by Lisa Kiley – published in the Horsemens Corral September 2020
When it comes to choosing stalls for your horse barn, it seems that the options are endless and can all get a bit confusing, so here are some ‘need to know’ options that will help you in the right direction to get the best stalls for your barn project. While some decisions are up to personal taste or the structure of the existing building, others really do come down to the safety and health of the horses that will occupy them.
Stall Size – The size of your stalls will be determined by a few factors. The most important consideration is the safety of the horses that will be housed in the stalls. A 12 x 12 stall is the standard recommended stall for horses that weigh in around 1000lbs. and 10 x 12 stalls can also work for horses of this size. Smaller horses, ponies, and miniature horses can do well in stalls that are 10 x 10. Larger breeds may require 14 x 14 stalls or larger. Generally, the horse should be able to comfortably lay down without touching a wall. If the stall will be used for foaling, a double sized stall based on the size of the horse should be used. Don’t forget, additional size does require additional bedding and maintenance.
Modular vs. Built-In – Once you have decided what size your stalls should be, next is to decide how you will build them. There are several options for both modular and built-in stalls. Some modular stalls can function as permanent stalls with the option to move them as needed, change the floor plan, or if you ever move, you can take them with you. The other advantage is that they are stand alone, so it does not require posts that are anchored into the ground. Traditional built in stalls lend themselves to work within the shape and style of the barn. While they do require anchor posts to secure the stall material into place, they can often be more economical and customizable to the barn. If the barn already has the base structure for stalls, it is easy to update them to make them safer or more functional.
Wall & Bar Styles – One of the biggest determining factors to wall style is how much communication you want to allow between stall mates. If the goal is allowing the horses to be able to see each other, full bars between the stalls works well. The safest bars should be no wider than 4 inches and should always be set vertically to prevent a horse’s leg from getting caught as it can with horizontal bars. If the goal is limited communication, a full wall will help limit visibility between horses. Putting bars on half of the partitions can be a good middle ground approach. Utilizing bars between the stalls will also assist with ventilation in the barn. It is also important that stalls are tall enough so a horse cannot rear up over the top of the stall wall, 8ft is considered the best height for safe enclosures, but the stall wall should be no less than 7 feet.
Stall Doors – When it comes to doors, sliding and swinging are the two main options. Sliding doors are often preferred because they are space savers and when left open, won’t clutter the aisleway. When properly mounted with stops and stays, they have a low potential for horses to get caught up on them. The danger of a horse getting caught on a swinging door can be mitigated by tying them back when open to keep them out of the way. Special consideration should be given to ensure door latches are secured and cannot be readily opened by a curious horse. Additionally, the latches and hardware should have smooth edges and easily tuck away to limit the danger of a horse getting hung up and injured by a protruding latch.
Materials – When it comes to the stall bars for the fronts and sides, aluminum is one of the best materials for stall bars and grills. Even though it is lighter than steel, it is comparable in strength. One of the best features is that it has a low potential for rust compared to steel, so it will look new for years compared to other bar options. Steel is also a very strong choice and when the bars have been powder coated, it will help prevent rust. However, rust will be inevitable, and will eventually require maintenance or replacement to keep them in safe working order. When it comes to wood for stalls, the general rule is to use the hardest wood that you can afford for the project. Softer woods such as pine can be good choices if the board is a tongue and groove which will add to strength, it will also be much more economical. Puck board (HPDE) is also becoming more popular, it is strong, resists moisture and odor. It is easy to clean and disinfect, it is most often seen in portable type stalls, but can also be part of a permanent stall set up.
Add on Options – Beyond the safety and comfort of the horse, there are also opportunities to create stalls that are quite functional. Adding items like swing out feed doors or grain scoop openings are options that can make daily chores less of a hassle. It is important to make sure that horses are still getting looked in on a couple times a day to make sure that they are in good health. Drop down socializing doors, or stall gates with yokes, can be added to allow a horse to hang their head out into the aisleway and socialize with neighbors. Adding windows or Dutch Doors to the exterior and LED lighting in the stalls will create a bright and inviting space for both you and your horse.