As a kid growing up in England, most horse housing in my Buckinghamshire neighborhood was some version of a shed row design. The traditional use of the shed row building offered a less expensive and very serviceable stabling option and frequently the configurations were in a square, with a central yard, ideal for tacking up, mounting and bathing horses with protection from the wind. The older stable blocks would be built of brick, the newer ones made of wood.
As we know England enjoys plenty of rain, so overhangs were popular to protect the tenants from the weather. Rows and rows of horse heads, all gazing around with ears pricked at the daily activities that went on in the courtyard, kept boredom for the horses at a minimum. A peril to be avoided was an occasional bite attempt across the door as you passed by the more mischievous critters, as you took your wheelbarrow along the line and mucked out stalls.
The courtyard provided a central location for all the equipment, privacy from outside eyes and a certain level of security for the stock. Often the shed row would be placed close to the house, so you could see the whole space from the kitchen window. Very useful for peace of mind in horse management!
The central area was usually concrete or cobble, to minimize the area mudding up into a quagmire in the winter. The sound of horses shod feet clip clopping in an out of the stalls was magnified by the placement of the buildings, and was always a delight to hear.
The racehorse industry has long utilized the shed row barn designs, back to back, as a profit driven design to maximize revenue and minimize expense. The racing industry also realizes the benefits of ‘fresh air’ for their fast sleek Thoroughbreds, which need maximum respiratory efficiency.
Successful world class Eventer Ginny Holgate (née Leng), once told me that she would never keep her horses in anything but a stall that faced the outside world. “Event horses need fresh air and lots of it,” Ginny explained. A popular thought amongst many Eventing folk, who want to maximize the benefit of fresh air in the horse’s respiratory system. The shed row design minimizes inhalation of dust, other contaminants and allergens for both horses and care providers.
During a recent visit I made to Silva and Boyd Martin’s Windurra Farm, in Pennsylvania, I noted the shed row design was popular throughout the property, for both Boyd’s event horses and Silva’s dressage talents. As a U.S.A. team Olympian, Boyd Martin has admitted that his staff may find it harder to prepare his horses outside, but he likes the shed row stalls and the traditional benefits they provide.
Another advantage of the shed row design, placed in an L-shape or square, is for the busy trainer or instructor, who wants to keep an eye on what is going on throughout the day. A quick glance across the yard will indicate what your students or staff are doing and whether whatever is being done is being completed safely. I do recall being ‘called out’ as a kid on many occasions for casual mistakes of my youth.
“Tighten that girth before you mount!” “Shut the bottom bolt on the door!” “You’ve missed grooming the top of his rump!” Well. You get the idea. We all make mistakes and take shortcuts.
There are many advantages of the shed row design from the standpoint of easy transport. Modular building companies can deliver multiple ‘banks’ of stalls and put them together on site. You can opt to have all the space used as stalls with Dutch doors or leave some open faced for storage of equipment, hay and tools. This is a very quick and easy way to establish an immediate yard in your backyard.
If your design is a square, be certain to leave plenty of room for an entranceway that can accommodate larger equipment such as tractors for manure removal. When I was at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, examining horses for purchase in the tiny square by the stables (when the horses lived at the palace mews), the manure truck arrived. It could barely fit through the archway and I could see the damage to the stone that had occurred on many occasions over the years when the driver made an error backing into the tiny cobbled square. Interestingly the manure was kept in a pit in the ground and lifted out by an ancient device and loaded into the truck. The giant hole that remained, was then covered by a large steel plate. I’m not recommending this option. Instead I’d construct a three-sided concrete block area that the tractor can access with a bucket and empty it daily.
The only downside of the shed row design is if you live in an area of heavy snowfall. Obviously, the snow needs to be removed and if the weather is cold then tacking up outside is not much fun, even if you are protected from the wind.
It is prudent to avoid placing a shed row barn facing the direction of the prevailing wind if you have a one, two or three-sided layout. Similarly you should avoid creation of a wind tunnel, which can be caused by the placement of an aisle between the shed rows that is perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction. Unless you live in a warm climate, where this can be very beneficial for the cooling breeze factor.
Personally I have built both center aisle and shed row buildings on my farms in New York. One of the shed row stalls actually faced a swimming pool so the horses would watch the kids swim with some keen interest. In the morning I could see the horses doze with their heads over the Dutch doors sponging up the morning sun from my kitchen window. Always nice to see all your horses are up and healthy while you are making a quick morning cuppa before you hit the barn chores.
Whatever structure you choose to make a horse ‘yard’ in your backyard a reality, take time to design it properly. Experience counts and mistakes can be costly so always consult a professional company for advice. And don’t forget to ask about financing options for the build too. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you can afford.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Horizon Structures Inc., Atglen PA – Modular horse barn and indoor riding arena specialists. Please visit https://www.HorizonStructures.com to learn more. One horse or twenty, there's one thing all horse owners have in common...the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart "horse-friendly" design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses' stabling needs. All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need. Horizon Structures also sells indoor riding arenas, chicken coops, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures. Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns. For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com
This article was authored by Nikki Alvin-Smith. Please visit http://www.NikkiAlvinSmithStudio.com to learn more.