A custom red Penn Dutch Structures horse barn.

How to Build a Horse Barn from Start to Finish

Building a new horse barn can be daunting, whether you’re an experienced owner looking to upgrade or a first-time horse owner. You’re likely searching for a cost-effective solution that will offer good shelter and enough square footage for your tack supplies and feed. 

Wondering how to build a horse barn that meets all those needs? Use this guide to help you make informed decisions as you build your barn from start to finish.

Choose a Location & Survey Your Land

The first step of building a new barn is to scope out your land to find the right spot. There are lots of ideas for choosing where to place a horse barn, but it’s most important that you: 

  • Choose a well-drained spot that won’t flood.
  • Find an area that’s level and won’t need expensive excavating work.
  • Select a location that can easily connect to utilities.
  • Pick an area that’s either near a road or easy to access.

Picking the right spot will save you time and money as you start on your horse barn construction, so it’s important to choose carefully. You should also check if you’ll need a permit or any other type of approval from your state and township before building. 

Consider Types of Horse Barn Designs

After picking a spot, it’s time to see what horse barn structures are available and choose one that matches your needs. There are four common types of barns:

1. Lean-To Barns

This type of barn features a large front overhang that’s supported with headers and posts. The overhang offers a great temporary shelter for horses as well.

2. Modular Barns

This type of barn can be built quickly and usually costs less than other types. It arrives in pieces and is then put together on-site. This barn also is designed to include a center aisle. 

3. Run-In Barns

This type of barn is another low-cost option that can offer your horse a secure shelter. Some people also use them to store hay or feed. 

4. Shed Row Barns

This type of barn is intended to be your horse’s main home and it typically has stalls with separate doors at the front.

Plan Your Interior Design

Once you choose a barn style, it’s time to start carefully planning the interior. Aside from just considering how much natural light you want for your horse, you should also plan how you’ll store horse supplies. 

Inside a custom horse barn with new wood and freshly painted iron bars.

Horse Feed Storage

How you store your horse feed is another important aspect of choosing a barn design. There are lots of best practices for horse feed storage, but the main goal is to keep it in a cool, dry spot. Feed ruined from moisture or rodents can ultimately harm your horse’s health. You can either build a barn large enough to store it along with your horse or add a smaller barn to store only feed.

Gear Storage

If you’re storing your saddle and other equipment in the same barn, also plan on increasing your square footage needs. Maybe you’re already planning to build a large barn, in which case designing a tack room is the perfect solution. If you’re not, just make sure you have wide enough aisles where you can place tack supplies off to the side, away from your horse.

Custom Horse Barn Accessories

After you’ve narrowed down the basics, it’s time to consider barn add-ons. Certain upgrades can help your barn last longer or make maintenance easier and more efficient. Below are a few options you should consider adding:

  • Reinforcing brackets for regions with hurricanes
  • Glue LAM LVL headers for regions with heavy snowfall
  • Seamless spouting for reduced maintenance 
  • Vapor proof lights for better visibility and lasting use
  • Chew guards for protection from your horse
  • A grill with a hay rack and feed hole for easy feeding

Work on Building Horse Stalls From Scratch

Once your barn is in progress, make sure you and your barn builder have a clear plan on the most important part of the interior — the horse stalls. You want to make sure your horse is comfortable in its new home.

Research best practices for horse stall design, and make sure your stall design has enough space, ventilation, and lighting. Plus, build your stalls with the future in mind. Are you planning on buying more horses? Now is the time to add more stalls so you don’t quickly outgrow your new structure.

Also, if your new barn will have a center aisle, make sure the stalls won’t take away too much center space. If the aisle is too narrow, you’ll have difficulty moving your horse or any supplies.

Help Your Horse Transition to its New Home

Once it’s built, the last step with your new custom horse barn is to introduce your horse to its new home. Below are some tips for successfully managing the transition.

A horse peeks his head out of a stall.

1. Set up Each Stall

First, lay rubber mats over the stone dust and install at least 4 feet high kickplates. Then add in enough bedding and bank the stall with extra bedding so your horse and the new barn walls are both protected.

2. Keep the Stall Clear of Objects

Wait to store any water buckets or feeding equipment inside the stall until your horse is familiar with its space. That way there’s nothing the horse could mess with and damage as it settles.

3. Place Hay in the Stall

To help your horse settle, try putting two piles of hay opposite each other. This will encourage your horse to walk the whole stall while it eats. Also, mix in hay from the old stall to help your horse’s digestive system adjust and prevent colic.

4. Reduce Noises and Distractions

When introducing the horse, keep the barn clear of items that may hurt it could hurt itself on if it becomes excited. Additionally, try to keep the barn clear of noises and distractions, like other farm animals, until your horse becomes settled.

After successfully introducing your horse to its new home, you are set up with a well-designed barn that should serve you and your animals well for years to come. 

Ready to get started on horse barn designs but need some help getting started? Penn Dutch Structures offers a variety of horse barn designs that can be customized to fit your needs. Contact us and we’ll help you get started!

This blog was originally published on November 9, 2017. It was updated on May 11, 2020.