Thursday, September 1, 2011

HK 101: What's in my stall? What isn't?

A horses stall needs to be a very safe place for them. Inside a little box is a pretty unnatural place for a horse to be, and although most learn to live in a stall, if something scares them for any reason those natural instincts kick in and some serious injuries can result.

Don't assume because you know horses you know how to build. I have seen some of the worst stalls build by horse-people! Some bad by construction people that are not horse people too. Consult someone who has built horse stalls before and does know what they are doing. You don't want to build something that looks pretty but is going to explode the moment an angry horse kicks the wall because his dinner is late.

Check and re-check for nails.
Horses love to hurt themselves! Make sure all nails are flush with the wall, and check them periodically (twice a year is good) to make sure none have come loose. Use screws when building, they are far less likely to come out over time, again make sure they are flush. 

Do not hang more things then are necessary. Never use a screw to hang something up in a stall (like a hay net), do yourself a huge favour and go out and get the proper hardware before you've got a vet bill.

Point everything away from your horse.
Cover hinges, point bucket clips towards the wall, make sure they can't reach the latch!

Stall Bars
Not necessary but they are a good idea. Cover the top half of your stall with something that allows the air through but not the horse. You've got to make sure you use something that will not scratch the horse and that they can't get a grip on to remove. You can go with commercially prepared grills, or get creative and use a strong conduit or fencing panel.

Rubber mats are fantastic, they will save you a ton on bedding are very comfortable under your horses feet. If your horses aren't going to be in very often they really aren't a necessity.

Our stalls are undersized, one is 12x9.5 the other 16x9.5; neither are really as large as we want. Again, horses aren't in them very often so really not a big deal and we'll be building larger ones at the front of the barn. If you've working with a limited amount of space, a standing stall is safer then a box stall a horse can be cast in. 

10' is really the minimum height for a barn ceiling, up to about 14' is the norm. If you live cooler climate a lower ceiling will keep the heat closer to the horses (since heat rise). You also need to think about the size of the horses you'll be stabling, because you don't want your gentle giant having to duck his head every time he comes into the barn.
Maddie fits in out barn, but he doesn't fit under the lights very well. We have to move them up!

Lights in your stall are a really good idea. Even if you don't use them everyday, having them in an emergency is way more fun then trying to grow a third hand to hold the flashlight. Lights should be encased in something to prevent the glass raining down on your horse if they do smash the bulb. Electrical wires should be encased in conduit to keep horses and mice from nibbling on them.
Lights should be installed by a licensed electrician.

You should only use full encased agricultural/industrial use fans. Cheaping out causes barn fires.

Another good thing to have in case of emergency. Personally I hate tacking up in their stall because you get hair and hoof bits into feed, but in an emergency you may need a place to tie the horse, and may need to tie in their stall. 

Hay Feeders
Completely optional. You can feed horses quite happily off the floor, especially if you have mats. Hay feeders are great for piglets (like Meg) or horses who get bored in  their stalls. There are lots of great temporary hay feeders like Nibble Nets, far more high-tech feeders like The Grazer, or what I would like which is the simple and classic Corner Hay Rack. The best thing about feeders and keeping your hay off the floor is keeping the hay cleaner & making sure there is less waste.

Feeders & Buckets
Rubber feed tubs are the best thing for horses. Always use buckets and feeders meant for horses, you don't want them breaking when a horse steps on or leans into one.

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