

* Welfare of the horses

* Safety, health, and comfort of human handlers

* Efficient use of labor

* Cost-effectiveness

Providing for the welfare of horses begins with understanding their environmental needs. The environment involves four main areas:

1. Physical: The physical environment includes such things as temperature, heat-loss factors, stall space, feeder space, and flooring.

2. Social: The social environment involves behavioral considerations related to how horses interact with other horses.

3. Chemical: The chemical environment includes water quality; various gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ammonia; and air contaminants like dust and molds.

4. Biological: The biological environment primarily includes disease organisms in the air, water, feed, stall materials, and other animals.

Horses use flight as a primary defense mechanism. In attempting to flee danger, horses can injure themselves. They are generally nonaggressive; but when threatened, frightened, or in pain, they may strike, bite, kick, or attempt to break out of their stalls or stables. Facilities should provide for the safety of the horses and handlers when these behaviors occur.

Under natural conditions, horses do not spend long periods of time in an enclosed area, such as a stall or stable. In barns, some horses will become bored and develop vices. Providing adequate stall space tends to minimize vices.

When horses are brought into a building, fresh air needs to be provided. Metabolic products including carbon dioxide, water vapor, and manure need to be removed. Adequate ventilation reduces the presence of air contaminants--such as dust, molds, and irritating gases from decomposing manure--that can cause respiratory problems.


The first step in building is knowing the recommended space requirements of horses. Table 18-1 provides these recommendations.


Horses are housed in buildings primarily for the convenience of the horse owner and handlers. As a result, human environmental needs and wants play a major role in designing horse facilities. Often, human wants may conflict with the environmental needs of the horse.

A horse can do well in nearly any temperature if the humidity can be held to a comfortable level and there is enough air movement through the building to keep the air clean and free of condensation. Conditions that are most detrimental to a horse's health occur when there is high moisture and the barn is either cold or hot. These are the conditions most likely to harm the horse's respiratory system and to allow the inhalation of pathogens.

Several items must by considered in the preconstruction planning stage:

* Purpose of the facility

* Number and breed of animals to be housed

* Room for future expansion

* Regulatory requirements

* Budget

* How layout facilitates day-to-day activities

Buildings represent a major cost and, consequently, can represent costly mistakes. Valuable information can be obtained by examining buildings designed by others to observe good features and recognize mistakes (Figure 18-1).

Site Selection

Local zoning requirements should be checked before buying a farm or designing a new building. Some areas restrict the number of acres necessary to house livestock. The distance from boundary lines, dwellings, and neighbors may also be regulated. If these regulations cannot be met, it is necessary to apply for a variance and receive approval from the zoning board before building can commence.

The site should allow water to drain away from buildings, working rings, and training tracks. A site with a slope of 2 to 6 percent provides rapid removal of water without causing erosion. A detailed site plan should be developed before making a final decision. The site plan helps ensure that sufficient space is allowed for the buildings, roads, paddocks, working rings, training tracks, and manure storage and use. Manure handling is frequently overlooked and can be a major obstacle to enjoyment and convenient function of the facilities.

The site plan should indicate where water, sewer, and electrical lines enter the building. The building should be situated to take advantage of prevailing winds to effectively use the natural air flow. In the plan, consideration should be given to clients, traffic, impact on neighbors, manure handling, and conditions in the neighborhood that will startle or distract horses.


Site Preparation

Getting a particular location ready for a building involves removing the topsoil, leveling the area, and bringing utilities such as water and electricity to the site. The nature of the work usually means that local contractors will be engaged.

Type of Construction

Buildings can be metal frame, pole, or conventional construction (Figure 18-2). All three have been used with equal success for nearly every type of farm building. There is no general rule as to which type is most economical for any one situation. In fact, it is not unusual to find more variation in price among similar types of construction than among different ones.


Options in the Building

There are many options and alternatives to consider. Even "packaged buildings" offer alternative or optional items. Some of these choices are listed here, along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Windows. Windows are expensive additions to farm buildings and, to keep costs at a minimum, are being used less and less. The only place they are essential is in those structures that must conform to health regulations. When windows are used for light, the window area should equal 8 to 10 percent of the floor area. Plastic roof panels can also be used as a good light source for uninsulated, cold buildings.

Siding. Metal is a low-maintenance siding material, and it is available in prepainted finish colors that will last 15 to 20 years without refinishing. However, metal siding is subject to damage when exposed directly to livestock.

Wood siding will withstand abuse, and it has a better insulating value than either metal or masonry, but it requires periodic painting or stain to preserve its appearance and durability.

Masonry requires very little maintenance, but it has a high initial cost and is difficult to insulate. When masonry is used with pole or steel-frame buildings, it requires a separate foundation.

Roofing. Metal roofing can be of aluminum or steel. White-colored roofing has slightly better reflective quality than natural metal. Metal roofing requires less roof framing than shingles and is lower in cost. A roof with a solid deck and shingles has a better insulating value than a metal roof.

Insulation. Insulation is an increasingly important part of modern farm building construction. Even buildings that are considered cold structures are minimally insulated to moderate summer and winter temperature extremes.

Many choices of insulating material are available. To provide a basis of comparison between buildings, insulation should be specified based on its R value. General recommended levels are as follows:

* Cold buildings operated at outside temperature Ceilings (roof): R2 to R4 for summer heat Walls: No insulation

* Buildings where animal heat provides only winter minimum temperatures Ceilings: R16 Walls: R9 to R12

* Buildings with supplemental heating systems Ceilings: R24 Walls: R13

Interior Finish. Choices of material for the interior finish in farm buildings are almost infinite (Figure 18-3). A performance specification rather than identification of a specific material usually will provide a better comparison among building manufacturers. Items that should be considered in developing performance specifications include:

* Mechanical strength. If interior finish is exposed to animals, it will have to take considerable abuse.

* Moisture resistance

* Ease of cleaning

* Color


Ventilation. A good ventilation system must (1) provide fresh air to meet the respiration needs of the animals, (2) control the moisture buildup within the structure, (3) move enough air to dilute any airborne disease organisms produced within the housing unit, and (4) control and/or moderate temperature extremes.

Each of these four provisions requires some optimum rate of air exchange. If respiration and temperature control are provided for, moisture buildup and disease control will be satisfactory.

The basic process that occurs with all successful ventilation systems is as follows:

1. Cool, dry air is drawn into the building.

2. Heat and moisture are added to the air.

3. Warm, wet air is expelled from the building.

Failure to provide for any part of this process will result in failure of the ventilation system. Air requirements vary with animal size and outside environmental conditions. The ideal ventilation system would be infinitely variable. During extremely cold weather, it should move just enough air to satisfy respiration needs, and in hot weather, the maximum rate should eliminate heat stress.

A ventilation system should be designed to provide at least three levels of air movement. The lowest, or minimum, level provides enough air to meet respiration requirements and operates continuously. This lowest level provides all the air necessary during periods of extremely cold weather or in buildings where a supplemental heating system is in operation. A thermostat may be used to shut off the minimum level when the building temperature drops to near freezing.

The second, or intermediate, level of ventilation provides enough additional air movement to control both temperature and moisture during normal winter conditions. Fans that provide this additional air are usually controlled by thermostats that turn them on whenever the building temperature reaches the desired level.

The high, or maximum, ventilation rate is intended to provide some degree of temperature control during summer months. Maximum-rate fans are controlled by thermostats that turn them on when interior temperature exceeds some set level, usually 75[degrees]F to 80[degrees]F.

Table 18-2 shows the recommended ventilation rates for horses.

Natural ventilation is the most common and cost-effective ventilation system for horses. In post-frame construction, the space between the bottom of the roof surface and the top of the girder that supports the roof truss is left open on both sides of the barn. Air enters on the windward side of the barn and exits on the downwind side. Warmer air and moisture that accumulate at the peak of the roof must be allowed to escape. This can be done with cupolas or openings at the ridge. These should be unobstructed air outlets.

The air inlets and outlets must allow unobstructed airflow with minimal interior obstruction. Roof slopes of at least 4/12 pitch are most effective in causing air to move from the animal space to the ridge openings or cupolas. Avoiding any overhead storage enhances air movement and reduces the risk of fire. Hardware cloth from 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch can be installed to discourage bird entry. Grillwork, rather than solid wall partitions, facilitates air movement through the stalls.

Since wind forces air to move through the building, the barn should be oriented with the long axis perpendicular to the prevailing winds. Other buildings and land features, such as trees, should not block the wind.

Heating. The heating system should be designed to maintain a specified interior temperature when the outside temperature falls. The interior temperature desired will depend on the building's use. An automatic temperature control system should be specified.

Electrical System. The electrical system provides lighting, general outlets, and outlets for special equipment. Adequate lighting can have a positive influence on workers' attitudes, plays a major role in safety, and enhances the management level by increasing people's ability to see potential problems. Horses can sleep in either light or darkness, but they tend to hesitate in moving past areas with high contrast. Shadows and sharp differences between light objects and their background should be avoided.

Two types of electrical fixtures are common in the stable area: incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes. Fluorescent lighting is four times more energy efficient than incandescent. Protective coverings over tubes or bulbs are essential in stalls, alleys, and anywhere horses could reach the fixtures, and in the feed room where broken glass is undesirable.

Light levels are measured at 30 to 36 inches from the floor with a lux meter. For general lighting, such as passageways and recreation areas, 10 foot-candles of light is considered adequate. For task areas such as grooming stations, tack-care areas, indoor riding arenas, and offices, at least 30 to 40 foot-candles of light is needed. For reading and fine detail work like veterinary care, 70 foot-candles of light is required.

A common mistake in many horse barns is failing to provide enough electrical outlets. At least one double receptacle is needed for every two stalls. Outlets should be above the level of the horse's back or recessed into the wall.

Floor. A 4-inch-thick concrete floor is sufficient for most farm buildings. Reinforcing is not necessary if floors are placed over a well-drained, compacted fill material. Floors should be thickened to 8 inches for a distance of 2 feet in from doors where equipment will be entering the building. A six-sack mix concrete made with air-entraining cement should be used, and the floors should slope 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch per foot to floor drains.

Stall floors for horses must be made of durable material that is not slippery. It should be absorbent, easy to clean, and resistant to pawing. Floors should require a minimum amount of expense and time to be maintained in a satisfactory condition. Some of the more commonly used materials include clay, a sand and clay mix, limestone dust, wood, concrete, asphalt, and rubber floor mats.

Some important notes about the various types of flooring materials include:

* Good clay is hard to find. Maintaining level, dry clay floors is difficult.

* A mixture of two-thirds clay and one-third sand will allow drainage, and it is easy to obtain materials for filling holes and replenishing the surface when necessary.

* Limestone makes a level, hard surface. The thickness of the limestone needs to be 4 or 5 inches over 6 to 8 inches of sand or other base material that allows drainage.

* Wooden floors are made of rough-cut hardwood at least 2 inches thick that has been treated to retard decay. Wooden floors are slippery when wet, and they are prone to attract rodents by creating an environment for urine to accumulate and feed to fall through the cracks.

* Stall floors made of concrete are easy to clean and sanitize, but they require more bedding. The use of concrete floors is of general concern because of its association with increased leg problems.

* Asphalt can be used for stall flooring, but many of the problems associated with concrete can occur with asphalt.

* Rubber floor mats need to be placed on a stall floor that is level and packed well. The mat should be a single piece, at least 5/8 inch thick, and made of a durable rubber that will withstand pawing. Some bedding may be required.

Some alternate flooring for stalls that could be considered include interlocking rubber paving bricks, fiber-reinforced polyethylene interlocking blocks, and fiber-grade polypropylene. All of the alternate flooring materials will add to the cost of stalls. The additional cost needs to be weighed against the benefit of the flooring material.

Special Additions. Almost every building will be modified to provide some special feature for the farm it is located on (Figure 18-4). Some of the more common additions are:

* Bathroom

* Office

* Handling facilities

* Feed storage room

* Tack room

* Special equipment space

Insurability. Farm buildings are becoming extremely complex structures and usually represent a considerable investment that must be protected with insurance. Owners need to make sure the structure will be eligible for appropriate insurance coverage.


When building a barn, the owner must consider many important characteristics. The barn must be able to hold a uniform temperature while being ventilated and maintaining a dry atmosphere. Condensation in the barn can dampen the food, which will become moldy. The floors must be dry and firm, preferably with a nonslip footing. Good drainage is necessary so that ammonia from urine can be washed away and to keep molds from growing. Surfaces should be easily disinfected. Adequate lighting is needed for moving horses around or working in the barn after dark.


Horse barns can be designed for small, medium, or large operations. Some variations on barns include:

* Broodmare and foaling barn

* Barren-mare barn

* Stallion barn and paddock

* Breeding shed and corral

* Weanling and yearling quarters

* Riding stables

* Training stables

* Boarding stables


There are many different sizes of stalls. A 12-by-18-foot enclosure usually is the largest, and a 12-by-12-foot stall is the most common and the smallest comfortable size for today's large horses. Smaller stalls often lead to sanitation problems because they must be constantly kept clean. They can also create a high risk of injuries because the horses are constantly bumping into the walls and have little room if they lie down.

For a foaling mare, a 12-by-16-foot or 12-by-18-foot stall is highly recommended. This gives the mare plenty of room to deliver the foal and allows extra room for a veterinarian or other experts, if needed (Figure 18-5).

Stall Doors

A stall door must safely hold the horse within the stall. The door should be easy to open and close for the safety of both the horse and the handler, and it must be strong and simple to operate. The stall door should be a minimum of 4 feet wide and at least 8 feet tall.

A sliding door is the most suitable for safety and ease of operation. Sliding doors should possess sturdy tracks and rollers, as well as a safe latch. Doors with drop-down bars or latches that protrude can injure a horse. The most common is the half-wood, half-bar door that allows some ventilation and light into the stall. A full-mesh door allows maximum ventilation and light. Mesh doors are valuable in a foaling barn because they permit foals to receive plenty of fresh air; in a barn that is properly designed and ventilated, they do not allow drafts.


The weight of a full one-piece swinging door can cause hinges and latches to sag, making the door difficult to close properly. Swinging doors also can be a safety hazard when opened into alleyways or other high-traffic areas.

Double doors have two sets of hinges and two latches, so the doors tend to sag and must be reset. Two latches present a greater risk because one may not be closed. The advantage of double doors is that the top door can be left open, allowing the horse to stick its head outside and take an interest in its surroundings. However, a horse may try to go over the top if it becomes nervous or excited.

Stall Guards

Some horse trainers prefer stalls constructed of webbing, or chains, or half-metal doors with a neck yoke. Stall guards are the least costly, but they are the least desirable for containing the horse because they are easy for a horse to push out, go over, or break through.


Arenas and indoor training facilities are basically clear-span structures that are part of, attached to, or close to the main horse barn. Arenas should be at least 36 feet wide and can be used for exercising and training horses. This width will limit the arena to riding, as it is too narrow to turn a cart around in. Clear-span structures 50 feet wide or wider are used as exercise, training, and riding arenas. Widths of at least 60 feet are best for group riding or driving horses inside a building.

The ceiling height in an arena must be a minimum of 14 feet for the horse's and rider's safety. The higher the ceiling, the better lit the arena or training area must be to minimize shadows. A 16-foot ceiling will allow the training of hunter/jumper horses with ample headroom for the rider (Figure 18-6).
Safety First, and Always

When working with horses and people,
the first concern should always be a
safe, accident-free environment. To
accurately assess the safety of stables, these
questions need a truthful answer:

1. Is each building's service-entrance
equipment located in a dry, dust-free

2. Is service-entrance equipment mounted
on fire-resistant material?

3. Is service-entrance equipment free of rust
and other signs of deterioration?

4. Are electrical fixtures properly covered so
they do not fill with cobwebs, dirt, or

5. Are circuits properly fused with correctly
sized breakers?

6. Is all wiring in good condition with no
signs of fraying or deterioration?

7. Are all lighting fixtures properly

8. Are stable aisles well lit and at least 12
feet wide?

9. Are stable aisles and walls free of objects
that might harm horses?

10. Are all stalls designed to prevent contact
with neighboring horses?

11. Are all stall doors equipped with horse-proof
latches to prevent escape?

12. Are all electrical fixtures and wiring
inaccessible to horses or properly

13. Are stalls cleaned and rebedded daily?

14. Is all grain and feed kept in covered
containers or bins?

Some general questions needing a truthful
evaluation include:

1. Are areas surrounding buildings free of
high weeds, grass, and debris?

2. Is hay properly dried and cured prior to
inside storage?

3. Are all roofs, walls, windows, and doors
weather-tight on hay storage buildings?

4. Are fire extinguishers:
Located in each building?
At least 5-pound ABC or better?
Conspicuously hung within 50 feet of
any point in the building?
Protected against freezing?
Inspected and tagged annually?

5. Are lightning rods properly installed and
grounded with conductor cable showing
no signs of corrosion?

6. Is a responding fire department within 5
miles of the farm?

7. Is the telephone number of the fire department
conveniently located near telephone?

8. Are NO SMOKING signs posted and

In the pastures:

1. If post-and-rail fencing is used, are rails
secured to the inside of the posts?

2. Are pastures and paddocks free of harmful

3. Are isolated groups of trees fenced off or
protected by lightning rods?

4. Are pastures rotated to break the life cycle
of parasites?

5. Are shelters provided in pastures and


Shelters in pastures to allow horses to get out of the sun, wind, rain, or other types of weather are common. Some have just a top for shading. Others are enclosed on three sides. In that case, the open side needs to be away from the wind. Metal strips on all edges will prevent the horses from nibbling on the wood and destroying the shelter (Figure 18-7).


The design of feed and water facilities is controlled by fads and the likes and dislikes of owners. Design will also be a function of the overall type of facility. For the horse, these facilities need only be simple, safe, and effective. For the caregiver, these facilities need to be located so that they can be conveniently filled, checked, and cleaned.




Feeders include hayracks, mangers, grain containers, mineral boxes, and self-feeders. The most important point of design should be to keep feed off the ground. Feeding on the ground encourages sand colic resulting from the horses eating every single scrap off the ground.

Locating pipes in front of feeders and waterers helps to keep horses from leaning on them and thus increases the lifetime of the facility. Concrete aprons under feeders keep the horses off mud in the winter and from eating the dry dirt in summer. A roof over the feeding area keeps the horse, food, and dirt dry.

Rubber tires are excellent feeders as they are easy to eat in and hard to pull food out of. But they are also harder to clean out. Before being filled, feeders should always be checked for any uneaten toxic weeds or moldy hay and to make sure the horses are not off their feed.

Watering Devices

Horses must have constant access to clean, fresh water from either a large waterer that is filled with a hose or from an automatic waterer. Automatic waterers are more convenient, but they must be checked frequently to ensure they are working and that the pipes do not freeze in winter. Also, some horses are frightened by the hissing noise pipes make while filling up.

A frost-free hydrant, hose, and bucket is the least costly watering system to install. The water hydrant should be recessed in the wall to eliminate the possibility of a horse getting hurt on it or the farm staff hooking it with the wheel of a tractor, manure spreader, or other piece of equipment.

The water hydrant is a trouble-free system that permits the caregiver to estimate how much water a horse is drinking. The major concern is keeping it from freezing during the winter. In most cold climates, the waterline will need to be 4 feet or more below the surface of the ground.

Many farms now use automatic waterers in order to save labor. Special attention should be given to the design of the waterer and its location in the stall. Round waterers that require an angled support brace at the bottom are a hazard to a horse rolling in the stall. The horse or foal can get its leg caught in the angle brace. Automatic waterers are best placed in a back corner of a stall so an overflow tube can be attached and run to the outside of the barn. Automatic waterers must be checked daily to ensure adequate water supply and cleanliness.


Sooner or later, every horse owner must provide fencing for the pasture, turnout lots, arena, or aisles. The most important considerations are that fences be safe and strong enough to contain the horses and that the price and appearance be acceptable to the owner.

Reasons to Fence in Horses

Horses are much healthier outside in the sun, rain, and even mud than they are when kept inside. But in order to have horses outside without exposing them to the danger of automobiles, poisonous weeds, and other hazards, safe fences are essential. Fences keep animals away from the property of others and, at the same time, fences discourage people from entering the horse's environment. In most areas horses are considered "attractive nuisances" that can be dangerous and, except on the open range, horse owners in most states are required by law to fence in horses.

Fences are also important in making the handling, moving, and sorting of horses easier and less stressful for the horses and less labor-intensive for the handlers. They help separate horses that are not compatible, protect pastures that are not suitable to be grazed, and provide boundaries for other essentials such as exercise paddocks, round pens, riding arenas, and protection from driveways. Fences are a major investment for any horse farm or stable manager.

Selecting the Right Fence

Many types of fences and fencing materials can be used for horses (Figure 18-8). The type of fence needed depends on several factors:

* Type of horse being managed

* Intended use of the area

* Density of animals on the fenced area

* Availability of shelter

* Neighbors

* Desired aesthetics

* Projected budget


Obviously, draft horses require taller and stouter fences than those required for miniatures. Mare and foal pastures need to be made safe and solid to protect curious foals from danger. Usually old pleasure horses that are used to fences require less sturdy and visible barriers than do young horses or horses that have never been in pastures with groups before.

Stallions should have taller and stronger fences to keep them in and to keep children and curious visitors out. When fencing stallions, unacquainted horses, or very valuable horses, the area between paddocks should be double fenced or separated by a 12-foot empty aisle.

If the pasture provides a significant share of the horses' nutrients, at least 2 acres per horse should be allowed. If the area is primarily an exercise lot, then the space should be more than 500 square feet per horse. If activity is expected on the inside of the enclosure, then the boards (or other material) should be attached on the inside of the posts. This is primarily for safety reasons in riding arenas where the fence surface protects the cart or the rider's leg from hitting the post. In pastures, it prevents horses from pushing boards away from the posts.

Dividing the total number of horses by the available acreage determines the animal density. Basically, the higher the animal density per acre, the stronger the fence needed. For large pastures with only a few horses, an open wire-type fence may be adequate. But when confining several horses in smaller areas, stronger fencing is required.

Either allow the horses access to wooded areas, build a three-sided shed, or fence the area in a manner that provides a stall or lean-to shed to provide shelter from the sun and weather. The arrangement of fences and gates selected depends on whether it is necessary to allow the horses to get into a building or shelter to access water. Horses tend to congregate near shelter, feed, or water, so the fences in these areas need to be more solid and safe than at the periphery.

If things attractive to horses--such as grain crops, other horses, or even the barn--are present on the other side of the fence, then the fence should be stronger and possibly taller. Generally, the closer they are to the barn and other horses, the stronger the fences need to be. This situation often calls for a 12-foot easement or aisle between the fence and the attraction on the other side.

The importance of appearance depends on personal likes as well as the priorities in the neighborhood. Fences should be safe, require as little maintenance as possible, and be affordable for the owner. Few people can afford to install and maintain a four-board fence for a large acreage, but this type may be desired for appearance around the barn, entrances, and front of the property.

Prices for most fences range from less than a dollar to more than four dollars per linear foot. The criteria involved in matching the horses' needs to the attributes of the specific fence should be the most important factors in determining costs. Building fences takes a lot of time. A person's ability to build the fence and the availability of time to do it are factors to consider. Paying someone to install the fence often results in quicker installation and higher-quality fences. Fences using high-tensile wire and polyvinylchloride (PVC) should be installed by professionals.

Types of Fences

Fences need to be specific for the situation. The types of fences available for horse facilities change and improve every year. Fences discussed here include post-and-board, woven wire, high-tensile wire, polyvinylchloride (PVC), pipe, diamond wire, electric wire, and various combinations.

Post-and-Board. This type of fence includes three or four boards hung on wooden posts. Board fences are suitable for line fences, paddocks, and arenas. The standard design usually includes 16-foot, rough-cut, 1-by-6-inch hardwood boards fastened on the inside of 4-inch (minimum) diameter wooden posts with each staggered board spanning two posts.

Several variations of the post-and-board fence include:

1. Setting the posts on 10-foot centers and using 20-foot boards

2. Using square 5-inch posts instead of the round 4-inch posts

3. Using 2-by-6-inch milled planks rather than the full 1-inch-thick rough-cut boards

4. Deleting the fourth board and increasing the space between boards to 10 inches (between the bottom board and the ground to 16 inches). A good practical distance between the ground and the bottom board is just greater that the height of the lawn mower deck. This makes trimming fencerows much easier.

Advantages of the post-and-board fence include safety, sturdiness, high visibility for the horses, and popular aesthetic appearance. Disadvantages include high maintenance costs and board replacement.

Woven Wire. Field-livestock woven-wire fence can be purchased in rolls of 39- to 55-inch widths. The top and bottom wires should be at least 9 gauge with the intermediate wires 11 to 12 gauge. Woven wire with the vertical strands a maximum of 6 inches apart should be used. The standard design is to hang a 47-inch woven wire 5 to 6 inches off the ground on the inside of 4- to 5-inch-diameter round wooden posts. A 1-by-6-inch hardwood board is then nailed above the wire, making the total fence 60 inches tall.

Depending on the topography, the wire may need to be higher off the ground, and the board could be replaced by an electric wire no more than 4 inches above the woven wire. Posts on 8-foot or 10-foot centers work well with 16- or 20-foot boards. As with any wire fence, strong brace-post sections must be placed in the corners to stretch the wire tight. Brace sections also must be in the lowest points of valleys and at the top of hills to allow straight stretching without the wire pulling the posts out of the ground.

Advantages include high visibility and low maintenance. Disadvantages include stretching and costs.

Diamond Wire. Much like the livestock woven-wire fence, the diamond-wire fence is normally made with 48-inch wire hung 6 inches off the ground with a 6-inch board along the top, making the whole fence about 60 inches tall. Brace-post sections are needed to adequately stretch the wire. Wire of 9 to 11 gauge diameter is available in this design. The wire should be all galvanized steel.

The unique interwoven design provides smaller holes than the livestock fence does and less danger to horses that might put a foot through the fence or walk up the fence. Standard 16-foot 1-by-6-inch rough-cut hardwood boards are nailed to the top of 5- to 6-inch wooden posts with both the wire and the boards fastened to the inside of the posts. Advantages of the diamond-wire fence are safety and low maintenance. Disadvantages are primarily cost, the need for brace sections, and having to devise ways to stretch the wire tight.

Pipe Fence. Fences made of pipe are constructed from 2-inch to 4-inch horizontal pipes welded to 4-inch posts. As with wooden posts, the pipe posts should be driven or set 30 to 36 inches into the ground. The horizontal pieces should be welded to the inside of the fence or holes cut in the posts so the rails can be slid through the posts. Usually four or five horizontal rails are set 6 to 8 inches apart. The top of the posts must be rounded or capped so sharp edges are not exposed.

Depending on the availability of used well-casing pipe, this type of fence can be economical and sturdy and require relatively low maintenance costs. The construction requires metal cutting and welding expertise. This fence is more popular in the South, where fewer temperature changes reduce the need for repainting.

High-Tensile Wire. High-tensile wire fences are made with five to seven strands of smooth 12.5 gauge wire spaced 8 to 12 inches apart. Rigid brace sections are required at corners, gates, and fence ends. Eight-foot wooden or fiberglass line posts set 30 to 36 inches into the ground are placed at 50- to 75-foot intervals with fiberglass spacers of the same height every 20 to 30 feet. Alternating wires should be electrified, so plastic insulators must be put on the posts on the top and bottom strands and alternating wires in between.

Considering the curiosity of horses, the electrification of this type of fence is essential. Bracing, in-line strainers, or tighteners adequate to allow 200 to 250 pounds of tension are needed. The advantage of this fence is that it is sturdy and needs relatively little maintenance, although it does require frequent checks for damage, electrical shortages, and tension loss. Disadvantages are that it has low visibility to the horse, it takes specific expertise and equipment to install, foals can get through the fence, and if a section is damaged, the whole line must be repaired or retightened. Generally, this type of fence should be used only with electricity and in areas of at least 5 acres.

Polyvinylchloride (PVC). PVC fence is made of a weather-resistant polyvinylchloride material available in flat or round shapes that resemble boards or pipe. Round rail fences consist of 5-inch-diameter round posts and 3-inch-diameter rails 16 feet long that span through three posts. Posts with three or four rails are most common. The plank-shaped rails, 1 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches, usually interlock into slots in the 5-inch round or square posts. These single- or co-extrusion polymer products can be made in white, brown, or black and have a UV light protection mixed in to keep the product from fading. Advantages of this type of fence are that it looks great, does not need painting, and requires very little maintenance. Disadvantages are that it is expensive to install and is less sturdy in small areas with high animal density.

Covered Boards. These products consist of a 2-inch by 6-inch wood plank, usually 16 feet long, covered with polyvinylchloride or plastic. The advantage is that it combines the sturdiness of wood fences with PVC protection that eliminates the need for painting. The board inside can still break and need to be replaced, however.

Cable. Usually these fences are made with pipe posts 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Twistedwire cables either run through holes in the posts or are fastened to the inside of the posts. At least six cables should be used, with the bottom cable about 6 inches off the ground and the top strand 54 inches high. Cables with a minimum diameter of 1/2 inch should be used. This fence is not recommended in small areas or with foals. It is difficult to keep horses from entangling themselves in the strands.

Electric and Fiberglass Webbing. Electric-wire fences can have two to four strands of either smooth wire or wire woven into colored fiberglass webbing. This webbing can be 1 to 4 inches wide and comes in a variety of colors. The key to any electric fence is to make sure that the electrical current is not shorted out by poor insulators, tall weeds, or broken wire. Posts can be wooden with insulators nailed or stapled to the inside of the posts, or they can be metal with plastic clip-on insulators.

The electric material must be kept tight, but not with the tension of a high-tensile wire fence. The posts can be 20 to 30 feet apart and should be set deeper than 30 inches in the ground for permanent fences. Advantages of these fences are their economical features and that they can be made temporary by using metal posts. Disadvantages include the low visibility to the horse (with smooth wire) and the constant need to check for breaks and shortages so the horses do not become entangled or injured. The fiberglass webbing is safer and more visible.

Nylon or Rubber Fencing. These are fences made of 2- to 4-inch strips of belting or inner-tube rubber from the tire industry. These strips should be stretched, so the considerations of tension and bracing are the same as they are with wire fences. Rubber and nylon are very durable and safe but tend to stretch in colder climates and become brittle with time.

Caution should be used in selecting a product, to ensure that it does not have exposed nylon threads, because horses will playfully ingest these and experience colic. This fence can be very safe, but curious foals may weave their way through it. It will need to be replaced regularly in colder climates.

Barbed Wire. Barbed wire is inexpensive but very dangerous for horses. Whether electrified or not, this type of wire is not recommended for horses.

Other Considerations

Regardless of the material used, horizontal fencing must be fastened onto the inside of the posts so that when horses lean against the fence, they push the boards, pipe, or wire against the posts rather than off the posts. If boards are put on the outside of the posts, they can easily be detached, allowing the horses to escape. When boards are put on the inside, there is no need for vertical face boards.

Round posts generally come from tree stock similar in diameter to the finished post. Square posts, on the other hand, must be milled and wood removed from the original blank; this removes strength as well. Thus a 4-inch round post is stronger than a 4-inch square post of the same type of lumber.

Posts should be western red cedar, osage orange, western juniper heartwood, or black locust that is hard enough to be useful untreated. Treated softwood posts appear to be more expensive; however, pressure-treated posts last 25 percent longer than untreated posts, and they are often guaranteed for 20 years. The best plan is to buy either treated posts or hardwoods and then cover the posts with paint or other coating before setting them in the ground.

The top of a horse fence should be 54 to 60 inches above ground level. Line posts should be set 30 to 36 inches deep, requiring either 71/2- or 8-foot posts. Corner posts should be 81/2 or 9 feet long and set 36 to 42 inches deep. Square posts should be 5 inches square as line posts and 6 inches for corner posts. Round posts should be a minimum of 4 inches top diameter as line posts and 6 inches as corners.

All fences that rely on tension must have strong corner and brace sections in the line fences. The strength of the brace is based on the cross wires that pull the top of the second and third posts toward the corner and away from the tension. The corner posts should be set in concrete at 48 inches; landscape timbers or 4-inch-square posts can be used for the horizontal braces. Eight- to 9-gauge wire should be used with any hardwood piece to twist the post tight.


In the past, horse housing designs have developed at the whim of humans. Horses are the one species of large animal that many people have tried to fit into the pet category. Building requirements frequently have been established for the comfort and benefit of people and have not considered the health of the animals. Many horse barns are built with poor or nonexistent ventilation and, especially in colder climates, horses are required to spend many hours each day in a moisture-filled, dust-laden environment.

Minimum air exchanges per hour, size and orientation of buildings, stall sizes, and flooring should be not only comfortable, but safe for equine charges.

The most important consideration in selecting and building fences for horses is that they must safely contain the animals. After determining what type of horse will be fenced and other important criteria, build the strongest fence you can afford. The cost of building the fences will likely be second only to the cost of the property itself and the barn. But for the horse owner, nothing is more comforting than knowing that the horses are outside where they are the most healthy, in a fence that will keep them there safely.


Success in any career requires knowledge. Test your knowledge of this chapter by answering these questions or solving these problems.

True or False

1. The primary defense of the horse is flight.

2. Fencing needs to be on the outside of posts.

3. Natural ventilation is the most common and cost-effective ventilation system for horses.

4. Plastic roof panels should not be used as a light source in cold buildings.

5. The higher the ceiling, the better lit the arena or training area must be to minimize shadows.

Short Answer

6. List the four main provisions for an equine facility.

7. Name four considerations that are part of the environment for the horse.

8. Identify at least five items to be considered when planning to construct a horse facility.

9. List five variations on barns for different horse operations.

10. Name three types of fencing available.

11. Give one advantage and one disadvantage of the three types of siding--metal, wood, and masonry.

12. What are the stall space requirements for a stallion, a mare with a foal, and an older horse?

Critical Thinking/Discussion

13. Describe how the ventilation of an equine facility is different in the winter as compared to the summer.

14. What is the purpose of fencing horses?

15. Name three types of stall flooring and describe the advantages and disadvantages of each.

16. Why is moisture resistance an important feature in a horse building?

17. Describe why adequate lighting is important inside a horse facility.

18. Explain one advantage and one disadvantage for each of the following types of fencing: wood, PVC, electric wire, and pipe.


1. Make a display showing four types of fencing used for horses. Include the cost, advantages, and disadvantages of each type of fencing.

2. Using graph paper or a computerized drafting program, design an equine facility.

3. Visit some horse facilities and, using a video or still camera, document your visit. Use the camera to compare windows, flooring, siding, ventilation, feeders, and waterers.

4. Compare the cost of building materials in your area. For example, compare the cost of siding materials, such as metal, wood, and masonry.

5. Collect samples of at least five types of material used in stall floors.



Ambrosiano, N. W., & Harcourt, M. F. (2006). Complete plans for building horse barns big and small (3rd ed.). Emmaus, PA: Breakthrough Publications.

Klimesh, R., & Hill, C. (2002). Horse housing: How to design, build and remodel barns and sheds. North Pomfret, VT: Trafalgar Square.

North Dakota State University (n.d.). Horse plans. < abeng/plans/HORSE.htm>

Radford, A. (2004). Building shelters, fences and jumps: A practical introduction for horse owners.Wiltshire, UK: Crowood Press.

Wheeler, E., Koenig, B., Harmon, J., Murphy, P., & Freeman, D. (2004). Horse facilities handbook. Ames, IA: Mid West Plan Service.


Internet sites represent a vast resource of information, but remember that the URLs (uniform resource locator) for World Wide Web sites can change without notice. Using one of the search engines on the Internet such as Yahoo!, Google, or, find more information by searching for these words or phrases:

building construction

horse arena

horse barns

horse buildings

horse fencing

horse stalls

space requirements

for horses

Table A-18 in the appendix also provides a listing of some useful Internet sites that can serve as a starting point for further exploration.

Table A-18 in the appendix also provides a listing of some useful Internet sites that can serve as a starting point for further exploration.
TABLE 18-1 Space Requirements for Horses

Use                           (feet)

Smaller horses                12 x 12
Broodmare and foaling barn    12 x 12 to 16 x 16
Stallion barn                 14 x 14
Barren-mare barn              150 sq. feet per animal
Weanling or yearling barn     10 x 10
Breeding shed                 24 x 24
Isolation barn                12 x 12
Training, boarding,           12 x 12
  riding stables

                              Height of       Height of   Width of
Use                           Ceiling         Doors       Doors

Smaller horses                8 to 9 feet     8 feet      4 feet
Broodmare and foaling barn    9 feet          8 feet      4 feet
Stallion barn                 9 feet          8 feet      4 feet
Barren-mare barn              9 feet          8 feet      4 feet
Weanling or yearling barn     9 feet          8 feet      4 feet
Breeding shed                 15 to 20 feet   8 feet      9 feet
Isolation barn                9 feet          8 feet      4 feet
Training, boarding,           9 feet          8 feet      4 feet
  riding stables

TABLE 18-2
Recommended Ventilation Rate
for Horses in a Building at 55[degrees]F

Season              Cubic Feet per Minute

Winter, minimum               25
Winter, normal               100
Summer                       200
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Article Details
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Author:Parker, Rick
Publication:Equine Science, 3rd ed.
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:Chapter 17 Shoeing and hoof care.
Next Article:Chapter 19 Horse behavior and training.

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