Construction Site: Building Boxes

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Storage options around a barn often vary greatly, from each client getting one large tackroom closet space, to random selections of plastic tubs and buckets drifting up and down the aisleway like debris from a shipwreck. Whether your facility is beset with boxes or swept clear on a daily basis, here are some ideas for aisle-side storage that are horseproof and tough enough to take the random bumps and grinds they’ll get in a busy traffic area.

First, here’s a handy no-frame design for a stall-front storage box. The idea is for a shallow, hanging storage cabinet, sort of the horse version of your bathroom medicine cabinet. The strength of this container comes from the use of 2” x 6” or 2” x 8” boards for the sides, cut back into a sloping-front “salt box” shape.

The front and back, bottom and top are one-inch or 3/4-inch plywood, attached to the rigid, strong 2” x 8” sides with brass screws and wood glue. Hinge the top or bottom edge of the lid with two sturdy hinges, and attach the decorative closure of your choice—if you want to get fancy, order a nice cupboard latch and even corner brasses from a restoration woodworking catalog.

The ones pictured here are in the size range of 9 or 10 inches deep, 12 to 14 inches tall, and 14 to 16 inches wide. This provides plenty of space for a bottle of bug spray, your turnout boots and bell boots, and a handy hook for a hoof pick. Too much larger and you have an obstruction that passing horses and owners will bump into. Smaller and you can’t fit the bug spray bottle in there. The idea is to have just enough space for a few pre-turnout essentials, maybe a dandy brush as well to knock off the turnout grunge, and the rest of the gear can stay in the main tack box where it belongs.

Along the back of the box, depending on your stall-front design. you can attach nylon web straps, available from outdoor-supply stores, with buckles to allow you to snug the box firmly up against the stall front. Another option, if you have half-height stalls, would be to bolt on u-shaped hooks to hang it in place.

Remember: Build barn items more solidly than household items—between weathering, idle bumps, and the predations of horse teeth, you’ll need a little extra strength. Use screws, bolts and glue, not nails, to hold things together more firmly as they age.

Ready-made boxes:

For aisleway storage, you can pretty much give up on flimsy, discount-store plastic boxes. These lightweight, multi-size containers are great in the feed room and tack room, but they tend to fall apart in the occasionally rough-and-tumble world of the barn aisle. When a passing horse bumps it, or the tractor comes a little close, thin plastic boxes give up fast.

For small odds and ends you’d like to keep handy but horseproof, try a mailbox! They come in several sizes, are weatherproof should you have an outdoor-facing stall, and you can paint them with any colors or designs your heart and stable styles dictate. To keep from having things projecting out into the passage space of the aisle, be sure and install it facing sideways, with the door opening alongside the stall instead of outwards.

Mailboxes are great out by the arena as well, where they can hold copies of your dressage test, extra gloves, you name it. Just remember at the arena, as in the barn aisle, don’t install them with the door opening into the pathway, or they’ll get left open and catch a passing rider’s kneecap.

Tack shops and tack catalogs, of course, abound with snazzy storage cases, show-quality tack boxes and even rolling, multi-saddle storage units. Depending on budgets at your barn, these may be ideal if you have either wide-enough aisles to accommodate them, or a set-back area that allows them to be handy but not in the traffic flow. Most well-designed commercial tack boxes will have some sort of rack or railing on the floor side to keep them from soaking up ground moisture, but if you have a favorite box that sits flat, be sure and extend its life by setting it on a pair of parallel 2” x 4” boards to keep air flowing freely beneath.

Whether you make them yourself, or buy them pre-made, boxes around the barn are a surefire way to cut down on clutter.