Horse Care Tips

Stable Sense: Horse Barn Terminology for Rookies

horses in stalls barn aisle
Written by Holly N.

Learn the Lingo Around the Barn

Understanding the terminology of horse barns can be a bit overwhelming at first. If you get it wrong, you could end up feeding the wrong hay or turning a horse out in the wrong place. It’s important to learn the lingo so you can effectively communicate with other equestrians!

When you’re new to horseback riding, the vocabulary spoken in and around a horse barn might seem a bit foreign to you. Learning these stable-specific terms will help you better communicate with those around you.

woman carrying western saddle

Source: Canva

Horse Barns: The Basics

Although every horse barn is different, almost all use the same terminology when discussing various elements of horse care. If you can’t speak this language, you’ll struggle to understand the nitty gritty of your specific stable.

Whether you’re taking lessons or boarding, these terms are helpful to know as you learn more about the horse world.

Getting a grip on these barn terminology basics will give you a leg up when communicating with all the equine professionals tasked with your horse’s care.

Feed Related Terms

Equine nutrition is one of the most important aspects of horse ownership and care. If you’re boarding your horse, you need to understand what your horse’s monthly fee includes and excludes:

  • Should you have a separate budget for supplements?
  • If grain is offered, does it meet your horse’s nutritional requirements?
  • If you’re helping out around the barn, you’ll need to know the differences between alfalfa and grass hay, and between sweet feed and pellets.

Hay – A type of roughage that makes up the majority of a horse’s feed. It comes in various forms, from grass hay to protein-rich alfalfa. Depending on your horse boarding arrangement, hay will either be included in your monthly fee or you’ll be expected to supply it yourself.

Hay is typically fed by the flake, but the weight is what really matters!

Slow Feed Hay Net – A hay net with particularly small holes so it takes longer for the horse to eat. This is beneficial both to combat boredom and for digestive health, as the horse’s digestive tract is designed to eat small meals throughout the day.

horse eating from slow feed hay net

Source: Canva

Grain – Although a horse’s diet consists mainly of roughage, it’s often supplemented, especially if a horse is stabled or has limited access to pasture. Commercial horse feeds are referred to as grain, along with actual grains like wheat, barley, and oats.

Grain is usually fed as a pellet or a sweet feed. Sweet feeds usually include pellets along with whole or processed grains; then the whole mix is coated in liquid, such as molasses and vegetable oil.

Grain is typically fed by the pound.

SupplementsSupplements are small servings of powders, granules, or pellets that you add to a horse’s grain to combat a deficiency or treat a specific dietary need.

You might want to give your horse a biotin supplement to improve hoof condition or a joint support supplement to keep him flexible.

Supplements are generally fed by the tablespoon or cup.

Pasture – When horses graze on grass, they are said to be on pasture. A boarding facility offering pasture will allow your horse out of its stall (if included) and into a fenced-in paddock or field.

If you opt for pasture-only boarding, your horse will be living out on grass 24/7. Generally, pasture board also includes access to a three-sided shelter (called a run-in shed or loafing shed) to provide protection from the rain, sun, and wind.

Pastures are generally managed—this includes weed control and re-seeding as necessary.

Rangeland is similar to a pasture, in that horses can graze it. Rangeland, however, is natural. The term “rangeland” is more common in the American West.

Free Choice – In a free choice situation, your horse can access ample food supplies 24/7 and can eat whenever he chooses, rather than being restricted to portioned rations.

It may also mean your horse can move freely between his stall and a small private pasture.


horses eating free choice hay

Source: Canva

Want to learn more about equine nutrition? Check out 3 Types of Horse Feed Every Owner Should Understand.

Living Quarters

Your horse’s living quarters are the equivalent of your home. Just as you could live in a tent or RV rather than a house or apartment, there are many different options for horses.

Dry Lot – A dry lot is an outdoor space where horses can move around freely and access water. There is usually very little vegetation in a dry lot, which makes them ideal for horses with a tendency to gain weight.

Paddock – A paddock is a small field or enclosure where a horse can be turned out. The footing could be dirt (like a dry lot) or grass (like a pasture). The term paddock generally refers to a fenced-in area that is smaller in size.

Run – A run is a small paddock usually connected to a horse’s shelter or stall. In some instances, the stall will have two doors, one opening to the aisle and another opening outside to an exterior run.

A run is a fairly small enclosure, usually the width of the stall and 1-4 times the length of the stall. They give horses the chance to stretch their legs and move around without requiring dedicated turnout time in a separate location.

Loafing Shed – A loafing shed is a three-sided shelter that offers protection against the wind, rain, and sun. Horses can move in and out of the shelter freely, and there’s usually room for multiple horses in a single loafing shed.

Loafing sheds are also called run-in sheds.

Stall – In most barns, each horse will have a self-contained area within a barn or stable. Known as a stall, this offers protection against the elements and gives your horse a safe place to rest. Stalls are located inside of barns or stables. They may or may not be heated.

Most stalls will be 12×12’ in size.

horses in stall with tack boxes

Source: Canva

Turnout – A horse that’s not in its stall or being ridden is considered to be in turnout. In other words, he’s either in a dry lot, paddock, or field, where he can move around freely.

Individual Turnout – A horse that’s in individual turnout has access to an outdoor area, like a pasture or paddock, but is alone without the company of other horses.

Individual turnout is more common with stallions and performance horses to avoid accidental breeding or injuries resulting from rough play.

Group Turnout — Some barns allow select groups of horses to enjoy their turnout time together. This is called group turnout and usually involves putting horses of the same gender together in a field or pasture.

New horses should always be introduced to each other slowly to minimize risk of injury.

Horses have a pecking order and it takes time to figure out who belongs where.

Barn Terms

Before you commit to a new barn, you need to be familiar with the facilities they have available, and that means understanding some basic barn terminology.

Tack Room – Every barn needs a tack room to store its horse-related equipment and paraphernalia. It’s not just saddles and bridles that go in a tack room, but also blankets, grooming equipment, leg wraps, boots, fly masks, and anything else related to horse care (but excluding feed).

Some tack rooms might have individual lockers or tack boxes so owners can keep their tack secure.

horse barn tack room

Source: Canva

Feed Room – Where feed is stored. Hay may be stored separately (such as in a hay loft). Grain should be kept in metal, rodent-proof containers and secured so horse’s can’t access it unsupervised.

Typically, you don’t want to store tack in your feed room, as feed attracts pests. Rodents might chew leather or fabric materials.

Wash Rack – This is a designated area where you can wash your horse, rinse out buckets, and soak hay.

Cross Ties – This is a set of two straps or ropes, usually set up in an aisle, breezeway, or wash rack. Each cross tie attaches to either side of the halter, stopping your horse from turning his head or swinging around.

Cross ties are more secure than a single lead rope and help keep your horse still while you’re working with him.

Mucking Stalls – This simply refers to cleaning out a stall and includes the removal of soiled bedding and poop and spreading of clean bedding, such as wood shavings or straw.

Hay Loft – The hay loft is usually situated in the roof of the barn, above the stalls, and is used to store hay and straw.

Round PenRound pens are used for training horses and can be situated either inside or out. They usually have a diameter of around 30m and are used for all types of training, including groundwork, longeing, riding, and at-liberty work.

Lounge – Some barns look after their human clients as well as their equine ones. They provide a lounge area where riders can warm up after a chilly ride or watch a friend or family member train.

Barn lounges often have comfortable chairs, a small kitchen, and might even include somewhere to store your personal belongings.

ShavingsWood shavings are commonly used as bedding for stabled horses because they’re absorbent and help to combat the smell of ammonia.

Breezeway – You won’t get a breezeway in every horse barn, but when you do, it will be a wide passage between the stalls that’s usually open at both ends, which creates a “breeze” through it.

Board Terms

When you board a horse, you must know exactly what your monthly fees cover, which is why you should familiarize yourself with the following board terms:

Stall Board – With this type of boarding, your horse will be housed in a stall most, if not all the time. Although most barns give their horses some turnout time, some don’t have the facilities available, meaning your horse will be in a stall 24/7.

Run-in Shed – A run-in shed is a three-sided structure, usually situated in a dry lot or paddock, where your horse can shelter from the wind, rain, or sun whenever he chooses.

horse standing in run in shed

Source: Canva

Full Board – Full board is the most expensive option for your horse but the easiest one for you. It means your horse will be given all the care he needs without you having to lift a finger.

A horse in full board will be fed, watered, turned out, and even blanketed.

Full board often gives you access to additional facilities, like a place to store your tack and somewhere to ride.

Partial Board – this is a combination of full and self-care boarding, in which the barn provides a stall, water, and turn-out, but you will need to provide the hay, bedding, and feed.

Self Care – In this scenario, the barn provides a stall, water, and an area to turn your horse out, but you’re expected to provide the rest and take care of your horse yourself. That means mucking stalls, filling water buckets, feeding, exercising, grooming, and everything else that’s involved in caring for a horse.

woman feeding horses hay with ATV in background

Source: Canva

Pasture Board – If your horse doesn’t require a stall and can live out 24/7, pasture board is an affordable option. The facility will provide a paddock and potentially a run-in shed where your horse can enjoy his freedom.

Automatic Waterer – This clever device provides your horse with fresh, clean drinking water automatically, so you don’t have to worry about filling buckets. You’ll find automatic waterers in a horse’s stall and in troughs situated in the turnout areas.

Trailer Parking – This is a designated area where horse trailers and boxes can be stored. Some barns may charge an additional fee to those utilizing this facility.

Hold Fee – When a farrier or veterinarian visits a barn, someone needs to hold the horses while they’re examined or treated. This is known as a hold fee and may be added as an extra on top of your monthly boarding fees.

Waitlist – If a barn doesn’t have space available, it may offer to put your horse on a waitlist, which means they’ll let you know when a space becomes available.


Once your horse is safely ensconced in his new home, you may be exposed to even more new terminology regarding his care, exercise, and behavior. Some of the most common terms include:

Barn Sour – This refers to a horse that refuses to leave the comfort of home. A barn-sour horse may be reluctant to leave his stall or refuse to leave the yard.

To understand this problem more fully, and find out ways to correct this unwanted behavior, check out our article on buddy sour horses.

Herd Bound – Just as a barn-sour horse refuses to leave his home, a herd-bound horse won’t be separated from his friends. Herd-bound horses are often afraid to leave the safety of the herd and head out alone, but with the correct training, they can learn to overcome such fears.

Longeing – Also known as lunging, this is a useful technique for training and exercising horses. Often performed in a round pen, it involves working the horse in a circle at the end of a long rope known as a longe or lunge line.

Longeing helps to improve a horse’s balance, gaits, and rhythm.

Free Lunging – You can also free-lunge your horse if a round pen is offered. Free lunging means lunging without the lunge line. You’ll rely on body language and voice signals to control your horse.

Hand Walking – If you take your horse out on a lead rein or longe line, and walk alongside it, you’re hand walking it. Hand walking is often used to help injured or sick horses recover and return to work.

Blanketing – Blanketing means putting a blanket or rug on your horse to protect it from the elements.

Baffled by blankets? Check out our complete guide to blanketing and associated terminology here.

Lease – If you can’t afford to buy a horse, you might choose to lease one instead. A leased horse is one you help care for and exercise, but that’s owned by another person.

Partial Lease – A partial lease is where two people share the care and exercise of a single horse. Partial leases usually allow you to ride the horse around three days a week, but they vary according to the owner’s needs. This may also be referred to as a half-lease.

man in cowboy hat stands in front of indoor arena

Source: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much does it cost to board a horse?

Board costs vary according to location and the labor and amenities the facility provides. You can find out more in our article about average horse cost state by state.

Q: Why do you board a horse?

Few people have the space or facilities necessary to keep a horse at home, which is why they choose to board a horse at a barn or lodging facility.

Q: What is a horse boarding stable called?

A horse boarding stable can also be referred to as a livery stable or yard, a horse barn, a horse farm, or a boarding facility.

horse and rider in outdoor arena at sunset

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

It’s important to learn the lingo related to horse barns and stables. Understanding this terminology will help you better understand and communicate with other equestrians!

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About the author


Holly N.

Holly started riding as a six years old in the UK and competed regularly in local events, including showjumping, cross country, showing, working hunter, and gymkhana. She now lives and rides in South Africa, working as a trail guide with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures. Her interests are primarily in the areas of DIY horse ownership, trail riding, barefoot horses, endurance, competitive trail riding, and South African breeds.