Planning Horse Facilities
Well designed, functional horse facilities, are safe, sanitary, and convenient. They provide the means to feed and water horses and as well areas for horses to rest, exercise, and take shelter. Facilities should be durable and designed knowing that horses are large, strong, and sometimes unpredictable animals.
Everyday activities should flow with efficiency. Buildings should be placed so as to save labor and time. Water must be located within easy access to the places it is needed. Horses should be able to get protection from sun, wind, wet, cold, and insects.
Without sacrificing quality, consider new alternative materials and products. When planning, be generous with the finished dimensions of buildings and access lanes. A workable layout often takes more space in reality than it looks like it will "on paper". In a similar manner, plan for more storage space (hay, bedding, equipment) than you think you will need. Also, keep some degree of adaptability in mind as you plan, leaving room for expansion on to your buildings.
Horse facilities consist of a combination of some or all of the following components.
* Barn(s) with stalls
* Runs, pens, paddocks, pastures
* Storage for feed, bedding, machinery, tack, and other equipment
* Training areas: round pen, arena, track, walker, treadmill, pool
* Work areas: grooming area, wash rack, shoeing and veterinary area, breeding shed, laboratory, office, tack room
* Driveways, walkways, parking areas
* Shelter belts, wind breaks, wildlife areas
* Water and other utilities
* A House for the Horse's Caretakers
LOCATING MAJOR BUILDINGS
When locating your major buildings, plan for maximum sun in the winter and maximum shade and breeze in the summer. Check with the local weather authority to find out what the prevailing winds are during the various seasons. Go to the site itself during each season, especially in winter, to determine which way the buildings should face. In the United States, prevailing winds usually come from the north or northwest, so most farm buildings face the south or southeast.
Other buildings, trees, rocks, and slopes can have an effect on your proposed building site. They can obstruct the light, change the flow of air, causing draft or vacuums, and contribute excess run-off to the new building site.
Locate your buildings on dry ground, preferably high ground with a berm built up around the walls if necessary. Try to find as flat an area as possible so that you will have to pay less for excavation or fill dirt. Ideally there should be a two to six percent slope away from the building in all directions for surface drainage. The building floor should be eight to twelve inches above the outside ground level. If the building is located on a slope, a diversion ditch can be dug around the back side.
Ensure that there will be good subsurface drainage, especially for stall areas and runs, by having the subsoil evaluated. If necessary, have the site excavated. Refill the hole with large rocks, small rocks, road base or limestone and then let the site settle for several months before beginning construction.
Be sure that all key buildings have all-weather access for the delivery of building materials and eventually for hay, grain, bedding, etc. Plan for ample space to turn large trucks and/or trailers around. Assure that routine chores are possible without a great hardship during all seasons.
Locate key buildings close enough to the house for security and convenience yet far enough down wind so that flies and odor do not invade the residence. Formulate your fire plan as you plan your facilities.
Make the appearance as nice as possible without sacrificing the functional aspects of your layout. Remember, plan for safety, sanitation, and convenience.
A barn should provide a safe, comfortable, and healthy home for your horses. The site for the barn should be properly prepared. The floor of the barn should be eight to twelve inches above ground level. It should be located on well drained soil. The addition of six inches of crushed rock covered by tamped clay is the traditional favorite if the existing soil is well-drained. Poorly drained soils should be excavated between three and ten feet. Several feet of large rock should be laid at the base of the excavation. Crushed rock of decreasing sizes should follow in layers leaving about one foot for the barn's topsoil. This can be tamped clay or a mixture of three parts clay to one part sand.
If the soil is too soft, loose, or weak and its bearing capacity is inadequate for the footings (support structures) of the foundation, the design engineer of the barn will have to make adjustments in the location of the footings, the depth of the footings, or the cement forms for the footings. The barn should have a strong foundation made of either brick or concrete or pressure treated wood.
There should be plenty of windows or doors to let the sun and air in but keep the cold wind, rain, and snow out. Design your barn so that it can be warm in the winter but cool in the summer. A temperature range of 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is best for horses with 55 degrees being the ideal. A humidity of fifty to seventy five percent is good with 60 percent optimum, however it is better to be a little too dry than damp. Horses need adequate ventilation but can not take cold drafts.
Because horses roll, kick, and sometimes buck while in their stalls, the structure must be very strong. In addition, all hardware, bolts, doors, handles, latches, locks, and hinges must be heavy duty to withstand horse use. Stalls, alleyways, and doorways must be safe with no protruding parts or narrow openings. Heavy traffic areas should be well sloped and drained and have a protective, non-slip surface that is appropriate for the use and the locale.
The barn should be located with good access to electricity and water and be situated so that there is room for future addition if desired. There should be convenient access from feed storage to the barn and from the barn to exercise and training areas. Many traditional designs and techniques have stood the test of time but new materials and innovations are worth considering.
In warm climates, an inside aisle isn't essential, so many southern barns are simply single rows of stalls which open to outside pens or runs. Cold climates require inside access to the stalls. A very simple and popular style consists of two rows of stalls which face each other and are separated by an inside aisle.
Closed barns are either uninsulated, insulated, or insulated and heated. Heated barns are expensive and an unnatural environment for horses and tend to result in more respiratory illnesses. Insulation is an air-filled or material-filled space between the inner and outer walls. It can include blanket, rigid, sprayed-on, and foamed-in-place products. Insulation prevents condensation by keeping the temperature of the interior walls the same as the air inside the structure.
The overall shape of your barn is usually decided by the roof type and whether you plan to have a loft in your barn. Storing hay or bedding in a loft over the stalls does provide some insulation for cold climates but is such a potential fire hazard that it is strongly recommended to locate your hay storage in a building separate from the stable.
The gable roof is very popular and allows great flexibility in layout. The shed roof is often used for three-sided shelters or small stables or as an addition to an existing building that has a gable roof. The monitor is essentially two shed roofs with a gable in the middle. This is good for long rows of stalls. The area under the upper gable roof can be windows, vents, or clear panels.
Commonly horse barns are of pole, frame, or masonry construction. Pole barns are quick, economical buildings. They usually consist of 6-8 inch diameter pressure-treated posts set three to six feet below the ground with the bases fixed in concrete. The poles are set at from eight to sixteen foot intervals and have trusses attached to support the roof. Since the need for vertical support beams in the center of such a building is eliminated, the result is a clear inside span which makes for very flexible barn planning, the possibility of indoor riding spaces, and ease of expansion.
Frame or masonry barns require footings and foundation walls which extend out of the ground. A trench is dug where the outer walls of the building will be to below the frost line (the maximum depth the ground freezes in the winter) or according to the appropriate building code. Concrete footings are formed and poured in the bottom of the trench to transfer the load of the structure to the soil. The foundation walls of concrete block or poured concrete sit on the footing and extend about 16 inches above the ground level.
When choosing the materials for your barn walls and roof, consider cost, durability, maintenance, fire resistance, and aesthetics.
MISCELLANEOUS EXTERIOR FEATURES.
To handle water from the roof during a rain, you may wish to consider the inclusion of gutters, down spouts, and rones (concrete splash pads). To keep entry-ways from becoming muddy when snow slides off the roof, you may wish to attach overhangs to the roof to shelter the doorways. To prevent fire by lightning strike, you may wish to include a properly installed lightning conductor to the most prominent roof.
No single type of fence will be suitable for all of your plans. It could be perfectly logical for you to have five or more types of fencing on your horse acreage for your various needs: pens, paddocks, runs, pastures, round pen, arena and so on. Good fencing serves many purposes. It keeps horses separated and in a particular place away from the residence, lawns, crops, vehicles, buildings, and roads.
Fences maintain boundaries and property lines. They promote good relationships between neighbors. Fences decrease liability as they lessen the chance of a horse doing damage to other's property; they decrease the chance of a horse getting on the road and causing an accident; and they can be devised to keep people, especially children and animals (especially dogs and other horses), off the property. Good fencing is designed to keep horses from getting hurt whether the horses are turned out or being trained. And finally, attractive fencing really can set off an acreage and add to the value of the property.
One of the main considerations as you choose your fencing materials is that the risk of injury is greater and more common with horses than with other livestock. Since a horse's main purpose is movement, leg injuries, which are frequently associated with fence accidents, can put a horse temporarily or permanently out of service. Safe fences for horses are sturdy and well-made. Barbed wire is not a suitable horse fence.
Other factors to consider when choosing fencing are materials that are sturdy, low maintenance, highly visible, attractive, and affordable.
When laying out fence lines, avoid acute angles which can cause a horse to become cornered by other members of the herd, even if only in play. When running, whether from fright or exuberance, horses will go through or over fences. Four and a half feet is the absolute minimum fence height to discourage horses from jumping. Five to six feet is better, especially for stallions, the larger breeds, or those specifically bred and trained for jumping.
Remember that the smaller the enclosure the more chance there is for a horse to get hurt, so, although all fencing must be safe, be sure to choose the very safest fencing you can for pens, runs, and paddocks. Make sure corners are safe, that waterers and feeders do not protrude with sharp edges or create dangerous spaces where a horse can get caught. Be certain that there are no protruding bolt ends; and use round headed bolts (carriage bolts) whenever possible. Design all gates to be flush with the fence when the gate is closed. Roof edges and the corners and bottom edges of metal sheds are particularly dangerous and turned-out horses should not have access to them.
Guy wires for telephone poles, power lines, or antennas should not be located in horse pastures. If you can not get around this, be sure to tie something on the guy wires so they are more visible or set a pair of wooden posts with a rail between them to shield a horse from the guy wire.
The areas where horses are turned out vary in size, footing, and amount and kind of vegetation present. Pens are at least the size of a double box stall (12' x 24'') and are meant to be a horse's outdoor living quarters. Horses in pens must be ridden or allowed free exercise in a larger area daily. The footing in a pen can be native soil, pea gravel, sand, or a bedding. If bedding is used, then the pen must be covered and protected from the weather.
A run is usually a long, narrow pen specifically designed for exercise. A 20' x 100' run will allow a horse to trot, but if you wish to encourage your horse to gallop, you will have to provide about 200' and make sure there is enough room for the horse to safely turn around at the end of the run at high speed.
A paddock can be thought of as a large grassy pen or a small pasture. Paddocks can range from 1/2 acre to several acres. The grass must be monitored carefully or overgrazing can turn a paddock into a dirt lot in a hurry.
Pastures are improved, well-maintained grazing areas provided mainly for their nutritional value with the added bonus of exercise.
The most common and useful training facilities which are incorporated in most acreages include an outside tying area, a round pen, and an arena.
An outside tie area provides a good place to groom, clip, or bathe a horse outside as well as to serve as a training area to teach a horse restraint and patience. The tie area should be very strong, tall, and preferably a solid wall. Unless you have unusually large horses, a wooden wall which starts two feet off the ground and goes up to six feet should suffice. A board fence with spaces between the rails might allow a horse to gets its legs caught between them; a solid wall is safer. The place where the lead rope is attached to the tie area should be at the level of the withers or higher so if the horse does pull back, he will not be able to get very good leverage.
One of the most valuable pens you can have is a safely constructed round pen. Besides providing a good place to turn young horses out for exercise, a round pen is the best place to conduct the following training lessons: restraint, sacking out, longeing, ground driving, saddling, ponying, first rides, and rider longe lessons. In addition, trained horses can benefit from the tune-up effect that riding in a continuous circle can furnish. The size and construction of a round pen depends somewhat on it's intended uses. Generally breaking pens are approximately 35 feet in diameter; all-purpose pens are 50 feet in diameter; and training pens are 66 feet in diameter. Walls should be at least six feet high and footing should be an all-weather material such as sand and not over four inches deep.
The size and type of arena to include in your plan will depend on the type of riding you plan to do. Here are some guidelines for various activities:
* Dressage. Small size 66 feet x 132 feet (20 meters x 40 meters)
* Dressage. Large Size 66 feet x 198 feet (20 meters x 60 meters)
* Calf Roping 100 feet x 300 feet.
* Team Roping 150 feet x 300 feet.
* Pleasure Riding 100 feet x 200 feet.
* Barrel Racing 150 feet x 260 feet.
* Jumping 150 feet x 300 feet
If the arena fence is at least six feet tall, it will discourage horses from putting their heads over the rail as they are turning near the fence. The fencing should be very strong if you plan to ride young horses. The shape of your arena will depend on your training goals. Rectangles allow you to ride your horses deep into the corners and teach them to bend. Oval arenas or rectangles with rounded edges, however, are more appropriate for driving and jumping and are easier to disc and harrow. Gates should be flush on the inside of the arena and the latch should be operable from horseback.
All arenas should either be crowned at the center or sloped gradually from one side to the other. Choose a site that requires minimal excavating. Bulldozing and grading are very expensive and the less earth that has to be moved, the cheaper the final project will be. While the heavy equipment is there, you may need to include the installation of some ditches to divert surrounding drainage away from your arena. After excavation, the arena site will have to settle for six to twelve months, then be leveled periodically before you add any footing material on top of the base.
Footing must be well-drained and of appropriate cushion. The type of footing you will choose will depend on your climate, whether the arena is indoor or outdoor and what type of activity you participate in. Jumpers require cushion without excessive depth. Speed events require a firm footing such as a mixture including stone dust. Reining horses do best on a firm base with a slightly slick top of sandy loam. Dressage and pleasure horses work well on a resilient footing without excessive depth such as some of the processed wood products.
One of the most common ways of improving native soil is to disc sand and/or sawdust in with the dirt. This will lighten and loosen the soil and increase its drainage while adding to its cushion. It takes about 250 tons of sand to provide a four inch cover in a 100 x 200 arena. If you are trying to firm up the footing, add stone dust, but only a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. The total footing should probably consist of no more than ten percent stone dust.
There are processed footings available that can be spread over a firm arena base, but if you are investing in one of these, it might be better to use it in an indoor arena. Tan bark, hardwood fiber, and wood chip products tend to freeze later and thaw sooner than the surrounding ground. They don't need to be disced, just lightly harrowed. However, besides the high expense of the footing itself, processed wood fiber footing requires a well-engineered drainage system in order for it to work at its optimum.
Horse Information from Cherry Hill
A collection of articles and tips by author Cherry Hill on horse facilities: planning your barn, horse training facilities, arena, round pen, fencing, tie area, and turnout pens, ground training, mounted training, English and Western riding, arena exercises, horse health care, hoof care, lameness, buying and selling horses, grooming,and showing.
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Footing Part 1: Arena Design and Management
Good footing is safe and can encourage a horse to move forward with energy and elasticity. Poor footing is dangerous and can cause a horse to move timidly or with resistance.
There is no substitute for proper arena design and management. Before footing the bill for a new arena surface, be sure you have considered all of the following design and management factors.
Location An arena should be located on dry, well-draining ground. To improve drainage, a shallow ditch can be cut around the perimeter of the arena. Depending on the terrain, the rainwater collected in the ditch can flow directly onto lower ground or can be drained via an underground tile system.
Levelness The arena site should be level with a slight (1 to 2 degree) grade to allow rain water to pass through the surface soil and flow off the base. The slight slope discourages puddling. Be aware that a steeper grade could lead to erosion of the surface soil during downpours.
Base The layer of material between the "earth" and the surface material is called the base. The functions of the base include acting as a protective layer between the earth and the surface material, giving stability to the arena floor, and carrying rainwater off the arena. The base might be naturally occurring material (such as decomposed granite) or added material such as road base or fine gravel topped with stone dust and clay. The base must contain no stones and it needs to be packed or tamped as hard as concrete. To accomplish this, a contractor that has a 10 or 20 ton roller (such as seen on road crews) will have to be hired. Some feel the surface of the base should be left absolutely flat while some say that after the base is set, narrow grooves or rills should be cut into the base to help hold the surface material in place.
The base must be a thick enough layer to prevent material from the "earth" layer (such as clay or stones) from working up through the base into the surface soil. A 4-6" base is usually sufficient for an arena that is used primarily for flatwork. However, the base layer might need to be as deep as 10" if an arena would be used primarily for jumping. Some farms have experimented with laying special tough, non-biodegradable cloths between the earth and the base and even between the base and the surface footing to keep the layers from mixing.
The base must be protected from damage by erosion, deep discing, and penetration from hooves. Regular maintenance should eliminate the potential for ruts forming along the rail.
Surface Material The layer over the base is called the cushion or the surface. Often it is a mixture of materials. Depending on the base and use of the arena, the surface layer could be from 2 to 6 inches deep. The function of the surface material is to provide a cushioning effect. 3 inches of surface footing seems to work well in many arenas.
Surface recipes vary widely and include various mixtures of sand, silt, and clay, topsoil and sawdust, simply sand, and various artificial footings.
This series will continue with information on evaluating and caring for your soil, arena footings, additives, avoiding problems and footing management.