Building my Perfect Barn – Part 1: Solving Paddock Problems


Photo credit: Pam Levy. Image found at

Yes, I know. My very last post was about Sunny’s move to the perfect retirement home. But anyone who knows me knows that the next part of the plan for Sunny is to move her “home”. To my home. To our little farm in the country. The little farm that we don’t actually have yet. But we will have it, someday. And it’s never too early to start planning, don’t you think?

I’ve worked in (and boarded at) a lot of barns, including having my ponies and horses at our own farms growing up. I know a thing or two about what I like and don’t like in a barn. I also know that, being neither a stay-at-home wife nor independently wealthy, I will have to make the barn fit into my 9 hour work-day. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure that the horses are safe, healthy and happy while I’m away from them for 9 to 10 hours a day. I’ve done so much research into what will work for me and what won’t that I could practically write a six-part blog series about it. Ahem.

Challenge # 1: Turnout

I believe horses need exercise and fresh air. As much of it as possible. But I also know that living where I do (the east coast of Canada, where the average winter day can go from 2 degrees and rainy to minus 10 with a cold north wind, in less than 2 hours flat), 24-7 turnout is not an option for little miss Texas-born hothouse flower, Sunny. So how do I ensure that she and her stable-mates will be able to spend a much time as they like outside, while still having access to shelter, and not running up and down the fence line if I happen to be half an hour late getting home from work? Well the answer is as plain as the nose on your face. Proper paddocks, safe fencing, and a system of gates that always lead horses back to the safety and shelter of their stalls.

Photo by Barbara Livingston, image found at

So here’s my plan. Dutch doors leading directly from each stall into a dry (“sacrifice”) paddock about 20′ x 100′, which is plenty of room for a little frolic & play time for any horse. The sacrifice paddocks will have crusher dust for footing to combat the mud (for anyone not intimately acquainted with Nova Scotia, mud season last from about November first through mid-June).

From the dry paddock, two gates lead to two different grass paddocks (each about 1/4 t0 1/2 acre). While one is being grazed on, the other can be resting/re-growing, so that during the “grazing” season (mid-spring to early winter here), the horses always have something to nibble on. Again, if the weather turns inclement, or if the horses need to escape the flies or the heat of the day, all they need to do is return to their stalls.

As for fencing, my ideal would be post and rail with a strand of electric wire set in from the top rail to keep horses from leaning on it.

Post and rail with a strand of electric. Image found at

While I know that horses are herd animals, and there is nothing so satisfying as watching horses play together or groom one another, because I will be at work for 8 t 10 hours a day, I cannot risk anyone getting into trouble during the day. Individual turnout will therefore be a must. I can’t risk two horses getting into one stall with a kicking match ensuing, can I? I think they’ll still be happy to be near each other, and separate paddocks means you can catch one horse easily without fear of the usual stampede to the gate.

Horses playing happily in safe separate paddocks. Image found at

Tune in next time, I’ll be talking about the interior stuff (stall doors, walls & floors).

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