Building a low-maintenance barn
Weekend to-do list:
Fix holes in stall floors
Scrub water buckets
Replace boards in stalls
Clean nests out of rafters
Fix barn door
To a horse owner this list probably looks familiar. But why spend your weekend doing these chores if you can avoid it? Whether building a brand- new barn or fixing up an existing one, you can avoid some of the work that comes with owning horses by focusing on low-maintenance details during the planning stages. Although some solutions cost more up front, in the long run you save both time and money.
Horses are hard on flooring. There are two options to building a low-maintenance flooring system. The first option is to use a dirt or stone floor. However, the key to that is proper drainage. Gradually sloping the ground to a center drain system that runs through all of the stalls allows water and urine to run outside rather than sitting in the stall. Once the drain is in the stall, you can fill it in with gravel. On top of the gravel, you can either fill it with straight blue stone or use a rubber grid that you can fill with blue stone. The grid provides more stability than blue stone alone.
The second flooring option is to find good mats. The purpose of a mat is to prevent the urine from getting to the actual ground. Use an impermeable one-piece mat that covers the entire stall floor area.
Install an automatic water system. The water bowls can be easily removed for cleaning and for refreshing the water. Be sure to purchase water meters that tell you how many minutes your horse is drinking in a day. With an automatic waterer, you will never scrub another water bucket or break another bucket of ice. And you will save money by not wasting large amounts of water.
To install automatic waterers, the plumbing must run to each of your stalls. Hide the plumbing in a wall so it's not on the inside of the stall where the horse can kick or chew through the pipe. For those of you in cold climates, the plumbing can be insulated with heat tape that stays on year-round.
The only way you will never have horses kicking holes in their stall walls is by making your barn of concrete. Horses won't kick those walls more than once. However, concrete is not a common building material due to the high cost. The next-best solution is tongue-and-groove stall walls that are locked together. Ideally these walls should be made out of the hardest wood available, such as oak. The interlocking design prevents the boards from warping with the changes in weather and makes it difficult for mice to create homes in the walls.
Another detail that saves not only time and money but also prevents injury to your horses is placing aluminum angle iron on all of the corners of the stall. When horses are bored, they chew on wood. By placing the angle iron on the corner, it doesn't leave the horses with anything they can sink their teeth into.
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