Home made horse stalls?

niffer(z5 Ontario)November 9, 2005

My husband works in a steel tubing plant and has access to scrap tubing (still good, just ends and stuff). We are looking to have 4 horse stalls put in the barn , and instead of the expensive premade ones, I thought we could make our own for way less. Has anyone done this? Are there any suggestions? I've looked on the net for plans, but all I've come up with are barns. I'd love any suggestions. Also, I plan on leaving the entire area where the stalls and centre aisle are going not cemented. I wondered if I could put 4 inches or so of gravel on top of the existing dirt floor and then put rubber stall mats on top of that(or do I have to dig more dirt out)? Do most people cement the rest of the barn for ease of cleaning or what else could I do? I've read the books, but I want to know what "real" people do. Oh, and its an old driveshed, thats why I'm starting with just a frame!


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I would put more than 4 inches of gravel down regardless of what you put on top of the gravel (stall mats, etc.). You want really good drainage. If I were starting from scratch, I would probably not dig down at all. I would probably bring in enough gravel to elevate where the barn is going to go. I personally would make it about a foot higher than the ground around it. But that is only because I have an old barn that was built level with the ground. It is a pain to clean and it wouldn't matter much if I had stall mats because the issue is drainage. Just my opinion and I am sure others have other opinions.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 6:12PM
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niffer(z5 Ontario)

Thanks Ladybug. The building is already there, we are just converting it, so I can't elevate it...I'll have to go down. Thanks for your opinion though.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 9:17PM
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marquisella(z4 NY)

I have gravel with stone dust on top.

The stone dust packs down and makes the surface smooth.
If you just have gravel, eventually the rocks will poke up and you will loose flooring.

I also put mats down, but I find I use more shavings with the mats than I did without them. The stone dust, even though it packs down hard, still lets moisture through, so the bedding stays dryer.

You can get stone dust from a quarry by the pick up full, or they deliver.

You wheelbarrel it into the stalls, rake smooth & stomp it down, and wet it with a hose. it won't seem very hard, but after you put in your bedding, or mats, the weight of the horses will pack it down sufficiently without being as hard as cement.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 11:12AM
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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

I couldn't afford mats in my day so I went with the ages old standby: red clay

Pack it down hard and you can still put mats on top if you like.

Red clay drains well, does not have an adverse affect on the horses if they nibble things on the floor, and is easy for them to stand on.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 8:04PM
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Miss_Kitty(6a KY)

I have a new barn, and am wrestling with some of the same issues. I have a clay floor that is about 4 inches below the rest of the barn for now. I thought I would fill it with gravel originally. However:

My farrier has got on my case about putting gravel in the stalls. He's utterly against it. Frankly I think that good drainage is critical, but I've taken a whole bunch of flack about the lengths I wanted to go to get good drainage. They all think I'm nuts, dh, dad, farrier and builders. (And we couldn't afford it.)

So I gave up the gravel, the drainage tile in the middle of the stall, the tiles down the edge of the stall. We kept the tile outside the barn around the outer edge, and gave up the 10 foot "curtain wall drains". That had been promised by the original builders (may the fleas of a thousand stray cats infest their .... armpits.)

The reason I was so nuts about drainage was the old barn and shed where we boarded flooded with rain and the run off from the neighbors washer. So my horses stood in mud most of the year, and the clean up was horrendous and only possible during "dry" weather.

Since our summer was bone dry, and fall has been bone dry, I'm apprehensive of how well the single drain tile will work with the new barn. My current builders think that things will be just fine, unless it rains for 40 days and nights, but then we are all in trouble.

On the original plans the stalls are 12' long by 11' wide, but since the old mare cribs and the rest of them chew wood, we are going to cover the beams, perlions and posts, with chicken wire if I can't find anything else. So the stalls will be shorter and narrower by about a foot.

I'm loving my barn, though it's gotten junked up in a huge hurry. I have to get the rock dust center floors, tack room and hopefully at least part of the loft.

I like the idea of using round pipe for the stalls. But I have a mare that climbs fences and gates. She's a fruitcake, always getting caught in stock panels and wooden slats. So make sure that you have all your sharp edges covered!

I am debating the wisdom of putting gates across the front of the stalls for our horses. I could do it for the old mare and my gelding, but the young mare would likely break a leg. It would have saved me some serious money too.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 8:14PM
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niffer(z5 Ontario)

Oh, how I dread asking a stupid question....here goes.....where does one get red clay? I am wincing as I post this.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 10:12PM
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gurley157fs(zone 7/8sc)

niffer - not a stupid question.

You should be able to look under Landscaping, Top-soil, or land-clearing and hauling on the internet or in a phone book.

Here the best prices for a load come from a rock quarry.

Or you can do it the really hard way (I've done this) Find a natural outcropping of it and (with the owners permission) shovel it into the back of a pick-up or trailer. Back breaking work but it's free.

Back in the 60' a very large hunter-barn I rode at would get fresh clay to fill in any holes in the stalls once a year. This barn had over 200 stalls. They took a front end loader and dropped a load in front of every 4 stalls in the middle of the isle. All of us kids would shovel it into each stall. With so many kids helping to do it the job didn't take so long - they cooked us burgers when we were done - and we all slept pretty good that night.

Isn't that against the law now days? To make a kid break a sweat? Sorry - couldn't resist that one. We didn't know any different and we were having great fun.

BTW - It doesnt have to be red clay, I would check with your local rock quarry people to see what clay is avail in you area (ontario).

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 4:21AM
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kimberlee(z5 IN)

The floors in our huge 4-H barns are clay with the heaviest animals on them being cattle and horses. They have held up very well over the years. Also, wouldn't a local gravel business have access to clay?

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 8:02AM
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The barn that I have was on the property when I bought it. I have gradually been improving it, new metal roof, new sliding back door, and the project that keeps getting put off is replacing the floor. We think there is an underground stream that flows under the barn, the floor is wood laid on the ground. Needless to say, when it rains, the water comes up through the floor boards.

The stalls themselves are set up higher, and quite dry. AS I've said before, the barn was built for "regular' horses and I have miniature donkeys. So I have cut window holes in the stall sides so the donkeys can poke their noses through and see each other. Only their noses, not their heads, don't need anyone getting stuck.

What I'm planning on doing with the floor, now next spring if it's dry enough. Is to take up the wood, dig down 6 to 8 inches, put down gravel, and put new wood on top. I took down a different barn and have plenty of good wood to use. I can even go up higher than the original floors, since the stalls themselves are that much higher. I do plan on having a path for the water to drain out of the barn too.

Hopefully that will help my drainage problem.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 1:35PM
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We put gravel,stone then mats, on top of mats.. shavings.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 4:28PM
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As I said earlier, my old barn actually sits below the ground around it. I can't claim respnsibility for that enigineering flaw, the barn was here when we bought the place. It is only a problem when we have a really heavy rain or it rains for days and days. However, the area just outside the backdoor of the barn was always a swampy mess in the fall, winter, and spring. The horses over time just brought the soupy mess on into the back of the barn from tromping in and out and increasing the size of the mud puddle.

Three years ago, I boarded my horse at a friends house to repair the barn. We dug out a drainage swale, dug out in the barn, lined it all with geotech fabric, and then dumped Lord knows how much gravel and crush and run. You can put gravel dust on top of that. It has worked great. The whole back end of my barn has stayed dry ever since.

We tried just gravel before, but after awhile it just became part of the soupy mess and you couldn't even fine the rock eventually. The geotech fabric prevents that. Construction companies line roadways with it before they dump rock on it for that reason.

I have been really happy with the results. I would do more of my barn that way if it wasn't so old, if my horses weren't old, and if I didn't plan on tearing it down one day to build a safer barn.

Just my experience.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 7:12PM
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definately no gravel in the stalls. horses are heavy animals. I wouldnt even put the mats in there. just dirt is best and bed it with straw of shavings. mats dont drain urine and can be too slipery. never use concrete. that wont drain at all, keeping them cold. We put the rubber mats throughout the barn else where for walking on but that can be slipery for an old or sick horse who has trouble standing. My father made beautiful stall doors with the piping from our old greenhouses. but you want the rest of the stall enclosed to keep the drafts out and heat in for winter. I would use the piping for the doors only. I have heard of a horse that got up from laying down and broke a leg under a stall door made of pipe. So design it with that in mind. we had old semi trailer doors for walls and they worked wonderful. You can pick them up for the price of scrap metal and most are even insulated. We had some wild stallions when I was younger and a bull kept in those stalls and they held up excellent.Do you have horses now?. If not go visit some nieghbors who have different set ups. I am sure they will welcome your inquiries.
Good luck

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 8:26AM
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Weve had ours this way for 13 years no problem ground didnt sink at all,good deainage and easy cleaning.We built our stalls.We have wood up about 5'with piping close enough they cant get head through from wood to ceiling.We have sliding wood doors with pipe,and the door where top opens on outside of stall.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 8:57AM
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You drill hooles in mat but shavings collect urine.easy clean.Have no problems with slipping.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 3:19PM
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Our stalls have a gravel based floor, with rock dust packed over the gravel. Some have mats, some don't. We have a lot of problems with the horses pawing at the floor--they dig big hole and a couple times a year, we fill in the holes with more rock dust and spray it and tamp it down real good. Of course, we have nutty TB weanlings and yearlings, a lot of them are stall sour and that's why they dig. For the ones that dig more, we put the rubber mats in the front part of their stall (which is where they dig/pace the most). That seems to help with the holes.

I like the idea of pipe for the doors/front of the stalls, but you probably want the walls of the stalls to be something sturdier like wood or concrete blocks. A lot of it depends on your horses--if they are relaxed and good friends, you can get away with "weaker" walls, because they're less likely to fight each other through the walls. Maybe you don't even need stalls--just "fence" in one area of the barn with the piping and make it like a pen where you can trap them if you want them in the barn. You could have a door to the outside pasture, and then they can go in the barn by choice in the winter, but they wouldn't have "free rein" of the whole place.... Just a thought....

I think it's a good idea to have the center aisleway either cement (roughened) or asphalt. If the weather is wet, you would not want to be driving a tractor/truck through a muddy aisleway and making it a big mess. Also, you would be able to sweep it out or pressure wash it that way.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 8:37PM
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BelindaM(z8 La)

I'm afaid of piping as even the most docile horse will lay down and sometimes get trapped with pipes. I have been there and done that with Red Clay. The drainiage is good but if you have an active animal it will not pack. I purchased good quality stall matts to go on top of my red clay bed. This worked for me. I put solid walls of real heavy grade of ply-wood inside my stall walls. This has been a god save as mare's like to kick at the walls to attack other mares. I think the stall matts have been my best investment. Less cleaning up with no mixture of dirt, and easy on the feet of big strong animals.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 9:14PM
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The pipes usually arent down on floor.Ours are about 5'up the wall No way to get caught in pipes

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 9:32AM
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niffer(z5 Ontario)

We were hoping to use tubing all the way from top to bottom with a wooden plank horizontally halfway down for strength and stability. I thought if the tubes were close to each other (2 inch seperation) that horses wouldn't be able to get there legs through....????

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 12:13PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

I would strongly suggest NOT using pipe for the whole wall length. Boards are much more forgiving when kicked or leaned on. Pipe can bend under the force of a kick, catch a leg. Boards are also warmer, cut the wind and drafts of air circulation in winter.

We used sawmill lumber 2" x 6", rough faced green oak, to do our stalls. If you use oak, use galvanized nails, the tannic acid in wood will rust other nails quickly. Sawmill lumber is slightly larger in actual dimensions, not having been planed off smooth. Most horses don't like to chew it, being rough and with tannic acid in green lumber.
We have full dividers, double walled, in the 2 box stalls, with windows in the front on the aisle. Dividers prevent fighting, horses still know each other are there. Sliding doors are a full sheet of 1" outdoor plywood, 4' x 8', with boards on the face edges for stiffening, to hold door flat. Looks like a regular barn door, 2" x 4" board around the whole edge, with X on the bottom half. No door windows.
The front window is above a 5ft wall on the front wall, 8ft wide, with solid steel (not pipe!) bars closely together. Even so, one new horse reared and got a foot thru them. She had very large feet but managed to push them thru bars. Very messy for the horse.

We have cement (brushed rough not smooth for traction) aisle to keep floor level, prevent mud, much less work to clean. Asphalt is an option others use, works OK. Our stalls have a dug out floor. We dig out about 10" of dirt, put down several inches of coarse limestone rock. We tamp it with a compactor so limestone is very firm. We put a couple inches of a sand and gravel mix in to level up to the floor, tamp it down again then put mats on top. Mats work well, save a lot in bedding. Mats drain well, don't smell with limestone under. Keeps horses from having uneven floor, digging holes, prevent wet spots. We always have bedding on mats to prevent possible slipping.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 11:07PM
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I agree with goodhor,our wood is rough cut thick,they dont chew,I looked at stalls the rails are more like about 6' up.never had any problem.Id rather have mats than clay.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 8:27AM
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Pipersville_Carol(z6 Bucks PA)

I finally splurged and got rubber stall matting this spring. Wish I'd done it years ago! The bedding stays much cleaner (saving money), I can strip the whole stall in about four minutes, and the horse isn't wearing down a hole in the middle of the dirt floor anymore.

If you worried about drainage, make sure you have good gutters. My barn doesn't have them, and the roof run-off causes problems.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 12:39PM
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Egads!!! I am sooooo happy to find this forum!! I too am starting new with horses. Barn is being put up on my "old home place" in april and have had so many questions. Much of which I see answers to right here. But.....I saw a picture of a stall ....walls were made of concrete blocks...solid...about 4' tall ?? rails above with reg door for inside and out.....what are your thoughts on the cement blocks?? Thanksssssssssss.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 8:14PM
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Pipersville_Carol(z6 Bucks PA)

I don't have any experience with cement block barns, but it sounds like an excellent material to me.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 12:59PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Not sure where you are located, but cement can be cold. I see lots of cement blocks used in southern areas, Hurricane locations. Up north here, cement stays very cold all year. Fine is summer, but chilly in winter because it holds the cold.

Another thing to consider, is that cement has NO GIVE. When a horse kicks it, horse is going to hurt himself first in most cases. Lots of barn owners will line the walls with rubber or mats, to add give for kicking. Extra expense.
Husband was at the vet clinic the other day when they brought in a lame horse. Broken coffin bone. He and the vet worked to get shoe on hind leg, horse went off OK. However as they watched walking off animal, the other hind leg knuckled over at the pastern. Brought horse back in for X-ray. Shattered navicular bone, at least 12 peices. No saving that foot. After talking to owner, the moron, brought up the fact that horse had been steadily kicking her cement wall for a week. Both hind feet were damaged by kicking her walls.
She didn't like the new horser stalled beside her. No one did anything about the problem. Didn't change stalls, put up a wall mat, use kicking chains. Just left her to "work it out". That horse had to be put down because of stupidity by the owner. Horse had a five figure price tag, nice looking animal, easily could have avoided such damage to her.

I do think a 4ft cement wall height below bars of window, is too short a wall, unless for ponies or minis. Just gets the bars to low down for foot to catch in.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2006 at 3:54PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I think the reason you can't find plans is that it takes more time to draw plans than the entire stall is worth. For a basic stall you want four poles to mark the corners and two cross pieces welded across to connect each set of poles. On one side you want a gate so one more pole in the ground about 3 feet from one corner. The gate can be a rope with a snap hook or a piece of chain and a chain catch. At the top of the four poles you build a platform for a corrugated steel roof that drains away from whatever is most important in the area.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 6:19PM
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We are building new stalls, and using 3/4" rubber mats. My husband and I are debating over how/ when to lay them in. He wants to place the mats in first, then build the walls so the bottom board is on top of the outer edges of the mats. He feels the mats won't move then. I say no, we should build the stall first, then lay the mats in to butt up against the bottom board. Does anyone have an opion or thought if one method is better than the other?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 7:57PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

We layed the mats in after the walls were up. You will want to be able to remove mats, perhaps add more dirt under to level floor after it settles. Perhaps you will want to put some lime or limestone in later under the mats to remove any smell. We have found the 3/4" mats stay in place pretty well if fitted tightly on level floor. Our horses don't paw or stall walk to be constantly moving the mats. We bed on sawdust to prevent mats being slippery, plus the dirt mats under drains well.

Vise grips or C-clamps on the mat edges make handling mats much easier. Husband cut our mats to fit with a utility knife and edge of board for straight line.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2006 at 10:51PM
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Hello. I know this post comes in kind of late from March 30th to this June, but this is to respond to the question from "ratgirl1" about building the stall wall on top of the rubber mat in her new barn.

Although "goodhors" had a good point to make if you have dirt floors, I have a totally concrete barn with 3/4" rubber mats and we put the mat down first then built the walls to fit on top so that the mats would not move just as your husband wants to do. I then sealed the bottom edges with a clear type of caulk/sealer to prevent any urine from seeping under the wood. (Actually, the sealer was applied under the bottom 2"x10" boards.) This works great! Hope this helps. Love my super clean & neat little horse barn!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 8:27PM
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Oh I love this site! Just found it and I am re-doing a barn as well. Horse novice here. Have 3 boys who are inseparable-that's the three amigos. Question-starting to build stalls. Can pressure treated lumber be used in the stalls or is this bad if they chew due to the arsenic? Where does one find t&g yellow pine?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 9:57AM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

I don't think that pressure treated lumber is using arsnic anymore. No Creosote either. Illegal for safety reasons. Copper is the wood treatment, makes lumber a green color now.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 8:57PM
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Thank you kindly for the reply. Stalls are progressing well.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 12:40PM
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I too am new to this. I ripped down a 20x40 chicken coop, and re-formed the floor with concrete. I have 2 stalls now and a tack room, with a 10' walkway between end sliding end doors. When laying the cement, I took a steel I beam and graduated a run-off down the middle of the 2 stalls graduating from 2" to 7" and out the barn to a 8' deep gravel filled whole, then removed the beam. What can I put down on cement in the stalls now that it's there, for best drainage, cleaning, comfort etc? Should I put (can I?) anything under the rubber matts? Are solid matts better than the ones that are perforated? Thanks to you all! Chuckhayes.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 1:02PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Chuck, I am not totally clear on the description you give - is the floor of the stall basically level, or does it slope slightly to the "drain? If it slopes at all, then I would top the cement with about 2-4" of leveled, packed stone dust or screened crusher run - so there are no biggish chunks of rock ( nothing more than about half an inch) - maybe laying down geotextile cloth so the stone dust/fine gravel doesn't also run out into the drain - and make the floor level before I laid down mats. Horses would be happier on level footing, and your drainage would be better if there was something between the mat and the cement, which would limit wetness and smells. If you can't get limestone dust, which inherently mitigates urine smells, then I would lay down a bag or two of Sweet PDZ or the equivalent, just to limit future smells, before laying the mats.

If the floor is basically level, except for the drain, then I might fill the drain area with coarse gravel so the footing under the mats is level, and the horses aren't pushing the mat(s) into the drain. A layer of stonedust over the gravel - an inch or so - would be sure to make the footing solid underfoot. Of course, you can also do the above, and make the drainage certain!

My inclination is to go with the permeable mats, since you went to the effort of putting in a drain. I would, however, be equally, or more, inclined to go with whichever one is the easiest to get and lay down, and the better price - don't forget to factor in shipping costs, as well as the difficulty in actually laying the mats! Talking to sales reps at the various companies, as well as to the people in your area (if there are any) who sell it might help make up your mind. Just remember that sales reps WANT to sell to you, so keep an open mind!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 3:59PM
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Guess it all depends on the climate in your area and the temperament of your horses. Then do the best with what you have close by to keep costs down while making a safe and decent looking building. If you have the space and are building/modifying you can add a paddock area outside the stall (attached) so the horses can go outside also (sand is a good option for footing)which will make apple picking easier and work wonders in preventing the atmosphere for developing bad habits. Our horses have this and would rather stay outside than under roof. We feed inside for obvious reasons, but they spend 90% of their time outside regardless of the weather. Keep in mind that they are not kittens or parakeets and you aren't doing them any favors by shutting them off from the elements. A horse isn't going to freeze to death because it has a concrete block wall and a concrete floor or is in an unheated building. Electric fenceing is your best friend (just make sure you have a good/safe charger (don't overlook the solars). If a horse is cribbing or chewing the top of a divider, a strand of electric will work wonders. If your dirt floor doesn't drain the way you think it should and you can't afford to raise the whole thing etc, etc, dig a ditch and lay some flex pipe in some gravel, cover it and be happy. You can extend the ditch a few meters away from the building and end the pipe in a sump that you've dug, filled with rocks/gravel and covered in extreme conditions. And don't forget toys be it a ball hanging from the ceiling or a basketball on the floor (could mean the difference in a happy horse with a clear head or a wood chewing weaver/pacer). Don't overlook the importance of your compfort and convenience either (physical, mental, and financial) horses tend to loose their glamour and end up neglected with habits that make them all but worthless when the owner spends more time cleaning than enjoying and eats macoroni and cheese with a backache.
My 2 cents.



    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 5:22AM
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I think you should look into buying cusom horse stalls from www.triplebstalls.com. They offer very affordable horse stalls and are built to las a lifetime. These horse stalls have a 25 year warranty.

Here is a link that might be useful: horse stalls

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 11:01PM
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Happy2BeeME(4a NH)

I agree with Dave, I know many converted cow barns around here that are cement walled. They are good and sturdy, yes a bit colder in the winter but block the wind well. Horses are tough, cold is ok but the wind/drafts is another story.

My stalls have all mentioned above plus 2 small salt blocks 1-red 1-white for variety. We have toys hanging, on the floor and in the corner. I change out the toys every so often to keep them guessing. Every so often I hang bunches of carrots from the center so they have to work to get them. I also toss whole apples in their water bucket so they can figure out how to get them out/also incourages drinking of the water.

My horses are out every day and in at night so stall bordem is not a big problem.

I have concrete floor with rubber mats and wouldn't have anything else, been there done that with the dirt floor, filling, smoothing....I have horses to enjoy them.... ride, drive not just be their cleaning lady....I keep about 3 wheelbarrows full of shavings on the mats, sift threw them daily (5min/per stall-and i'm fussy) then once a week do a complete clean out and sweep. No problems with odor or flys. Spring/fall pull the mats pressure wash them and the stalls down. Done...

I know not everyone can have concrete floors but that's where I would put my $$ first.

My thoughts Karyn

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 8:09PM
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