Equine Facilities: Farm Design and Layout

Horses September 15, 2009|Print

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky


Horse Barn


Barn Functions

The primary requirements of a horse barn are to:

  • provide protection from extremes in weather
  • keep the horse free from drafts
  • provide plenty of fresh air
  • allow for care and feeding of horses
  • give the horse a dry place to bed down
  • avoid injury to the horse.

The horse barn should be well planned, durable, and attractive. There should be enough space in a horse barn for the well-being and safety of the horses and of the people who care for and/or ride the horses. The barn should be constructed to allow flexibility for expansion or adoption of new technology.

Other functions of a horse barn can include:

  • storage for hay, grain, or other feed
  • storage for bedding and tack
  • special use stalls or areas for maternity and grooming.

Two-story construction using lofts or second-floor areas for storage can be incorporated. However, for improved safety, ventilation, flexibility, and reduced cost, single-story, clear-span construction is encouraged. The bulk of hay, feed, and bedding can be stored in separate buildings, thus reducing potential fire hazards and often providing lower-cost and more convenient storage than two-story arrangements.

General Layout Considerations

Barn layouts are associated with both function and engineering design. Barns classified by function are used for: breeding, riding, loose housing, hay, and utility.

The existing building site and prevailing management practices often influence both building width and length. To obtain wider spans, attached sheds or a roof extension may be necessary. Determine the proper barn width during the planning stages. Match the functional requirements of the building with the attainable needs of the owner to determine the width (and length) of a structure. The outside dimensions of the structure should allow for all the planned interior arrangements and facilities without compromising size.

Outside dimensions of buildings always indicate the outside size of the finished structure. Some space in most buildings is taken up by walls and other structural components, reducing the usable space inside the building. This reduction may result in less space and smaller facilities than actually needed, especially if planning decisions were based on minimum space requirements and the interior features of the building were ignored. Two rows of 10' x 10' box stalls separated by a 10' wide alley will not fit into a building having a 30' outside dimension, because the width of inside stall walls must be accounted for.

Check and recheck inside measurements against space requirements and facility sizes before selecting a building plan.

Minimum space requirements cannot be reduced when the welfare of the horse and the performance of associated activities are considered. However, reference to minimum dimensions does not preclude more expansive facilities. Many horse owners consider minimum dimensions and space requirements incompatible with adequate housing, horse care, riding enjoyment, convenience, and the efficient use of labor.

Pasture and Paddock Area Requirements

Horses Grazing


The area requirements for pastures or paddocks associated with a run-in shed will vary depending upon the number of animals housed together; the soil type, fertility, and slope; forage types; and climate. A general rule is to provide two to three acres per horse for year-round grazing unless the horses are supplementally fed. Provisions for winter hay feeding will be necessary.

Pastures or paddock layout should be planned to accomodate rotation of pastures. Depending upon stocking rate of horses, a pasture rest period can be provided for individual pastures to allow regrowth and recovery from grazing.