Help me design my new property! - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 33 Old 03-20-2018, 11:48 AM
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Texas
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The book Horsekeeping On Small Acreage has lots of layout tips and suggestions, and many libraries keep it in stock.

My house is in the middle of my property on 1.5 acres of "yard" (which I occasionally graze on,) with my pastures surrounding it in a U-shape. The barn is just far enough behind the house that smells and sounds don't travel to the house, but it's also not a horrible trek during a thunderstorm.

My horses reside in the 15x33' loafing shed off the back of my 33x46' storage barn and 90% of the time I love the setup in mostly-mild weathered North Texas. I could put corral panel stalls up inside my barn if there was a sick animal or extremely harsh weather, but haven't needed to yet in 2.5 yrs on the place. My shed (which can be split to separate horses) is surrounded by a pipe rail sacrifice paddock (which can be split to separate horses,) and the paddock opens out to various pastures depending on which gate I open. I LOVE that I can just open gates to allow animals to the desired location without haltering and leading, since I have a long work commute and my time is limited. Manure picked out of the shed and paddock gets dumped along the side or back fence lines, and composts fairly quickly.

Good, solid, perimeter fence adds value and security and keeps my neighbors happy. I have lovely black pipe rail fencing along the front of my property, and livestock mesh on t-posts on the other 3 sides - I hope to eventually expand the pipe & rail, but it's a pricey undertaking, lol. A single electric wire along the top of the livestock mesh adds an additional level of security and protects my fence from horses reaching over. I use t-posts & electric wire for my pasture rotational dividing fences, and I have adjusted their locations a bit since my initial pasture split so I'm happy it wasn't a more permanent fence. I've been very pleased with my solar fence charger for said electric lines.

REALLY think about gate placement - I added two gates after my first year on the place, to better fit my traffic patterns. 12' wide gates were large enough for a dump truck to bring in sand when my loafing shed needed a footing boost.

I do wish I had water spigots near each pasture, instead of resorting to using a hose for water tubs.

I do wish there were some trees in the pastures, for shade and erosion control.

Having a restroom in the barn is ridiculously handy, and I can't imagine building any future barn without one.
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post #12 of 33 Old 03-23-2018, 04:31 AM
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Eastern TN
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My post is going to be long winded, because I was in the SAME boat as you just a year ago, and I have recent personal experience with the very useful suggestions that others have said that I am SO glad I listened to!

  • High and dry like others have driven home! Just this summer I built my house, barn, and fencing and had to start from scratch minus overgrown wire fencing that's all around the property that saved me a lot of money since it's horse proof despite being completely ensnared in brush and small trees. I so badly wanted to do a pie layout with the barn, paddock, and 3 pastures, but unfortunately, if I wanted both my house AND barn on high ground (which I am FOREVER grateful I listened to my builder and did it!), I was only able to connect my sacrifice (which held up beautifully during this rainy winter due to being on higher ground near the barn) to my paddock/corral. The other two pastures, which are fenced off with 2 strands of electric ribbon, keep the horses in the sacrifice area because we have not put the permanent cross fencing up, and that extra acreage is for hay still (been haying my land for the past 2 years, this will be the last year).. Which leads me to my next suggestion.
  • Carefully plan out your pastures. If you aren't 100% sure what to do, do electric tape (while being electric, it also is a more reliable visual barrier than electric braid alone) with metal t-posts to set up temporary layouts. I did this for my cross fencing until I decide where I want my permanent fencing to go.
  • Fencing material. After extensive research, I found that FlexFence (several different brands sell their own kind, I just happened to pick Ramm since that's who we went with for the stall kits). This type of fence is specifically designed for horses, looks great, comes in a variety of colors, is a lot stronger than vinyl fencing, has a 30 year guarantee, was cheaper than vinyl, and is really to install yourself if you're a DIY, we did ours ourselves.
    A note on vinyl: One of my closest friends went with vinyl fencing and after 10 years, she's already had to replace several posts and boards due to accidents even with having calm horses, and using electric along the inside. Due to the strength of the FlexFence, it's not necessary to electrify it for horses, but I would back up what others have said, and put electric wire toward the bottom to prevent unwanted dogs from going into your pasture.
  • Make sure you face your barn the proper way for your area. Even though I have stalls, I wanted my center isle to get proper ventilation when the horses are in their stalls during summer heat, and my porch (that's used as a run-in when they're out), where my dutch doors into the stalls are, be shielded from rain. So far, it's been wonderful, the rain comes from the back of the barn, and they have always stayed dry when standing under the porch during rain & snow.
  • Be weary of using stalls as run-ins: I'm a little hesitant to use my actual stalls as run-ins, even though our horses generally get along well, we had two horses at the farm we leased last year try to get out of a stall they were in together at the same time, and ended up busting the door frame when they tried to exit at the same time. They also can get into a kicking match if they feel trapped, so if you do plan to have a run-in with separate stalls, use at least 6ft pipe gates, so when they're open, horses have ample room to get out safely should more than one go into the stall.
  • Think about the future and design your building with room to expand! I built a 36x36 3 stall barn (12x12 box stalls), 12 ft. center isle, with separate feed & tack rooms, as well as hay room, and I'm already planning on adding a garage to the back of my barn. Because I wanted an actual barn, barn I had to lop the garage off of my house plans to afford the barn I wanted (lol priorities), and because of that, I have to store all my equipment in the barn itself, which is more convenient anyway. I've already spoken to my builder to see if it's possible to build off of the back of my barn to add a 14x36 drive through equipment storage/garage. Thankfully, the way that side of the barn was designed, it is. The only real expense lies with adding to the concrete slab, because we had to build that side of the barn up 3.5-4 ft because my property slopes over at that end (which again, made drainage great, water sheds away from the barn).
I'm sure I left a ton of stuff out, but these are my personal experiences and figured I'd chime in :)

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post #13 of 33 Old 03-23-2018, 05:54 AM
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
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Originally Posted by drjterrell View Post
Hi y'all. Newcomer to the forum and am enjoying reading through. My wife and I are moving to the Montgomery, AL area in a couple of months and we are buying a home with 20 acres, mostly relatively flat pasture. I want to create a place for a couple of horses and I'm interested in how you might design a new space with a blank slate?

I don't think I'm interested in a large barn. Rather, pasturing the horses with a run-in type barn. I'm thinking of either fencing in the whole 20 acres with white vinyl and a hot wire OR making an oval shaped paddock of around 5 acres, with Electrobraid and moveable fence posts to keep the pastures in good shape. Another alternative I have considered is a large rectangular pasture with the run-in barn/hay storage in the middle and gates to turn out the horses to one side or the other.

Any thoughts or recommendations?



Introducing Julian XIV – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

Hey Jeff

Congratulations on finding your patch! This is a canvas you can paint any way you like, and the results can be excellent. I'm going to talk in metric measurements, but we've got about as much pasture as you will have (and a whole lot of nature reserve on top).

We're in Australia, in an area with a Mediterranean climate - cool wet winters, hot dry summers, approx. 10 months are green and the worst months of summer are very brown. This area, near Redmond WA, is beef and dairying country, gets around 700mm of rain annually and is very windy much of the time. When we bought our place, the pasture part had very few trees in it, and the first thing we did is to plant a system of shelter belts and shade clumps (including a whole lot of tagasaste AKA tree lucerne to fill the summer feed gap), and fence it into three paddocks - two of 2ha each and the rest was left as a "common" and is prone to winter waterlogging. Our system supports 4 horses, 3 donkeys and anywhere between 4 and 15 beef cattle of various ages (but we always sell about half the bovine herd after spring flush, when the feed decreases); and it does it without degrading the soil or the pasture.

I grew up, in the second half of my childhood, at a racing stables where horses were stabled and yarded - in little sand runs with no green pick and a maximum of one yard buddy. This is a fairly typical situation for racehorses in this country. And when these horses died prematurely, the main cause of death was colic or twisted bowel. In-work horses were protected by their activity levels and only had mild colic attacks at worst. But once retired, these horses were dropping like flies in their teens and twenties, from colic - and there were at least six fatal colics, in an establishment that typically housed around 15 horses. Watching horses die from colic is a horrible thing - it's always a desperate and violent battle. And it's a battle I got very sick of, since colic and twisted bowel are largely lifestyle induced and therefore largely preventable.

When I was 23, I came across an interesting saying: If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.

I am a biologist/environmental scientist by training and fascinated by animals and nature. Like you, I am not keen on locking nomadic grazing animals into buildings. When my husband and I came to set up our own property (a small organic farm called Red Moon Sanctuary) seven years ago, we set it up so that all our animals - beef cattle, donkeys and horses - could free range in a social group of their own species across several large, interesting paddocks, with nooks and crannies, little hills to stand on, shelter belts and shade trees, and a farm dam, across 12.5 hectares in total, as well as additional access and service tracks to explore, and views of neighbouring properties, animals and activities. The different species all run together, just as happens in natural ecosystems - think of the African savannah - and this has many benefits for the animals as well as the land.

Our horses now spend around 16 hours a day getting incidental exercise grazing - they get all their roughage from free ranging, and cover a respectable distance doing so, since they move from one side of the property to the other many times a day in the process. They also spend around 2 hours a day playing and exploring, which gives them moderate to intense exercise - there are plenty of interesting things to do and look at. The donkeys and the younger cattle, for instance, love running up and down the dam wall, and looking at the world from the great height it offers. The donkeys run in circles around the trees chasing each other, braying and kicking up their heels. The horses have running contests and play their own little games - one of them likes to pick up sticks and balance them in his mouth while sporting an "aren't I clever?" facial expression. (That's Sunsmart. He also wants to play the "stick game" with me when we come back from a ride in the state forest, on the last section between two gates where I just walk beside him. I offer him a stick and he carries it self-importantly, and then turns to me, and I'm supposed to grab it, and then he pulls on it. Hours of fun. You should see his face when he does it.) The balance of the time - around another 6 hours - is spent resting under trees.

This means that in terms of time budgets, our horses are now living very similarly to wild horses - similar amounts of time spent on similar activities. Wild horses routinely cover 30-60 km a day, and while our horses aren't quite doing that, they are getting a heck of a lot of exercise when left to their own devices. In the stabled and sand-yarded (entirely hand fed) situations all of them came from, they spent less than 6 hours a day eating, while standing in the one spot, about 6 hours a day resting and snoozing, and the balance of the time mostly standing around bored - except for the solitary stallions, who spent large parts of their days walking or jogging up and down their fence lines like automatons, creating deep trenches in the soil that eventually unearthed the star pickets that housed the electrics that kept the animals apart.

In the seven years we have had horses here, we haven't had a single colic, not even a mild one, even though around half the horses had experienced colics before. That's six horses we had here long term all up, plus two shorter-term visitors. I don't keep more than four horses at a time, since I want to look after them well, and also because horses are quite hard on the land (mostly when they're tearing around having fun, which they absolutely must be allowed to do) and overstocking would quickly lead to extensive soil structure degradation. Occasionally a horse dies - most of ours are over 20 - and another one comes in. And within weeks, you can see the difference in their physical shape and their mental outlook.

Our system allows the animals a large amount of choice and self-direction in their daily lives, and they have all blossomed here mentally, and become very fun-loving and laid-back.

You can see lots of photos of what our place looks like, and looked like at the start, here:

Red Moon Sanctuary

There are photo albums on various topics, as well as a link to Flickr, which has a Photostream documenting this farm from beginning to now.

Always happy to chat about details. I can probably conjure up an aerial map of our place, which is what we referred to along all the stages of our planning and implementing. Land management planning is always done on aerial photos around here, easy now with Google Earth etc.

Our horses only use the walk-in shelter when they have a bot fly or stinging flies around. They never use it to get away from elements, as they have plenty of natural shelter in the pasture, and get rugged during cold, wet, windy winter weather.

Best wishes


Don Quixote On High – Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond, Western Australia
by Brett and Sue Coulstock, on Flickr

PS: Some of this is a "reprint" from my member journal.
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post #14 of 33 Old 03-24-2018, 07:39 AM
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So glad to see you posting SueC. OP you may want to go back to some of Sue's threads when they were setting things up. It is amazing.
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post #15 of 33 Old 03-24-2018, 08:22 AM
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We started here (coastal Alabama) with 3 2 to 2.5 acre pastures and one 3 acre on two side by side properties owned by other family members. There were alleys between the three front pastures and the largest in the back used the fence line of the two that sat in the middle. Two rectangular properties each 6 acres divided into thirds. On front third of one was house, the other pasture with no trees. We put cypress along the road outside the fence for shade, wind break and to block view form passers by. The next third was two pastures, one on each side with alley between that ran the entire length. There was an alley that ran side to side on the non house property that separated front pasture from middle. One of these had pecan trees (orchard planting)and the other a row of mixed pecan, oak and cedar in a line along one fence line. The long alley opened up into an area that had open space, a treed area, a dry creek that cut across both properties and an open shed for equipment. There was plenty of space if the horses wanted shelter but they never used it. We had no run ins and they were happy with the shade/wind break we had provided with the trees. The first horses came from an owner that had run ins the horses never ever used unless you put their feed in them so we saw no reason to spend time or money on them. We had a shed for feed/hay and harness/saddles that had an extension on the roof so there was a covered area we could use for farrier work, doctoring if needed due to weather and room for a couple of round bales. The long alley could be opened up into the back pasture and if the horses were there it was day only when someone was home. The access to the alley was open so they could get to water. One of the troughs was placed under the fence so the pasture and alley both had access. The middle field behind the house later was divided into two so we could separate and still rotate once we had 5. We started with a mare in foal then added another mare in foal and finally a single mare. We used all electric as we had no intention of keeping the horses there. It's still up and used for one of my stallions and his pasture mate. We just kept the aunt's property fenced and went from what we had to the two pastures (front and middle with alley) and no access to the back. It works for the two we have there. These are 2.5 acres each and we rotate the horses. They're pretty fat and sassy on that.

Once our property was partially cleared and perimeter fencing redone (barbed wire as that was what the surrounding owners had for their cattle) we cross fenced with electric. We have 25 acres that are divided into (long) drive to house and house, south pasture of 8 acres with a sacrifice area (where we feed) and a one acre pen that has the round pen and small area to ride. These spaces we kept trees for shade and planted a wind break along part of the fence. It also shares a 300 gallon trough between itself and the middle pasture. Middle pasture is treed with some clearings and opens into a 5 acre pasture with no trees. This whole area is 15 acres. There are 3 horses in the 15 acre and 5 on the 8. We hay in the winter and if necessary because of drought in the summer. Right now there is no set up for rotation but we allow time in the pen and house area for grazing when the rye is up or summer grass is going good. Again no shelter but we have a shed that we keep feed and harness in that gets used frequently. The rest is kept in the house. We have a little room for hay but since we feed rounds and buy in small numbers we tarp those that are waiting to be fed.

Every one has given great advice. The things to bring away from all are to put it down on paper(virtual) using a satellite image and get your path of movement down. Putting it up here helps as there are those that will come and using their pc divide it all up in ways that make sense. Make sure the shed/barn/run ins are all high and dry. The big flaw with the in laws property where the open shed is for equipment is that FIL put it at the lowest point where the dry creek cuts through so in rains it is knee deep if not more in water.

Last edited by QtrBel; 03-24-2018 at 08:35 AM.
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post #16 of 33 Old 03-24-2018, 11:48 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Montgomery, AL
Posts: 14
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I absolutely LOVE this, Sue. I will definitely go to the site and see more. As I'm about to post, I've just figured out that I will have slightly less useable land than I thought. The property is 20 acres, but part of it is in a lake and part is across a road. I will only have 2-3 horses, though, so I think the 11.5 usable acres will be fine to create something similar.
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post #17 of 33 Old 03-24-2018, 11:56 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Montgomery, AL
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OK, y'all. I've just figured out that I will have slightly less useable land than I thought. (We don't have the property yet. We close on May 18!) The property is 20 acres, but part of it is in a lake and part is across a road. I will only have 2-3 horses, though, so I think the 11.5 usable acres will be fine to create something similar. At the request of one or two folks I'm going to try to attach a shot of the land, with about 2 acres taken out for the house. Note, there could be a small 20' corridor on the left side of the house to connect the pastures, if needed.

All of your ideas have been MUCH appreciated. In particular, I LOVE the ideas that Sue shared about allowing the horses to live more naturally. Thanks for the friendly welcome and for the tips!

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post #18 of 33 Old 03-24-2018, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Montgomery, AL
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Originally Posted by drjterrell View Post
I'm going to try to attach a shot of the land
Tried to attach a pic from Imgur, because the pic link didn't give an option to browse computer. However, the link isn't showing up. Anybody know what I'm doing wrong?
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post #19 of 33 Old 03-24-2018, 04:06 PM
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You go under the reply box and choose GO ADVANCED that will give you the paper clip icon that allows you to browse computer.
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post #20 of 33 Old 03-24-2018, 04:28 PM
Join Date: Apr 2015
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A 20' corridor is fine for two horses. When we added a new pasture at the back of our property and wanted to connect it to the main pasture, we created a corridor that starts out about 50 feet wide, but then narrows to about 25' as it goes down into a stream and up the other side to the new field. There were lots of trees in there which I limbed. I'm glad I went with that width, because it gives the horses lots of room to canter across there without feeling cornered.

I think SueC has the most amazing setup. I'm think of adding another area to my winter paddock so the horses can move around more in the winter, and have access to shrubs, leaves, etc. I've noticed they really like to eat a variety of things, in fact, in the last few days I've seen my Arab gelding eat spruce needles! I'm really surprised at that, but they won't hurt him I guess. He's not going hungry either, in fact, has a bit of winter chubbiness.

I think the need for a proper covered barn varies with climate. We could not do without the ability to shut the horses in here, given that we have severe blizzards and extreme cold (-37C happened a couple of times last winter). Our Arab is very sensitive to the cold, and when it gets cold + windy, he seeks out his stall. In the summer, they also like to come in for a few hours in the afternoon to get away from the heat and flies. Our barn actually stays nice and cool (no fans, but good, natural air flow), and because it's darker in there, there are less flies. My QH mare who doesn't care if it's cold and snowing sideways, hates flies with a passion, and will come running into her stall to rest when they get to be too much. So for us, stalls are a must. A barn is also more comfortable for us to groom and feed the horses when it's bitterly cold out.

But in your climate, it may not be so essential.
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