Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tidbits about stall design

Corton horse stalls (Netherlands)Most women read House Beautiful or Home and Garden -- me, I seem to love reading about stall design.  Riley and Harv have encountered quite a number of stall types in the last few weeks, and it's interesting to watch their reaction to the various features. Here's what the experts say on the subject...

While in some respects you can say bigger is always better, from a practical standpoint, this isn't really so. The ideal size seems to be 12X12. Smaller stalls, like 10X10 or 10X12 are just "okay," probably a bit tight for a larger horse. A 14X14 stall is a must for breeding barns, but otherwise it's the law of diminishing returns applied to horsedom. That extra 2 feet can double the cost of building the stall, and it takes a lot more shavings/straw to bed. But most importantly, experts say the size of the stall is not as important how the design accommodates the horse's visual field.

On a clear day....
As it happens I love the "European" stall design (picture above right). From an architectural standpoint, it opens up the barn space and makes the interior more visually impressive. I like the curve of the stall front, too. From a horse psychology standpoint the open front is advantageous because...

  • The horse does not have great depth perception and their eyes are designed to function best in open spaces. While stalls are confining, it's possible to make them more comfortable by giving them a view to middle and far distances.
  • The stall is a "social space" where a horse can see and interact with other horses.
  • It offers improved light and ventilation.
  • Barn managers can monitor a horse's well-being more easily.
I'm guessing we don't see this design much because of cost. Dutch doors, stall grates all around, and adjoining paddocks might be cheaper alternatives (not sure about the grates, that's probably expensive too).

There are disadvantages other than cost. The open stall design is most feasible in a private barn, where the stall inhabitants tend not to change and personality conflicts are easier to resolve (by moving the horse, etc). In a boarding barn it could result in conflict, stall kicking, etc.

At any rate, here are some examples of stall designs that I think are fairly horse friendly...

Blackburn Architects Oak Haven Farm

Is this actually a stall? It's interesting anyway...
Schweiss Stables


Stable design from the horse perspective from Thomas Croce Architects

Innovative Equine Systems Horse Stalls

Classic Equine Equipment, Inc. -- Stalls

Horse stall design from Penn State U

What is the best design for horse stall barns from Penn State U extension agency

Stall builder from RAMM Fencing

Stall systems from EMGE Equine

Equine Products Direct stalls

Stall design from The Horse magazine

Selecting the right kind of wood


  1. My barn is far from elegant, but the horses have bars between their stalls and yoke stall gates so they can hang their heads out into the aisle. It's kind of a "poor man's" version of some of those more beautiful models you've shown us.

    I totally agree that horses are better off when they can see around them and can socialize with barnmates.

    Nice post. Again. *S*

  2. If you go to the Schweiss's webpage, you'll see a photo of a completed stall. It's really sad, but before I scrolled down to see where that photo was from, I had already ID'd it as being from Schweiss's. It's a nice facility. Very bright and open. Lovely facility to show at too.

  3. One of the most elegant stall designs I've seen belonged to one of the Rolling Stones--you should google it--I know it wasn't Mick Jagger. :)

  4. Love this post - I think what we humans need to keep in mind is that our ideas of horse housing isn't always what is most advantageous to our horses' mental and physical well-being. Love the totally open feel of the barns that you pointed out, esp. the Schweiss "stalls"!

  5. I've been to Oak Haven in Austin, TX, for a Charles de Kunffy clinic, and the whole set-up is horse friendly. As much I love the Euro style stalls (always been my favorite) OH's stalls are really nice because they're very well ventilated BUT because it is a boarding barn then that style still makes sure you don't have everyone nipping and kicking at each other. They can stick their head out but they can't really see who's next door. That's also a disadvantage too I suppose, but they get daily turnout in lovely well-kept pastures.

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