Equestrian Facility

Equestrian Building Design: 5 Considerations Before Construction

by Craig Hoffman | Tuesday November 19, 2019 | Equestrian

Winston Churchill once said: “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” For those with a love of the equestrian life, the horse barn is the center of that world. Indeed, the stalls filled with horses, whether they be colts, mares, thoroughbreds or any other four-legged animal is a place of fun and excitement. 

The barn is the place where horses live, eat, sleep and are cared for – often for months and years of a horses’ life. Most equine operations are meant for pleasure riding or show riding, so the needs of the facility can range in size, design and accessibility. Also taken into consideration are the differences in space and storage requirements for the number of horses stalled, storage requirements and utilities including water, heat, cooling and ventilation.

The design must take into consideration the safety and comfort of the horses, but also consider the practical facility requirements. Foresight and planning into building or renovating an equestrian building find the right balance between horses and people.

Usage Requirements

Designing an equestrian facility is a fun part of the building process. Beginning the design phase should include questions about how the building will be used. How many horses will be stabled and boarded? Will there be room for other owner’s horses? Will you be hosting shows or riding events? What about storage considerations? 

The practical day-to-day operations of the equestrian building must be considered. Each activity takes a certain amount of space and has varying requirements. For example, if the facility will be hosting events, an arena setting and raised seating for buyers and spectators will be needed. Covered arenas provide comfort and flexibility with inclement weather, but also come at a steeper investment. Hosting shows also require space for equipment, parking and storage. 

If the facility will host equestrian shows, you’ll want to check with your property’s local zoning laws. Facilities like an equestrian facility may have different zoning than stables that simply board or train horses. Some rural municipal districts have equestrian district/agricultural zoning with large lot sizes. Others may have “Riding Academy” zoning where the public is expected to visit on a regular basis.  

Other usage requirements for equestrian building design include storage for feed, areas for washing, and an area for repairs and equine health care. 

Building Type

Those with a passion for design and architecture enjoy selecting the building style and type. Along with the activities planned in and around your equestrian building, the selection from a variety of building types and styles should be considered.

Traditional Gable: a traditional gable is much like an A-frame roof. The roof panels pitch down from a center or slightly off-center peak.

Clear Span: a clear span building provides an interior with an open space that is not interrupted by columns. This type of building can be used as an arena or show barn, or it can be sectioned into stalls and other rooms.

Monitor: a monitor-style building, also known as Raised Center Aisle (RCA) looks like a one and a half to two-story main building with adjacent areas on each side. Those sections have lower roof lines that meet on each side of the main section.

Gambrel: a gambrel is a building in the shape of a stereotypical barn. The roof has a peak with a lower section that is more steeply pitched than the tip. It is designed for increased hayloft storage such as hay that can be pitched into each stall from above.

Any of these styles can be designed as a run-in shed with an open door and enclosed shelter that the horse can enter on its own, allowing direct access from the barn stall to a fenced area. Choices must also consider if an indoor arena will be built and other activities specific to the owner’s needs. 


The most important consideration for any building that shelters horses are ventilation. Proper ventilation keeps the interior atmosphere fresh and clean. Barns can become filled with stale air, noxious gasses and pathogens. Moisture can be trapped inside and can create conditions for mold, mildew and rot.

Building orientation to its environment is an important consideration. Barns are best-placed perpendicular to the prevailing winds to allow for good airflow without creating drafts. Equestrian buildings require both upper and lower ventilation with airflow that moves upward rather than across space. Air movement across stalls can spread fumes, mold spores and bacteria from one stall to another and create respiratory issues and other illnesses in the horses.

Vented partitions and stall doors allow plenty of air movement near the lower part of the building while roof peak ventilation pulls heat and moisture upward and out. Options for ventilation include eave openings and extensions, louvers, doors and windows.

Horse manure creates ammonia fumes that are harmful to the lungs if a horse is exposed to them for long periods. Beyond cleaning the stalls frequently, allowing air to move through the stall will provide natural air and cooling.

Interior Layout

It’s important for an owner to thoughtfully consider how they and their staff will work in their barn to ensure the correct flow of stalls, auxiliary rooms and water sources. Planning interior equestrian building design should include room for future growth if needed. Adding a few extra stalls can accommodate boarders or temporary stalls during shows.

Placement of tack rooms, tack storage, spigots and other day-to-day needs for taking care of the horses should be conveniently located. Feed storage should be kept clear of pests and moisture, preferably away from the area for bathing the horses and filling water buckets.

Horse size can also determine interior layout planning. Boarding larger breeds like Clydesdales or Belgians can require stalls larger than the standard 12X12 stall. Smaller horses and ponies may require smaller stalls. 

Exterior Layout

In many areas, residential building requirements are creeping into farm design. Horse barns may no longer be considered “agricultural” and may not be exempt from residential building codes. They may require fire sprinklers and other safety features. 

Consider the flow of horses, people and vehicles and create paths for all three. Also consider the required turning radius for horse trailers, hay delivery vehicles, emergency access vehicles and trash trucks. It’s best to create circular circulation paths without the need for vehicles to back-in. 

Waste from horses and humans should also be considered. Locate potential septic fields and ensure there’s enough room for expansion. Water is a necessity in equestrian building design, so wells must be convenient yet the proper distance away from septic fields. Waste like trash, recycling and soiled materials should be placed far from main access points and away from the traffic flow of both people and horses.

Making Your Equestrian Building A Reality

Planning, designing and constructing an equestrian facility can seem like a daunting task, especially when you also need to site the barn correctly and plan stormwater management needs for permits. Working with an experienced equestrian construction professional can make the difference between building a barn or a full-scale facility. Picking the right builder is a great first step. Quarry View Building Group, with its experienced design and construction professionals, can create a place where both horses and humans would love. Call them at 717-656-3018 to start your project today.