Building a Run-In Shed for Horses

Here's what you need to know when building a run-in shed for your horses.
When building a run-in shed, allow for plenty of ventilation. | iStock

For those who own land, developing the property is a daunting task. The high costs of hay and bedding make pasture board an attractive option, but horses still require some type of shelter. A run-in shed fits the bill nicely.

Most horses are very happy with a shed that they can move in and out of as they please. A structure that is 12’ x 24’ can easily house two horses, sometimes more if they all get along.

If you’re a do-it-yourself type and/or have limited funds, constructing a quality run-in shed is relatively simple and inexpensive. Even if you’ve never built anything before, it can be done by only two people and completed in approximately 80 hours. How do I know? Because my husband and I built our own run-in shed using the following procedure. We had never built a structure before, and we accomplished it with little trouble.

What You’ll Need

You can purchase the materials as you go or all at once. Of course, there’s always something more that you will need, so quick trips to the hardware store are inevitable. The complete list of materials used for constructing a 12’ x 24’ run-in shed can be found at the end of this article. Obviously, if you opt for a smaller or larger structure, make adjustments accordingly.

Before your shovel hits the dirt, it is wise to first contact your local planning and zoning office to see what building permits are required, what the minimum setbacks from the property line are and what sized structures are allowed. It might take several weeks to obtain the necessary paperwork. In addition, depending on the type of roofing material you choose, you may need to order it several weeks ahead of time. A little planning will help insure a smoother procedure as you go.

Laying Out the Site

Typically, wind and weather blow in from the west and north. Therefore, by facing the open side of the shed to the south or southeast, you will block the majority of bad weather. Choose a relatively level site for the shed, or grade the area so that it is level—we went with the slight natural slope of the ground, which worked well. 

If you are grading, level the area two feet longer and wider than your shed size: 14’ x 26’ for this structure. 

Once the area is selected, lay out the basic structure with stakes and heavy string. The corners can be held together with 12” to 18” string cross members (wood could also be used) to create a frame on which the long string is tied. This way there is room to adjust the string to make the corners true 90-degree angles. Then measure the distance for the posts and mark the spots on the ground with spray paint. Unless you are feeling very confident, dig the post-holes as you go, because digging them all at once means that if they end up slightly off, they have to be dug again. Using plenty of posts helps make the shed sturdy. Including a post in the middle allows for a partition to be built.

Constructing the Frame

The best things to remember are measure, measure again, and measure a third time if you come up with two different answers. Check for levelness, and check for levelness again. This might be tedious, but it is a lifesaver in the long run.

Start with the back right corner post. Dig a post-hole about two feet deep and about three times the diameter of the post. Gravel is added to the hole and the first 4”x4” x 10’ pressure-treated post is dropped in. Make sure it is level, check for plumbness, and temporarily anchor it by nailing and wedging two small pieces of wood at the base of the post. Holes for the next two posts along the right side can then be measured and dug, and the posts set in place.

Once the outside 12’ post is level and plumb, stabilize the posts by nailing the first 2”x4” x 12’ board to the outside of the posts. This middle board should be located four feet up from the base of the posts. 

Following that board, nail a 2”x6” x 12’ board so that the top edge of the board is eight feet up from the base of the posts. Place a pressure-treated 2”x6” x 12’ board across the bottom of the posts, slightly above grade. (Pressure-treated wood is used here because it resists rotting, which is particularly important in a wet climate.) 

The halfway point between the centerline of the bottom 2”x6” and the middle of the 2”x4” is where the next 2”x4” board is placed. Similarly, position the final 2”x4” between the middle 2”x4” and the top 2”x6”.

Working in 12-foot sections, follow the same procedure along the back and left side of the structure. Take special care to ensure that all boards are level and flush. Once all the boards are nailed around the perimeter, the corner posts can be braced by nailing a spare 2”x4” board to the top of the post and angling it into the ground.

There are times when inexperience comes into play. My husband and I checked and double checked where the first 2”x4” should go, then we took the plunge and nailed on our first board, he at one end and I at the other. We were thrilled when it was perfectly level and in just the right spot. As we stood back to admire our handiwork, we both noticed that we nailed our board right through an opening in our ladder, which was sitting in the middle of the line. So sadly we had to pull the board off, move the ladder, then re-attach it. Another lesson learned; keep the ladder away from the boards when you are nailing.

To allow for paneling that provides improved aesthetics and stability, nail two rows of 2”x6” x 12’ boards at heights of eight and 10 feet above the finish grade across the open front of the structure. The eight-foot-high 2”x6” should be flush with the side 2”x6” boards to create an eight-foot clearance. Like us, you may also elect to place one 2”x6” x 12’ board on each side of the interior 4”x4” posts to increase the building’s strength.

After all the boards are nailed into place, check and double-check the leveling and plumbing. Once you are satisfied that everything is where it should be, cement all the posts into the ground. Follow the mixing directions on the bags of cement, and make adjustments with the amount of water if necessary. All of the holes should be filled level with the ground and allowed to harden overnight.

Adding the Roof

Form the rafters by placing 2”x6” x 14’ boards on their edges and nailing them at an angle into the existing 2”x6” boards, or use rafter hangers. The boards should be spaced two to three feet on center depending on the type of roofing material used. 

For a metal or shingled roof, it is strongly recommended that the rafters be placed two feet on center to withstand snow and wind loads. Slide two 2”x6” boards up under the base of the rafters and nail them on the inside of the front and rear 4”x4” posts to provide further strength. Any posts that end up above the rafters can be easily leveled with a circular saw. With the rafters secured, starting from the back of the structure, place 2”x4” planks at two feet on center perpendicular to the rafters.

The roof itself can be made of metal, shingles, etc. We chose a material called Ondura. This flexible, corrugated asphalt material comes in 48”x79” sheets. It is easy to cut and fairly easy to install when following the manufacturer’s specifications. The sheets need to overlap and are simply nailed into place. One potential drawback is that the material does tear easily if a nail is pulled out.

Adding the Sides

For the siding, we used 4’x8’ T1-11 siding sheets because they are pressure treated and have an aesthetic pattern. The layout of the posts and the placement of the boards on the outside allow for a nearly perfect fit for the siding. Before putting on all the siding, check the length of your nails or screws. They have to be strong enough to keep the sides on during inclement weather, but not so large that they go through the 2”x4” and present a safety hazard to the horses.

The first siding sheet is positioned flush with the outside of the back left corner 4”x4” post and the bottom edge of the lower 2”x6”. Use plenty of nails to ensure its security. After completing the first side, take scrap 1”x4” pieces and nail them to the outside edge of the siding, which allows you to easily create a 90-degree angle with the siding. The tongue and groove design of the siding makes for quick installation, and the rest of the sheets are added one after the other.

Finishing Touches

If desired, boards can be added across the middle interior and a stall built into one side of the shed. You also can add a smooth interior wall by nailing 2”x6” treated boards along the bottom of the wall with untreated boards above, as these are less expensive. To add a more finished look, you might decide to add 1”x4” trim pieces at the rear and front corners, across the bottom of the rafters, and at the side seams.

Once completed, painting or staining your shed will help protect the wood. The rough surface isn’t the easiest to paint, so either use a primer, or apply two coats of basic latex outdoor house paint.

With a little time and effort the horses in your care will have a wonderful place to call home that will last for years.

Run-In Shed List of Materials, Tools and Equipment

For the Structure

  • (6) 4×4 x 10’ pressure-treated posts
  • (5) 4×4 x 12’ pressure-treated post
  • (2) 1×2 x 12’ pressure treated
  • (12) 1×4 x 8’ pressure treated (8 are used as side flashing for the Ondura roof)
  • (2) 1×4 x 12’ pressure treated
  • (2) 1×6 x 10’ pressure treated
  • (28) 2×4 x 12’ pine
  • (2) 2×6 x 8’ pressure treated
  • (2) 2×6 x 10’ pine
  • (10) 2×6 x 12’ pine
  • (4) 2×6 x 12’ pressure treated
  • (10) 2×6 x 14’ pine
  • (14) bags of Sack concrete
  • (15) T1 11 siding sheets, 4’x8’
  • 7 lbs. 10d 3-inch galvanized spiral thread exterior nails
  • 2-3 lbs. 1-1/4-inch exterior wood screws (for siding)
  • 2-3 lbs. 3-inch exterior wood screws (for frame and joist)
  • (14) sheets Ondura roofing material, 48”x79”
  • (300) Ondura roofing washer nails
  • (1 gallon) water sealer
  • paint or stain

For Construction

  • string
  • 1/2”x12” wooden or metal stakes
  • spray paint
  • 4’ or 6’ level
  • square
  • shovel
  • drill
  • power saw
  • 18” auger or post-hole digger
  • cordless electric screwdriver
  • chainsaw
  • 16’ to 20’ ladder






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