Horizon Structures Presents Series….All Creatures Great and Small ~ Offer Shelter to All


By Nikki Alvin-Smith for Horizon Structures

In the world of horses we see a variety of horse shapes and sizes, breeds and needs. From the giant draft horse to ponies, Paso Finos and miniature equines, their needs vary greatly. In their requirements for a barn for shelter, we need to assess what will work in size and design.

Another factor to consider in building design, is just like our beloved horses, each of us have different requirements and needs. For example, a busy dressage trainer with a barn full of boarders will need a much wider aisle in a center barn than a backyard owner with two or three horses for family use. As many dressage professionals and amateurs ride warmbloods or Baroque breeds, it is wise to build to accommodate the larger horses with a 12 x 12 foot stall size as a standard starting point.

What Size Do You Need?

While a 10 x 10 foot stall will work perfectly well for a pony or small horse (under 15 hh), it is too small for a larger beastie. The horse should be able to turn around easily in his stall, and just because a horse will physically fit in the space, a stall that is too small will increase risks of a horse becoming cast, or stressed from not being able to lay down and get up comfortably without hitting a wall.

On the other hand if you have a smaller horse such as a Paso Fino, a 14 x 14 stall will provide plenty of room and perhaps too much as the smaller breeds can then trot about inside the stall and become overly excited. So a 10 x 10 foot space will work well. For miniature horses the front walls may be lower so that the residents can be monitored and visited by pint sized children from the safety of the outside of the stall.

If your operation is a mixed discipline and rider age boarding facility you may want to incorporate a variety of size stalls so ponies and horses of all sizes can be accommodated.

During a trip to England a few years back I made a visit to a leading Shire horse stud and was a little shocked to see the brick built stalls that held the stallions were wired inside all the way around with an electric wire. The stalls were large 15 x 15 feet, but the horses were forced to stay in the center of the space to avoid the wire, which was placed at shoulder height. This did not seem a kind situation, but the breeder assured me it was necessary to contain the horses.

In my heart I disagreed but did not comment. I had been to a much larger Shire stud near Reading, England as a kid, and seen shed row stalls set in a square with a central yard space, that housed about thirty stallions and colts. All of them seemed perfectly content with their heads hung over the doors while they viewed the world with their kindly eyes. Each to their own, I suppose. The one thing both places had in common, was strong construction.

Obviously it is prudent to think about the materials used and construction of the stalls as well as the size. Thick oak kickboards, rubber matted walls, or locally sourced hardwood planks are all options. Even if your horse is a gentle giant, if he kicks the wall at dinnertime or in frustration, that kick can do a lot of damage.

The height of the walls and rafters is also a big consideration. Horses can develop ‘poll evil’ from repeated hits to their head, and an excited horse may rear in the stall or even jump out over a doorway or low partition. Consider everything ‘in the box’ from the viewpoint of your horse. For example, for our warmblood/Baroque breeding farm we designed the stalls with 10-foot walls and solid partitions, as we had both foaling out services and stallion needs to consider. Stalls are 12 x 12 feet wide and convert to 12 x 24 for foaling out time.

How Will You Use The Barn?

When you think about size of the stall also think about use now and in the future.

For example I recently visited a prestigious Thoroughbred breeding farm in the Hudson Valley, to see a mare we had sold a few years back from our warmblood/Baroque breeding program that had foaled out to a Thoroughbred stallion.

The mare and foal were housed in a 10 x 8 stall, breeze blocked walls and large grill door on the front. While the stall was well bedded with straw, it was almost impossible for the mare to avoid stepping over the foal when it lay down. The straw meant she could not always see the end of the colt’s long legs. Thankfully she was an experienced Mom and was a careful mother so she gingerly stepped left and right in the stall. As I walked the long aisle with mares and foals in similar stalls on either side, I noted several foals had bandaged fetlocks. Humm.

For an average sized breed, 15.3 hh to 16.3hh, a foaling stall would ideally be 12 x 20 feet or 12 x 24 feet to accommodate both mare and foal safely. Always think about future needs as well as present needs in your barn design. Stalls with strong but removable partition walls address this need very well, as they can easily be converted at weaning time back to regular capacity until the following foaling out season arrives.

Added Value

When you think about stall size also picture the future plans you may have in your life. For example, if you retire from horses (well, O.K., highly unlikely we know but just suppose), and your structure is a forty-stall barn of 9 x 10 stalls, your market for resale will be severely diminished. This actually happened to a friend of mine who had a massive farm to sell for millions of dollars, replete with multiple houses and structures for horses. Unfortunately to this day it still sits on the market. Converting all those stalls for regular size horses is almost impossible due to their layout and narrow aisles.

If you purchase a prefabricated barn you have the advantage of being able to actually move the structure to your new abode if you decide to move location. A big advantage over a stick built structure.

Other Critters

A structure can be designed to meet the needs of any animal or a combination of livestock. Goats, alpacas, llamas, chickens, potbellied pigs and any other creature. The same rules for size apply. For example, if you are housing a herd of female alpacas, you will need to allow enough area for them to avoid each other and move around within the living space.

When you think about adding a kennel to your property the same factor of size applies. Obviously a kennel box that is too big will be draughty and not cozy for a miniature sized dog, and a kennel box that is too small will not be comfortable for an active, athletic larger size dog such as a Rottweiler.

The divisions between dogs in a kennel may need to be solid which will cut down on barking and intimidation/fighting between dogs. The materials used for the dog runs should be solid enough to house the breed of dog. For example, a K9 unit may require a heavier gauge wire than a kennel for two Labradors. Seek out the advice of a knowledgeable kennel construction company for suggestions and advice.

All creatures great and small do deserve shelter from the elements of nature and predators, so they can live a stress free life with freedom of movement wherever possible and security and safety for both their own well-being and that of their human caregivers.

Whatever the critter, heights of walls, widths of aisle-ways, grills or no grills, materials used etc., are just a few of the questions you need to address in addition to the size of the living space. It pays dividends both financially and emotionally to consult with an experienced professional before making a decision. Take a hard look at pricing and ensure you are comparing apples to apples in your shopping.

About Horizon Structures:  One horse or twenty, there’s one thing all horse owners have in common…the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners.  At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart “horse-friendly” design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses’ stabling needs.

All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need –

Horizon Structures also sells indoor riding arenas, chicken coops, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures. All creatures great and small, Horizon Structures covers them all!

Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook.  Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business.  He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.

For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at

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