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Designing A Stable Environment For Your Horse

Whether building, renovating, or updating your horse barn, Southern States has the expertise and products to help you create an environment that is safer, better organized, more efficient and comfortable for you and your horses.

Designed To Perform

A well-designed horse barn promotes the health, safety and performance of your horses. "Must haves" include stalls that are secure with non-slippery flooring, good drainage and safe lighting, a center aisle, and tack and feed storage rooms.

Stalls, Floors & Aisles

Horses require stalls that are at least 12 by 12 feet. For foaling or nursing mares, take the partitions out between two regular stalls. Stall walls must be durable to withstand kicking and rubbing. All surfaces should be smooth to prevent possible injury. Nails, bolts, or sharp edges should be removed or covered. Stalls need to be at least eight feet high with doors four feet wide. Doors can be either swinging or sliding. Swinging doors should open out into the alley. Sliding doors conserve aisle space but must slide smoothly.

Stall floors should be durable but soft and comfortable. Among the preferred flooring materials are dirt, clay, crushed limestone, or a bluestone base. Packed dirt provides sure footing and, in most cases, adequate drainage. If you have sandy soil, you may decide to leave it and not lay down a solid floor. This flooring is easier on the horses' legs, may be warmer, and quieter than an un-matted solid floor. However, earth floors are harder to clean, and will need digging out and replacing if the dirt becomes too saturated. The most common flooring in stable aisles, tack/feed rooms and grooming stalls is concrete. If the surface is roughened it is nonslip. Concrete does not drain naturally, and drains may have to be placed in stalls. Many stables do not have drainage, so stalls must be well cleaned to avoid ammonia build up. Put rubber stall mats under the bedding for greater comfort. Rubber mats are soft, quiet, low maintenance, and minimize the amount of bedding used.

Solid dividers between stalls keep horses from playing or fighting. If bars are used, the spaces between them should be no wider than four inches, so the horse cannot get caught in the bars.

The central aisle should be 11 feet wide to provide ample room to safely maneuver and work on horses, yet narrow enough to keep a horse from turning around in the crossties. Ceiling height must allow the horse to raise its head comfortably.

Use hanging buckets for water and mounted tubs for feed. Low mounted feeders (slightly above shoulder height) are better for a horse's respiratory health and neck muscles than overhead feeders.

Ventilation & Lighting

Without ventilation barn air will become saturated with ammonia and other products released when waste materials decompose. These odors, as well as dust and humidity, can pose respiratory threats to confined horses,

A light should be placed in each stall and at intervals above the center aisle and above tack and feed areas. Lights should be at least 8 feet off the ground and housed in wire cages so horses cannot reach and break them. All lighting and wiring should be installed with safety in mind. Plug-ins and receptacles must be rodent and moisture proof. Use halogen bulbs because fluorescent and incandescent bulbs don't work well in extreme cold.

Skylights, roof panels and vents are excellent sources of natural light. A window in each stall and large, sliding doors at each end of the barn provide ventilation and light. Lighter-colored walls and ceilings are good because they reflect the light.

Tack Room

Tack rooms should be of sufficient size and rack space to allow storage of all your gear. This will prevent gear from cluttering the floor and impeding barn traffic flow. It's a good idea to add a tack cleaning sink and repair counter; file cabinets for medical records and vet supplies; and storage cabinets or shelves for tools and tack supplies. Include a blanket rod system, bridle racks and built-in saddle racks. A 4-foot wide door allows easy passage while carrying a saddle. Make your tack room a handy place to clean and repair tack as well as for storage.

Feed Storage

Good nutrition is essential to your horses' health and well-being. Bob Mowrey, Ph.D, and the Extension Commodity Horse Coordinator at North Carolina State University talked with us about providing the best environment for feed storage.

Consider the effects of extreme temperatures on your feed. Textured feeds that have molasses in them can freeze during winter. And, too much moisture can cause toxic molds. The best prevention is to allow air to flow over storage bins. Open the bins during the day and close them at night. Use fans to keep the feed well ventilated and dry. This is especially true in the spring and fall when you have hot days and cool nights.

Store feed so it's protected. Avoid metal feed bins as condensation happens quicker in metal. Condensation on your feed can create over 100 different micro-toxins. Each of these toxins has a different effect, but almost all decrease performance.

The best storage bins are plastic. Feed doesn't condense as quickly and it keeps out rodents and insects. When horses ingest insects it can cause digestion problems and colic, while rodents feces can cause botulism poisoning.

Keep feed centrally located in the barn, either in the front of the barn, or somewhere in the middle especially if you have wings. Avoid interior feed storage that you can only get to through the center aisle. Have feed orderly and sectioned off; and keep supplements in smaller containers or in the original packaging. Keep feedbags off the ground on pallets to keep it rodent free. Only store enough feed for a two-week period.

From building to renovating, to updating, whatever your horse barn needs, talk to your Southern States representative for the best products and advice.

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