Horse Care

Horse Stabling: Top 10 Rookie Mistakes

sterling equine
Written by Sterling Equine

Keeping our horses happy and healthy starts at home, but that’s ironically where many issues start, too. The team at Sterling Equine has over 25 years of experience in the horse stabling equipment world, so they’ve seen their fair share of both functional, safe stabling situations and not-so-functional, not-so-safe environments.

In this article we address 10 of the most common rookie mistakes—and how to avoid them.

1) Stall Floor – The Mistake: Dirt

Dirt does not drain well. With dirt floors, you will almost always be dealing with soft spots, uneven floors, and downright muddy situations.

This creates a never-ending cycle of maintenance costing you time and money.

The best fix is to dig down about 6-8” and add compacted base rock. This will improve your drainage and give you a solid base to lay quality stall mats. Overall, this will improve your horse’s health by keeping their feet and joints dry, clean, and well-cushioned.

2) Stall Size – The Mistake: Too small

Build your stalls the appropriate size for your horses. Horses are most comfortable in large open areas so keeping them in a roomy stall size will reduce unnecessary stress.

If you have ponies and miniatures, stalls 10’ x 10’ and smaller are fine, but for standard horses below 16 hands, a 12’ x 12’ stall should be the minimum size. Horses above 16 hands need to be in at least a 12’ x 14’ stall, but ideally a 14’ x 14’ stall.

Even if your horses are rarely in their stalls, the last thing anyone wants to see is a horse get cast (i.e. stuck against a wall). Just don’t risk it.

3) Ventilation – The Mistake: Not enough

Using a combination of tools will help your barn with ventilation year-round. Eave vents will bring air in, and roof and ridge vents will dispel air. Exhaust fans at each end of the building with one pulling air in and the other out will also increase air circulation.

Foregoing hay lofts by opting for a raised center aisle will allow hot air and ammonia vapors to rise and be dispelled in the upper vents instead of being trapped by the loft leading to decreased air flow.

In warm climates stall design can help by choosing all mesh stall fronts and/or partitions. When it comes down to it, better ventilation equals less respiratory issues.

4) Stall Design – The Mistake: Incorrect bar spacing

Stall design is so important for the safety of your horse. Many people end up buying equipment that will not hold up and will create safety hazards.

horse stall design

One of the easiest ways to tell if you have a quality product is if the bars are built 3” on center for grillwork above 48” and 2-1/2” on center for grillwork below 48”. This will prevent horses getting hooves caught.

5) Stall Design – The Mistake: Assuming all steel is created equal

This falls in line with the previous mistake. Stalls need to be built from at least 14-gauge steel, and it should be a galvanized steel to prevent rust. Anything less comprises the integrity of the structure and puts you and your horses at risk.

Speak with reputable companies and ask about the materials they use to construct their equipment.

That is the best way to ensure you invest in products that will last, stay structurally sound, and keep your horses safe.

6) Stall Design – The Mistake: Improper partition selection.

Partitions are an important piece of your horse’s wellbeing. Knowing your horse can help you make the best decisions.

See the guide below to help you make the best choice for your horse and situation:

horse stabling design

7) Paddock Doors – The Mistake: Not having a paddock door

Have a paddock door! Even if you do not have paddocks attached to your barn, having a secondary exit for your horses is just plain safer.

stall doors for horses

If there is an emergency this gives you another way to get your horses out and may even save their lives. Plus, additional exits often lower your insurance rates.

8) Aisle Flooring – The Mistake: Concrete

Concrete is a long-lasting surface that will prevent muddy aisles, but it is hard on joints and is slick especially when wet. Even with a stamped non slick surface, concrete will wear smooth throughout the years, continually increasing risks of injuries for your horses.

If you already have a concrete aisle, laying mats or rubber pavers over it will drastically help your horses footing and quiet your barn down.

Preferably, we like to see aisles with compacted road base and poured concrete footings around the edge and then rubber pavers or mats laid down.

9) Hay Loft – The Mistake: Storing lots of hay in the same barn

If at all possible, storing your hay in another building and not having a loft in your barn will increase ventilation and prevent stale air from getting trapped.

Storing hay in your horse barn increases fire and allergen hazards, but storing them separately can help lower insurance costs.

While this may not be an option for everyone’s situation, if it is an option for you, we highly recommend it.

10) Fly Management-The Mistake: No Plan

There are endless strategies to combat fly problems in your facilities. What works for you will depend greatly on where you live, time of year, and size of operation.

The best advice is to make a plan that fits your facility’s needs and stick to it so the problem never gets out of control.

A few basics that will need to be part of your plan no matter your situation is proper cleaning of stalls, good air circulation, and manure management.

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About the author


Sterling Equine

Sterling Equine is the innovator of looks and materials. They build some of the most beautiful and functional horse barn equipment in the world.