Designing for Health & Safety
Designing a barn for health and safety is somewhat of a catch-22. After all, the best environment for a horse is outside; not confined in a barn. But since a horse, when given the chance, will find a way to injure itself, design with a keen eye for health and safety guarantees you won’t make it easy for them.
While there are several ways to plan your farm for health and safety, like implementing strategic building placement and maximizing natural light and ventilation within the barns, let’s focus on the details. These vary from stall design to details like types of latches and bucket hooks.
Never use swinging doors, since the wind can force them to open and knock into a horse. It’s often difficult to tell if a hinged door is unlatched, as the door may appear closed even if it is not fully latched. A sliding door allows the door to remain open while the horse is removed from the stall without much effort or fuss, making it safer for both the horse and the handler leading it back to the stall. Also, when looking down an aisle, an open sliding door can easily signal an empty stall.
The pin latch is a simple, low maintenance, and inexpensive system for sliding doors, whereas hinged doors require a slightly more complex mechanism that may malfunction or expose bolts to horses.
The aisle width as well as the materials or finishes are important to consider. Ideally, an aisle is comprised of horse-friendly materials and kept clear of obstructions, sharp objects, and sharp corners. Recess anything that protrudes into the aisle, including hydrants, switches, ladders, fire extinguishers, etc. Similarly, provide several hydrants along the aisle to avoid pulling hoses down the aisle. Muck wagons, tractors, and the like do not belong in the aisle and can injure the horses if carelessly stowed.
Wash/Groom Stall Design
Like in the aisle-way, continue use of horse-friendly materials like interlocking rubber-bricks, and remember to recess any fixtures that may injure a horse when it moves around the stall. Either recess the hose reel or use a hose with an overhead wand, which is less likely to entangle the horse during bathing.
The back corner of the stall should have a recessed area for a shovel and muck bucket. This area can also double as a safe area for the handler in the case of an unruly horse, which may otherwise back its handler into a corner.
A well-designed barn that reflects a careful regard to health and safety requires a lot of consideration. Over the past 25 years, we’ve developed a library of details that prove to be safe, economical, and often, practical. And while no barn is totally hazard-free, minding the details during the design process can provide the safest possible environment for those times your horse simply cannot roam as free as it pleases.