Your horse has a stable for shelter. Your horse has a pasture. But does your horse have a shelter in the pasture?
Run-in sheds, or loafing sheds, are a necessity for many turn-out areas. Horses need to be able to get shelter from heavy weather or excessive heat or frigid winds. Trees, though nice, don’t always fit the bill. They can let heavy rains through, and are no protection at all from hail or lightning. And branches laden with snow or ice create a serious risk.
When considering a location for a run-in shed, look for an area that is high and dry. A muddy run-in shed will just create more problems in your life. Horses hanging out in one small space will churn up soggy ground in no time, leaving you a yucky mess to clean out and potential hoof and skin problems to deal with. To solve the mud problem, look to a product like HoofGrid (http://www.hoofgrid.net). I discuss mud issues in an earlier blog articles…
Will your run-in shed have walls? Some warm and dry climates might get away with just a roof on posts. But at least one wall is nice if you want to block cold or heavy storms. Study the weather patterns and prevailing winds where you live. If most storms seem to come from the west or the northwest (common in much of North America) then a wall on the west or northwest face of the shed would be well-placed.
Three-sided run-in sheds provide optimum shelter from weather and temperatures. In very cold climates, you might even consider four sides with a doorway — almost a little barn! Make sure the door is wide enough to allow several horses to pass through at once — dominant horses will crowd the doorway and start arguments otherwise.
Will multiple horses share the run-in shed? A horse generally needs about one hundred square feet of space to feel comfortable, or be able to lie down without getting cast. But don’t just double that size for two horses — add in a little more wiggle room. This will help you avoid dominant horses squabbling over personal space.
How about a floor? Although most people don’t consider flooring for a paddock shelter, rubber mats, pavers, or even a concrete pad with mats over top can make a big difference in cleaning and maintenance down the road. Horses will break down the earth floor over time, and eventually most sheds will either need a load of dirt added or else they’ll be sunken and muddy, even on high ground.
Equine Facility Design can help you add paddock shelters to your farm’s master plan. Visit https://equinefacilitydesign.com/process for more information on beginning a project.