Horse Barn Design & Planning Guide

A well designed barn can save you both time and money in the long run so be sure to cover all your bases and spend plenty of time considering all your present and potential future needs. If a horse barn is designed and built properly it should be a light, airy, easy to clean and a pleasant home for your animals along with being a place you will enjoy working in.

Careful planning will pay off in the long-run in the form of: lower maintenance & upkeep costs, fewer vet bills and added property value.

Site Considerations

One of the first steps you will need to make is the selection of a suitable location for your new horse barn. You will want to select a site that has the following, as a minimum:

  • Good natural drainage
  • Firm and level ground
  • Close proximity to utilities
  • Easy access
  • Potential for future expansion

Once you have found your site be sure to identify where the prevailing wind direction, you will then need to orientate your barn so that it benefits from good air circulation without being directly in the wind – the last thing you need is for your center isle to resemble a wind tunnel at the Boeing plant! You will need to orientate your barn at about a 45-degree angle to the prevailing wind. Ideally, you want to catch the summer breezes whilst avoiding the winter winds.

Be sure to set some land aside, in an accessible location, for manure and hay storage.

Once you are happy with your chosen site you will then need to level the ground and pour a concrete slab suitable for the size of your soon-to-be-erected steel horse barn.

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Barn Size Considerations

Whether you are a recreational rider with one horse, a breeder, a hobby farmer, a casual trail rider or a multi-disciplined equestrian center you should begin your barn design process by asking your self some of the following questions:

  • Do I always want to have a set number of horses?
  • Will I want to take in a couple of borders at some stage in the future to help with running costs?
  • Do I want to breed at some stage in the future

It is always better to build larger than smaller and with steel built barns being such an economical option you may be able to have the large barn of your dreams for the same price as a more expensive post and beam barn.

With pre-engineered steel barn buildings it is most economical to design your building in 10’ increments e.g. 30' x 40', 40' x 50' etc.

Barn Height: decide on the highest framed opening you want (usually, your entrance), the eave of the building will be 2' higher than this. Typically, 10' - 14' works for most barns.

Roof Slope: The slope of a buildings roof is expressed by a ratio called "roof pitch,"which indicates the number of inches a roof rises vertically for every 12 inches it runs horizontally. The standard is usually 1:12. This is determined by a number of factors namely, the look you want to achieve, how much snow you have in your area (a steeper slope provides better snow runoff) and how much center isle clearance you want.

Stall Sizes

The recommended safe size for a stall is 14’ x 14’ and a minimum 7’ in height. It is possible to make these slightly smaller (12' x 12') but it has been found that 14’ x 14’ is a good size for almost all horses and can translate into a more content horse that is less likely to chew,kick and generally misbehave.

Feed Storage

Allow sufficient storage for about one week’s worth of grain and about one day’s worth of hay. Be sure to store the remainder of your supply in another building at least 2-400 yards from your barn. Storing hay in your barn can cause serious problems with insurance companies (some won’t even cover you if you store hay in your barn) and place your animals at undue risk in the event of a fire.

Center Aisle Width

As with your overall barn size don’t be tempted to skimp on the size of your center isle as you will more than likely live to regret it. It is recommended that you have an aisle width of at least 12’. This will allow you ample room to maneuver your horses, a small tractor whilst allowing more light into your barn. Again, because of the economics of steel building construction, adding an extra 2’ to your aisle and 2’ to the size of your stalls is relatively small in overall material and construction costs.

Sample Horse Barn Dimensions

Detailed below are some sample barn measurements along with links to some free barn floor plans. These are by no means exhaustive or "set-in-stone" but simply meant as a guide to get you started. Select one of the links in this table to view a sample floorplan. This list of dimensions and plans is not exhaustive.  They’re just to get you started. Custom possibilities are endless.

# Horses Dimensions (WxL) Total Square Feet (SF) Sample Floorplans
30' x 40' 1,200 SF Sample Floor Plan
40' x 40' 1,600 SF Sample Floor Plan
40' x 60' 2,400 SF Sample Floor Plan
40' x 80' 3,200 SF Sample Floor Plan
40' x 90' 3,600 SF Sample Floor Plan
40' x 100' 4,000 SF Sample Floor Plan
40' x 150' 6,000 SF Sample Floor Plan

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Author: Conrad Mackie