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Your Horse:
Selection Of The Horse
Conformation Of Horses
Disposition Of Horses
Saddlery And Equipment For Horses
Care Of Saddlery And Leather
Feeds And Bedding For Horses
Horse Stables
Horse Pastures
The Veterinarian
Care Of Horse Feet And Shoeing
In Or Out Of The Stable
Transporting Horses
Basic Physiology Of Horses
Genetic Considerations Of Horses

Horse Stables

( Originally Published 1954 )

It is impossible to give any hard and fast rules about the location of a barn because so many local factors come into play. A few considerations, however, are basic. It should be built far enough away from the house so that barn odors and flies are not unpleasant. This would, naturally, be a greater distance in warm climates where insect pests are more of a problem. Perhaps seventy-five or a hundred feet is the absolute rainimum, if such is possible. On the other hand, if the barn is placed at the far side of your acreage it will greatly increase the time and the work of the daily trips. This is particularly true in the winter time when rain and snow make the footing bad. It is worse if the terrain is not on the level. In any case, there should be an all-weather road leading directly to the barn so that heavy trucks can go in for deliveries without difficulty. I would advise against combining a barn and garage for so doing creates additional hazards. Among these may be included the fumes and fire hazards which the motor vehicles con-tribute, to the detriment of the horses, and the dust which may be a nuisance in keeping the car clean.

The spot chosen should be well drained and preferably not at the bottom of the hill, for otherwise the surface water may run down and keep the barn floor perpetually damp. The more level the terrain the better, and if it is necessary to dig in order to find a level spot for the foundation it is preferable to make the excavation as shallow as possible and build up the other side. A concrete or other ditch should surround the upper side walls to carry off all heavy rains.

If you have a talent for construction you can probably build a very nice barn yourself with the aid of local work-men, but failing this you had best call in a contractor or architect. Unfortunately, these gentlemen have very little experience with horses and, therefore, it will be necessary for you to guide them as to the exact requirements. Many otherwise beautiful barns have been unsatisfactory be-cause of improper ceiling heights, door construction and other apparently trivial matters.

The exterior of the barn can be made of almost any building material, although it is nice to have it similar to your house and the surrounding architecture. The outside walls may be of brick, cement or cement block, but are more commonly of wood. Probably the most economical construction is the conventional wooden frame of two by four studding which is covered by siding, either vertical with battens, or the horizontal lap type. Roofing may be of wood or composition shingles, although a heavy roofing paper will serve if the expense must be held to a minimum. If the barn is to be used over a long period of time this latter will not be an economy.

It is well to determine in advance the number of stalls which you will require. Ordinarily this will be one, two, or three unless you have a large family and many riders. Trying to maintain more than two horses per rider as a rule entails so much work that there is very little time left for fun.

In computing the total space required the following must be considered: Each box stall should be not less than ten feet square, ten by twelve is better, twelve by fourteen is even more desirable. The larger stalls have many advantages, the extra cost in construction is minimal and the maintenance both in labor and materials is about the same. This may seem strange on first consideration, but it must be remembered that a horse in a small stall tramples and soils his bedding much more thoroughly than he does in a larger stall, and the waste is proportionately higher. The extra room makes for the comfort of the horse, ease of getting in and out, and allows room for a mare and foal if you ever raise any of your own.

Arrangements must also be made for the storage of hay and bedding. As pointed out elsewhere, the horse will consume approximately three and a half tons of hay a year. Bales of hay of the three wire variety measure roughly forty-two by twenty-two by eighteen inches which means about ten and a half cubic feet per bale or nearly one hundred and seventy cubic feet per ton. The smaller two strand bales are less economical for storage as they are usually less compressed. Perhaps two hundred cubic feet per ton would be a better figure. The storage room for straw bedding would be approximately the same per ton, while baled peat moss or baled shavings will take less. It seems hard to believe, but these calculations demonstrate that the horse will use enough hay and bedding during one year to nearly fill the stall in which he lives.

Grain is not so bulky and will require approximately half as many cubic feet per ton, or even less. It is usually delivered in seventy pound sacks of whole or rolled grain, while the prepared horse feeds more commonly come in one hundred pound containers. Unless you are buying for a large number of horses and can get grain direct from fields there is not a great saving in buying the grain all at one time. That is particularly true if you use rolled oats or prepared feeds which will not keep as well as whole grain. For small barns the most practical way to keep the grain is in large galvanized pails similar to a refuse pail, or better still in fifty gallon oil drums which have been cleaned and for which lids have been properly made. If a grain storage room is constructed it should be absolutely mouse and rat proof, and that usually means lining it with metal sheeting of some type and having doors and windows which are closely fitted.

The decision as to a tack room would depend upon the climate and the outlay of the place in general. If one is constructed it should be neatly finished so dust will be kept out, and adequate lighting by window and by fixtures should be provided. In cold climates a tack room at the barn is a mixed blessing. Hot water is often necessary for cleaning, and providing this will be expensive. This will require a heater which will be safe and absolutely fireproof. It is most unsatisfactory to clean tack with cold water while standing in a cold room. In addition, leather tends to mil-dew under these conditions. I have found it much more satisfactory to keep everything but the stable necessities in a section of the basement where they are dry, clean and are available for care under comfortable working conditions.

If you are one of the fortunate few who is going to have a groom I would strongly advise that the groom's quarters be at a distance from the stable rather than adjoining or upstairs. The old veterinary books describe in great detail the deleterious effects of the fumes from the stable as they affect the caretakers. I am more concerned, however, with the welfare of the horses. Good grooms are hard to come by these days and the majority of them are elderly, often drifters, and not infrequently given to alcoholic excesses. When men of this type cook and have open heaters, they create a tremendous fire hazard, to say nothing of the possibility of overlooked cigarettes. Most of the barns that burn down at farms and race tracks had their cause in such factors. I believe it safe to say that if you never have any flame or heat in the barn you will never have a fire, barring lightning and other acts of God.

Water pipes should be carefully laid out and installed be-fore construction begins. There should be a water connection in the hay room, if it is downstairs, or the utility room and also in each stall. Carrying water is probably the heaviest work involved in the care of horses. Except in freezing weather this can be totally eliminated by the use of autoinatic drinking fountains installed in each stall. I have used them for many years and have found them entirely satisfactory, providing they are checked periodically to see that the springs and fittings are in good order. Several reliable makes are to be had at all good farm stores. Horses will learn to use them in a very few days, particularly if you will fill the bowl a few times at first. As they drink and reach the bottom they will push down the paddle and the water will start to flow. They may be frightened and jump back a time or two, but thirst soon compels them to make another try and soon they learn that there is nothing to bother them. All of my horses have become accustomed to them with no difficulty, and several young colts apparently picked up the trick on their own before they were weaned as they showed not the slightest hesitation in drinking freely with-out any guidance on my part.

Even though you are able to do the carpentering and plumbing yourself, I strongly urge that no one but an expert be allowed to put in the electric wiring. All wires should be enclosed in metal and should conform to the specifications of your local fire underwriters. Horses in their curiosity may pull down anything that they can get their teeth on, with disastrous results. Many fires have been attributed to short circuits caused by destruction of insulation by rodents.

A stable with a single stall is best made without loft. If the outside dimensions are twelve by twenty-four this will allow one generous stall and plenty of room for forage and barn equipment. By increasing the length to forty feet one will find plenty of room for two generous stalls and the necessary storage, although it may be much more practical and certainly less expensive to leave the length unchanged and provide the storage room in the loft above. For anything more than three stalls the loft is to be much preferred as the cost will be considerably less and there will be also a saving of ground area.

Although a very small barn can be erected on concrete blocks in place of a foundation I would strongly advise against it. Boards tend to rot out where there is no protection from water seepage, and rodents find it easy to get in and out. It is far better to put down a poured concrete foundation which should be not less than six inches thick to give sufficient stability and also act as a barrier to water and rodents. It should be about two feet in depth on the upper side if a slant is present, with the down hill brought up proportionately. Utility storage and tack rooms should have concrete floors built directly on the ground so that there will be no vacant spaces for rats to nest below. Stalls should be floored with natural clay and the drainage will be facilitated if they are dug out to a depth of several feet first and partially filled with coarse rock; then smaller rock and gravel, before the final clay is packed in. Board floors are an abomination. They are hard, slippery and become foul smelling. In addition they provide another major haven for rats. Other things have been tried but usually found faulty. Probably the worst failure I have ever seen was in a beautiful barn where the owner decided to make his stall floors out of short sections of round logs stood on end and packed between with dirt. The idea was that the wood would pre-vent the stall from developing holes in the center. Unfortunately, this provided the worst possible rat hazard as the unwelcome visitors dug hundreds of channels between the logs and under them. At times it seemed that the only way to get rid of them was to burn the place down.

Provide a generous height in the stalls before putting on the loft flooring or the roof. Allow at least nine feet, or preferably more, from the underside of the supporting elements. A low ceiling is dangerous, as a rearing horse may strike his head even in play, and both light and ventilation will be inadequate if this clearance is reduced. There should be one window in each stall and the inside should be protected with wire netting or metal bars so that they cannot be broken. I prefer a type of window which is hinged at the bottom and so arranged that it may be let down and field with a short chain. In cold climates draft can be reduced by having wood or metal triangular pieces on each side of the window so that it will form a chute which will allow the air inside to travel upward. Stalls should be lined with very strong material, preferably two by twelves, which can be built up horizontally. Anything lighter than this is apt to suffer breakage from kicks. This inside wall need not be carried to the ceiling if economy is important, but it should not be less than six feet in any case. When two stalls are constructed side by side the dividing partition can be made by lengths of two by twelves fastened only by a slot at the front and back. The partitions should be carried high enough to prevent horses from quarreling over the top, al-though some people prefer to make the upper part of the division out of something which will permit horses to see each other. A heavy metal grill or bars may be used for this purpose, but unless it is solid and well constructed it will be torn up before long. The doors should be wide, high, and made of material two inches thick. The latter may be accomplished by using several layers of lighter material fastened together at varying angles to give increased rigidity. These doors should be of the so called Dutch Type, each half fastened with its own lock and hinges. This will make it possible to leave the upper half open and still restrain the occupant. More important is the fact that the upper part can be kept closed while the lower is opened to permit feeding, stall cleaning and similar chores. If the paddock design so permits it may be wise to have a second door in one or more of the stalls, so that horses can come and, go into their respective paddocks without coming together.

For those barns with a loft the available storage space will be determined by the slant of the roof and the height of the sidewalls. Remember when calculating that there will al-ways be considerable waste space in a triangular area at the sides and at the top... The loft must have a large door at one end, located in a position where a truck can back up under it and unload directly. With. a large truck of hay, at least the upper- part of: the load will be at the level of the door and can be pushed in quite readily, while the lower bales will have to be lifted up pyramid fashion over the other bales. A pulley can be provided, although they are usually more trouble than they are worth for small shipments.

Depending on your preference, hay may be let to the lower floor through one or more trap doors. Some people like to have an opening over each stall and do their feeding by breaking the bales in the loft and dropping it down a little at a time to each horse. This requires climbing to the loft twice a day (and for heaven's sake don't forget to make an adequate and comfortable stairway or ladder) . One can do as I prefer and have a single trap door which drops bales down to the work room below where they are opened and distributed as needed.

Arguments never cease as to the best method of providing hay. Some like metal racks placed high on the wall and just below the trap door; these are certainly easy to handle but they require the horse to eat with his head up. I consider this unnatural, and the horse also has a hazard of getting chaff in his eyes and nose during the entire process. Others construct wooden mangers reaching upward from the floor; these are hard to keep clean and are often chewed up and broken. I feed hay entirely on the floor putting it in the same corner each time. Many horseman feel that this in-creases wastage but if hay is fed frequently, judiciously, and with, due regard to quality, the loss. will be minimal; as mentioned elsewhere. Wastage is prevalent when bad hay is used and is minimal if palatable forage is fed in the amount needed.

The last major item for consideration is the receptacle to hold manure. Here again we have a major source of rodent infestation. At one time I had a wooden bin with a wooden floor built up from the ground; it finally became necessary to tear it down, and with its removal I .got rid of the last practical habitat for rats. In its place there is a concrete box approximately ten feet square and four feet high. The floor is solid concrete with a slight slope toward the center where a drain has been placed with its opening covered by a metal grill and a pipe leading into the coarse rock below. In the interest of simplicity of construction walls were first made of pumice blocks. This turned out -to be so brittle the walls cracked three times, once when tapped lightly by a truck and twice by horses. Steel reinforcing and concrete have now solved that :problem. The manure bins may be placed in any convenient spot, but it must be where trucks can get in and out in all weather as it will require emptying every month or two depending upon the type of bedding used.

Paddocks and fencing. Fencing is another one of the problems for which I have never been able to find the perfect solution, and the difficulty increases inversely with the size of the enclosure. In large fields and pastures horses have very little tendency to seek the edges, and almost any reasonable construction will do. The average family riding horse, however, works five to ten hours a week and spends almost all the rest of the time figuring out ways to tear down the fences or get himself into trouble. This is particularly true of well bred animals who are feeling in the pink.

Barbed wire is mentioned only to -be condemned. While it is the only solution on the open range and with cattle, numerous serious injuries occur under the best of circumstances. In small enclosures, Particularly when two adjoin each other, it is an invitation to disaster. Wood is probably the material of choice both for appearance and economy. The posts should be ten feet apart and may be made of milled or natural split logs. Some extensive surveys have been made as to the life expectancy of various woods used for this purpose, but you will have to take whatever is avail-able at the best price locally. Unless they are pressure treated with creosote or similar material many of them will begin to rot out in less than ten years. About four and a half feet above ground, with two and a half feet below, is generally satisfactory. The planks should be nailed on the inside wherever possible in order to give a smooth surface and prevent boards from being wrenched loose if a horse leans over them. Unfinished lumber is to be preferred for it is considerably thicker and stronger than that which has been planed. I have learned, to my sorrow, that one inch planks will not hold up and I would suggest that rough one and a half by six or even two by six will be an economy in the long run. Three equally spaced rails will usually suffice for all adult stock, but if you expect to have young colts four rails is still better. You may think it impossible for them to roll under a fence but I have seen it many times and I have never found one that was able to get back. Fences may also be made of closely woven heavy wire with perhaps a little saving, but they must always have a heavy wire cable or board at the top to prevent their being broken down when horses lean over. Both wire and metal fences can be improved by the addition of a hot wire which is suspended by insulators above the top of the fence. The shock is not severe enough to do any damage and will usually discourage arn animal from leaning on the fence. I have seen placid horses completely controlled by a single "buzz" wire placed about two feet above the ground, but for most horses this is not enough. When they hit the electrified wire they may go through the fence and after the current is broken there is nothing to restrain them further. Electrical devices providing a safe intermittent shock can be obtained in nearly all farm stores and other large mail order houses. They are fastened in the barn and are plugged in a regular outlet. There are also similar devices which work on batteries and they can be used when current is not otherwise obtainable.

No matter how small, exercise paddocks are a tremendous advantage. They provide some exercise, ample sunshine, respite from boredom, and reduction in the amount of stall cleaning. Even an enclosure no larger than twenty-five by forty feet will be of great help and, of course, the larger the better. Paddocks of less than one-half an acre usually pro-vide very little food except a bit of green grazing. Unless you keep the horses out of them -in the winter and rainy seasons they will become so badly cut up that nothing will grow, and in addition they will become so soiled that even the grass which appears luxuriant will not be palatable. With larger paddocks of an acre or two quite a little food can be grown and there may be from three to six months of good grazing, depending upon the climate. During this time no hay will be necessary and the saving will be considerable. Sometimes, it is advisable to have several small paddocks and rotate the horses so that the grass can grow firm again; this will also allow for seeding and scattering of manure by use of some form of drag.

If your horses are gentle and get along quite well, it is possible to run two or more in the same enclosure, particularly if they are not shod. There is always some risk when two high spirited youngsters get into a kicking match. Horses love to nip and quarrel over a fence, and many accidents have occurred in this manner. If your space permits it is ideal to divide paddocks by two fences parallel to each other with a ten to fifteen foot lane in between.

Several other types of fences have been tried. A few wealthy Californians have used heavy chain link wire fences about seven feet high. I do not know how well they have worked out, but their cost is fantastic and I will bet that the .thehorses will sooner (or later figure out some was to hurt themselves in spite of everything. laving fences, made by planting rosa multiflora, have been advocated and I am sure that they would !be most attractive, but I do !not believe they would be satisfactory in small spaces; in addition, it would be a tremendous.fire hazard in dry weather. I have some wild rose bushes growing along one :side of the pad-dock. Two summers :ago some careless driver tossed a cigarette into the bushes and forty feet of fence were ablaze in -a few moments. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished before dry grass in the paddock blazed toward the stables. I was very grateful that a portable fire extinguisher was available. Do not fail to include one in your plans.

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