Perfect stables location
Horse stables should be built in well drained places which are easily accessed in all types of weather. It is a good idea to place them in such a way that they enjoy the prevailing winds when it is hot and are protected from winter storms. They must not be dirty, unhealthy or upsetting for neighbours due to smells, noises or flies. Finally, it is very advisable that they can be accessed from a paved road and have electricity, water and a telephone.
Stables should be a pleasant working place, designed in a functional manner to facilitate feeding and cleaning. The basic factors to bear in mind when designing them are: aesthetics, ventilation, safety, strength and flexibility. The stable’s aesthetics says a lot about its owners; appropriate ventilation is essential for horses (inadequate ventilation and excessive heat or humidity cause condensation and bad smells); when we mention safety, we refer to that of the animals and their handlers; strength because horses spend a lot of hours in their stalls and get bored, so they end up damaging the facilities kicking and, above all, biting or chewing doors and walls. Lastly, by flexibility we mean that stable designs should easily allow for their future development and the addition of new elements.
Stable design will be different depending on the intended use and the area’s weather. Stabled horses usually receive more individual attention from their handlers than those who live outdoors; there is more control over their food, they are cleaned regularly and they are exercised, which is clearly positive for their health. This is especially true for stallions and young horses.
In stud farms, sometimes, the herds of mares are kept all together, with their foals, in open- plan barns. In the past, we also found tie stalls with simple partitions between the animals, but most often, horse stalls are built in one of two ways: individual outdoor loose boxes or barns with indoor stalls on either side of a central aisle, which we call “American-style barns”.
Individual stalls are more traditional and can be disposed in a straight line, forming an L or a U, or forming closed courtyards. This is the type of construction preferred in racecourses, mainly for privacy, safety and independence reasons. American-style barns may be found more frequently in stud farms, yards, equestrian facilities with a lot of animals, and places with rainy weather, since we can do most of the work indoors.
Both types of stables, either individual stalls or American-style barns, can be built with traditional construction material: concrete panels or blocks, bricks… but we also find a great offer of prefab outdoor stalls and indoor partitions for barns. All building materials have their pros and cons when used for horses: concrete is too hard for horses who kick against the walls and it is necessary to place linings on the inside to prevent injuries; blocks crack easily when kicked and must be plastered to maintain uniformity and improve their appearance full of sharp edges; timber, in the case of prefabs, cannot be softwood since it is susceptible of being chewed… In short, it is important to seek advice from an experienced and specialized company.
Ideal size of stalls
The size of the stalls, or loose boxes, depends on the type of horses that are going to be stabled and the amount of time they spend indoors. Also, the size of a stall affects the daily cost of bedding, which is something that should be considered. The most common size is 300 x 300 cm, which allows even big horses to turn around easily. The Olympic size is 325 x 325 cm; and 300 x 350 cm and 360 x 360 cm, or even bigger, are also very common dimensions. In general, we must say that 3 x 3 m stalls are OK for the average horse, but larger breeds need larger stalls. Foaling stalls (for a mare and her newborn foal) must be bigger (at least 4 x 5 m), as well as being especially protected and warm. Barn aisles must be at least 3 m wide to allow for the comfortable movement of horses, machinery and handlers.
The walls of our stalls
Stall walls must be smooth, with no protruding elements or sharp edges which may hurt the animals. Including horizontal grooves at a certain height may help a horse who has laid down near a wall and is having trouble to get up; the grooves will help it change position and then get up without panicking or injuring itself. As for partition walls between horses in barns, each professional has his/her own opinion. In our experience, we think the best solution is to install a closed partition up to 125‑150 cm, with bars on the top part up to 220‑230 cm. In this way, air can flow freely and horses can socialize with their neighbours (we should not forget that horses are gregarious animals). Partitions whose top halves are partly closed and partly grille or bars are also optimum. Be careful with the distance between the bars; it must not be wider than 60 mm if you wish to avoid accidents.
Stable and stall doors and windows
The selection of stall doors must be done with great care. The first distinction we can make is between swinging and sliding doors. Swinging doors, made of two parts, are the traditional ones and are usually used outdoors. For convenience and safety reasons, swinging doors must always open outwards. Sliding doors are more functional, but it is important to check how they are designed, since a door with a floor guide will have trouble opening and closing when the rail gets dirty or is blocked by the bedding. Sliding doors must be adjustable and suspended from a strong rail, with solid rollers to move them. The most common dimensions are 120 cm wide and 230 cm high.
The material with which doors are built is also important: metal doors are cheap, but not very advisable, since they are hot in summer, cold in winter and very noisy, which encourages the horse to bang against them to call your attention, with the ensuing annoyance and risk of injury. Timber is very good-looking and is a good insulator, but softwoods such as pine and fir wood, will be easily chewed by horses. The ideal solution consists of galvanized metal frames and tropical hardwood or other materials such as recycled plastic, of very extended use lately and which offers several advantages: it is cheap, resistant, slightly flexible, has closed pores, can be easily cleaned and comes with special profiles for the expansion caused by sun exposure, so it can be installed outdoors with no problem.
Stall windows can be installed higher than the horse, simply as ventilation solution, or they can be designed in such a way that horses can also stick their heads out. We will examine the latter, since they are specific for stalls. Stall windows can be closed (wood, recycled plastic) or transparent (glass). If this were the case, we recommend the use of some type of safety glass with a protection grille on the inside. In addition, they can open completely or they can incorporate a tilt and turn system. The latter are very advisable for places with extreme weather, because they allow to better regulate ventilation during cold seasons.
Stall floors have changed over time. In the past, it was very normal to have just the natural soil as a floor; actually, it often consisted of compressed clay that is relatively warm and elastic, though waterproof, so it was usually installed over a draining layer of gravel or crushed stone. There were also sand floors, but these had to be cleaned regularly and changed frequently.
Nowadays, the most extended material is concrete, basically because it is much easier to clean. It must not be very polished, so as to avoid horses slipping, but neither must it be too coarse, because then it would act as sandpaper and may hurt the hoof soles, especially when horses are not shod. In any case, concrete is cold, hard and potentially humid, which is the reason why rubber floors for stalls are becoming more popular by the moment.
Rubber flooring, such as the modern BELMONDO mats, are waterproof; easy to install and clean; and they guarantee a safer and more comfortable living environment because they are non-slip. They do not allow humidity to seep up due to capillarity, they are warmer and offer a flexible surface. It is true that they are an extra cost, but they pay off daily with less need for bedding and less work.
Necessary accessories for stables
In every stall, we will at least find the following elements: tie-ring, manger, drinker and hay rack. The use, model and placement of mangers, drinkers and hay racks is controversial among professionals. There are people who prefer to feed hay on the floor, take their horses out to drink in a water trough… Based on our experience, we recommend using mangers with anti-waste edges or bars, which prevent the food from falling to the floor, and solid automatic drinkers, specifically designed for horses. Mangers and drinkers should be placed on opposite diagonal corners. The reason for this is that, if the horse is eating and suddenly wants to drink, it will take him/her the longest possible time to get to the drinker, so that it can swallow before drinking and leave the less food possible in the drinker. Any concentrates that fall in the drinker will end up rotting, the water will smell bad and the horse will refuse to drink. Corner hay racks are very useful. The best option is to place them over the manger, so that when the horse eats hay or alfalfa, any leafs or stray strands will fall into the manger, where it can be eaten later. In any case, mangers and drinkers must be checked every day to receive information about the horse’s health.
We hope this general information has been interesting for you and, if you need personal assessment,please, contact us