Check back every Wednesday through Feb. 24 for our continuing series on Farm Design, sponsored by ViginiaCountryProperties.com.
Drawing out a floor plan on graph paper is a great way to plan the layout of your barn and determine how much space you need as you consider what you want in your farm design.
In a large working facility, you probably want your aisles large enough to drive a truck or tractor through, about 14 to 16 feet wide, though for small, private barns you probably only need an aisle about 10 to 12 feet wide.
The average stall size is 12' x 12' with at least 11 feet of headroom. Larger horses will probably enjoy the extra space of a 14' x 14' stall, and some breeds would prefer something smaller. The important thing is to provide for freedom of movement and allow the horse to lie down and get up safely.
In addition, stall doors should be a minimum of 8 feet high and 4 feet wide.
“It’s often a nice consideration to have a double stall or a stall that can be easily converted into a double stall,” said Lorri Hayward.
Hayward also suggested that instead of concrete as a base for your stalls, to use compacted limestone screenings with rubber mats over the top. This is softer on the joints than straight concrete and has better drainage.
Nobody has ever complained about too big a tack room. Build it twice as big as you think you need, and build in room for ample storage. Consider nine-foot ceilings to allow for shelves and appliances, and definitely consider a heating/cooling system to keep tack in good condition.
A tack room could also double as a utility and feed room, so if that is part of your design make sure there is plenty of space for all of those functions. You could also build separate feed and utility type rooms, with the same idea that too big is far preferable to too small.
And don’t forget the bathroom. Designing a full bathroom into your barn is a good plan, especially for those with busy working facilities. Debra Corr suggested making the bathroom handicap accessible, regardless of the programs you run at your farm.
Wash racks and grooming areas should be designed similarly to the stalls but with storage in mind. The minimum size of these areas to be safe and useful is 12 feet long by 8 feet wide.
A farrier/veterinarian area is often taken into consideration when designing. It should be sheltered from the elements and have a solid, level floor. The wash rack or grooming area is a perfectly acceptable substitute if there isn’t room for a separate area.
Hay and bedding should be stored away from the barn to reduce risk of fires.
Functioning doors are vital to a smoothly operating facility. Not only do doors keep the elements out, but they also keep the horses where they belong—safe in their stalls!
Stall doors of the Dutch variety should have two latches—one at the top and one just above the floor. That way, if your horse is good with his lips and slips the latch, he still can’t escape due to the remaining latch on the floor.
Lorri Hayward likes to put mesh or grill doors on the stalls along with the Dutch doors, so if the barn is closed up air still ventilates through the stalls. She also recommended taking note of what swinging doors swing into, and taking care not to put things in the way of open doors.
If Dutch doors aren’t in your plan, sliding doors should be secured with some kind of snap to keep horses from playing with the latches.
Exterior doors should be easy to open and should never be locked unless the barn is empty, but should be sturdy enough that a horse loose in the barn could not get through if it was closed.