5 Things to Consider When Designing an Equestrian Building

By Steve Wright

Design for equestrian buildings is not like building for chickens, pigs, or other farm animals. Since most equine operations are meant for pleasure riding or show riding, there are significant differences in space and storage requirements. Also, horses are long-lived creatures who may stay in a particular facility for years if not decades.

Your design must take into consideration the safety and comfort of the horses over the convenience of the people caring for them, but you can design a facility that provides the right environment for horses and people.

Consideration 1: Planned Activities

As you begin your design, you must consider exactly what you hope to do with your equestrian building.

  • Stabling and boarding your own horses
  • Providing boarding services for other horse owners
  • Showing horses for sale
  • Hosting shows
  • Storing equipment

Each activity takes a certain amount of space and has varying requirements. For example, if you plan to show horses, you need to set aside space for an arena setting and raised seating for buyers and spectators.  A covered arena would provide the most comfort and flexibility because weather events would not create as much disruption with a roof overhead.

Hosting shows also requires space for equipment parking and storage for the duration of the show. If you plan to provide covered parking, your property layout should reflect it.

Besides stabling, you will need storage for feed, areas for washing, and a place to repair and hang tack that is convenient to all stalls.

Consideration 2: Building Type

Along with the activities you plan to perform in and around your equestrian building, you can select from a variety of building types and styles to match.

  • Gambrel – a gambrel is a building in the shape of a stereotypical barn. The roof has a peak with a lower section that is more steeply pitched than the tip. It is designed for increased hayloft storage such as hay that can be pitched into each stall from above.
  • Monitor – A monitor-style building, also known as Raised Center Aisle (RCA) looks like a one and a half to two-story main building with what appears to be a lean-to on each side. The lean-to sections have lower roof lines that meet on each side of the main section.
  • Traditional Gable – A traditional gable is much like an A-frame roof. The roof panels pitch down from a center or slight off-center peak.
  • Clear Span – a clear span building provides an interior with an open space that is not interrupted by columns. This type of building can be used as an arena or show barn, or it can be sectioned into stalls and other rooms.
  • Free-Standing Lean – a free-standing lean looks like a lean-to without a building to lean against. In other words, it looks like half an A-frame building; the roof has a single side.

Any of these styles can be designed as a run-in shed with an open door and enclosed shelter that the horse can enter on its own.

Consideration 3: Ventilation

The most important consideration for any building that shelters living things is ventilation. Without proper ventilation, the interior atmosphere becomes filled with stale air, noxious gasses, and pathogens. Moisture is trapped inside and can create excellent conditions for mold, mildew, and rot.

Orient your building perpendicular to the prevailing winds to allow for good air flow throughout the ventilation system without creating drafts. Equestrian buildings require both upper and lower ventilation with airflow that moves upward rather than across the space. Air movement across stalls can spread fumes, mold spores and bacteria from one stall to another and create respiratory issues and other illness in your horses.

Vented partitions and stall doors allow plenty of air movement near the lower part of the building while roof peak ventilation pulls heat and moisture upwards and out.

You have several options for ventilation including:

  • Eave extensions
  • Eave openings
  • Peak ventilation
  • Louvers
  • Doors
  • Windows

Upper ventilation vents below the eaves, like a rooftop vent, or openings in the upper walls will allow heated air to move upwards while lower vents in each stall allow in fresh air.

Horse manure creates ammonia fumes that are harmful to the lungs if a horse is exposed to them for long periods of time. Beyond cleaning the stalls frequently, allowing air to move through the stall will provide natural air and cooling.

Consideration 4: Interior Layout

When planning the interior layout of your equestrian building, don’t forget to leave room for future growth if needed. If you plan to board horses for others or for shows, you may need added space as you build your business.

  • Tack rooms should be convenient to as many stalls as possible. Placing it on one end of the building will require you to carry the tack all the way down to the furthest stall. Placing tack storage in the center may be more amenable to you.
  • Feed storage should be kept clear of pests and moisture. Be sure to lock it as well, since a loose horse will overstuff itself if it has the chance.
  • Place the hose spigot somewhere that allows you to reach all areas easily, including the area for bathing the horses and filling water buckets.
  • The horse’s size determines the size of the stall. Boarding Percherons or Clydesdales means building larger the typical 12X12 stall. If you are raising miniature horses, you will need to rethink your stall design as well.
  • Don’t forget to design storage for other items such as bedding.

Consideration 5: Materials

What materials should you use to construct your equestrian facility? After construction is complete, you need to perform maintenance to extend the life of your building. Many horse barns are built of wood because it is an inexpensive material depending on your location, but wood has several shortcomings as a building material:

  • It’s flammable.
  • It rots when exposed to too much moisture.
  • It becomes brittle in dry conditions.
  • Horses like to chew on it.
  • It requires extensive maintenance to keep it going.

A steel equestrian facility addresses all these issues. Metal is not flammable and resists the spread of fire. It comes coated to resist corrosion in moist environments. Very little maintenance is required, and a metal building can be used for decades if kept in repair.

Today’s steel buildings can be designed to look like any other building, whether you want a gambrel design or a simple gable. Metal buildings are easily expanded to provide room for growth. Also, horses and other critters don’t like to chew on it.

Designing an equestrian building requires considerations based on the use you plan to make of the facility, the number of horses to be boarded, and the materials you decide to use. Thoroughly review your plans against the five considerations above and rely on expert advice from your building manufacturer and other owners of equestrian buildings.

Steve Wright works for Whirlwind Steel , a manufacturer of pre-engineered steel buildings and components. Whirlwind Steel metal buildings are manufactured and designed to meet the highest quality standards.