This question was received on HJ from Julie from Australia:
Hi, I found your website by accident last night and I've really enjoyed reading your articles. You've helped me diagonised why my thoroughbred is not putting on weight (even though he is retired) and some helpful hints for weight gain. I'm about to set up my own home with a brand new American style barn and I'm looking for great tips for the organisation of the tackroom and feed area. Keep up the great work!
The best thing about setting up your own place from scratch is that you get to do it right from the word go! There are a few basic principles to take into account, and then you can adapt the rest to suit your lifestyle.
A really great website that will give you some ideas and plans to look at is: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/our_offices/departments/
I assume you have given the barn itself some serious thought, and have planned your stalls, ventilation and overall design already. Spending a little more money and effort on your stable yard means that your horses will live just that much more comfortably and if you ever wanted to let out a stable or two as income, you will be able to easily. It will also increase the re-sell value of your property. One does not need the most expensive trimmings and fittings, but always make it neat and safe and sturdy. If you fit your doors, gates, hooks etc well the first time around, they last much longer, stay safe and you will avoid that all too commonly seen sight where everything is held together by bits of wire and baling twine!
When it comes to tack and feed rooms for a small setup, like you are doing at your place, then I would suggest that you position your tack room in the middle of your barn. This makes it easier for you to carry things to and from the tack room, and keeps all of your equipment central.
If you have the space, you could position your feed room in the middle of the barn too. This also means less walking and heavy lifting. I would however suggest that you keep your roughage and bedding (hay, teff, alfalfa, etc) in a smaller building separate from the stables. This decreases the fire risk and keeps dust levels down in the building. It also makes loading and unloading your hay and bedding much easier and less messy.
As an idea, the Stables open onto small paddocks, giving the horse freedom to wander in and out of his stable at will, and greatly reduces stress and boredom.
The Feed Room is a smaller separate building with easy access on a strong concrete slab for suppliers to get their trucks in and out and it makes loading much easier. Bedding can also be stored in the feed room, as can the hard food. Feed bins are best made from concrete and or steel to keep rodents and moisture out. I have used thick rubber bins too with great success - make sure that you are easily able to wash and disinfect your feed bins! Storage containers that can be moved outside are best. Remember to store feed on wooden pallets and not directly on the floor - this keeps moisture out, improves ventilation and allows your stable cat easy access to rodents! Keep everything slightly away from the walls to let cats have easy access too. I like to use a large garage door that rolls up and down for the feed room, as it allows easy access and is easy to open/close. A blackboard on the wall (even blackboard paint directly on the wall) is great for keeping a list of feeds and other instructions for each horse. Don`t be tempted to go too small on the feed room, as you might want to keep your tool here too, or build another smaller storage area for your tools.
The tack room should be airy and dry. I have placed it in the centre of the barn, which makes for less walking carrying heavy tack. Make sure that you have some storage cupboards for all your bits and pieces - it keeps the yard neater. Bridle hooks are placed against the wall. Saddle racks, I have found, should be bolted right through the wall if you are using that type of rack, as there is nothing worse than your expensive saddle landing on the floor because the rack came out of the wall. Make sure the bolts and nuts and plates are smoothed down and that there are no sharp edges - of course that goes for everything in the building. Your tack room can be adapted to your taste, and you might want to put in a couch or kettle for coffee, etc, depending on how much time you are spending in the yard! A small fridge for storing medication is also a good idea. Also make provision for equipment to clean tack with, (something to keep saddle on when cleaning).
I like to keep a hook near each stable for each horse`s grooming kit, just make sure that the horse cannot reach it! (Some kind of railing is recommended on the top of the door to prevent this) Halters are neater if they are all hanging together - some hooks placed at each end of the doorway will suffice.
A prep area can be placed opposite the tackroom. This is where you will be able to groom, bathe, tack up, clip, etc. Cross ties are not very popular here in SA, and people prefer to use a crush, or just have the groom hold their horses. I have used cross ties extensively overseas and really like them because you can safely secure your horse but still have great access to all body parts. (This makes clipping and bathing so much easier!) It is very important that you construct it well and that it is strong enough to handle the stresses that might be placed on it. Using thick rubber ties is also great, as the horse can still pull but will not panic as much as with a solid rope or chain tie.
Your area should be well lit, have water access (hose pipe) and electrical points at a safe place. (i.e. make sure horse can`t get at it). A rubber floor is a must, as is good drainage. An area like this is invaluable, because it means you are not limited to light and dry conditions to work with your horses. It makes veterinary attention easier too. I always recommend a water heater in the building, as it means that you have access to warm water at all times - great for baths and hosing down after exercise, as well as washing dirty numnahs. Hot and cold therapy can also be done easier, and I have found horses don`t quite object to a warm bath as much as to a cold one! Great for show prep in winter too!
Ceiling fans in the walkway roof are one of the best ways to keep your barn well ventilated, reduce flies, mosquitoes and midges in the building and keeps the barn cool. It is fantastic, and I will never keep a horse again without it! Make sure that your roof is high enough so that the fans do not hang low. Never hang them above a stable. This is a super way to keep midges out of stables here in Africa which reduces the chance of the horse getting bitten and getting AHS. (African Horse Sickness). It really works.
The final thing you should be looking at is fire control. Having your feed storage area separate from your main building is already a huge way of reducing fire hazards. I also always have a strict no smoking policy in and around the building, as well as no smoking signs up. Fire hoses should be put up at each end of the barn, and you should have a definite plan worked out in the case of a fire breaking out.
I am not sure what else you would like to know, but feel free to ask as many questions as you like! More dimensions on sites that you may find helpful: