When you’re designing your stable, seemingly hundreds of tiny details become very large decisions. Stall doors are one of those decisions that can affect your daily life at the barn, whether it’s your business or your hobby. Sliding, Dutch, grills, yokes — what’s the best stall door for you?
Sliding doors (as shown in the French Hill Farm project) are popular in barns and often come in prefab stall kits. They take up less space because they don’t intrude on the barn aisle, making it easier to lead or cross-tie horses in the aisle. Because you can squeeze yourself (or a wheelbarrow) into the stall without opening a sliding door all the way, they can make chores done around a stalled horse much easier than swinging doors. Watch out, though — horses think they can squeeze through half-open doors, too. Horses can shove through an unlatched sliding door. Since their shoulders can slide through an inadequate space more easily than their pelvis, this can lead to injury and panic.
Swinging doors, whether they’re Dutch doors (like Carriage House Farm) or grilled gates (as designed in the Ios Ranch stable), take up a little more room than sliding doors, but can be just as practical in the barn. Swinging doors should always swing freely and out into the aisle, and they must be kept tight against the stall wall when they’re open. A loose horse in the aisle could ram into a half-open swinging door and get hurt.
Grills are a nice choice for airflow in warm climates, especially if they have a yoke on top to allow a horse to poke his head out. If you have foals, add a kickboard to the bottom that can be removed before the stall door is opened. This keeps babies from rolling out, or getting a hoof stuck under the stall grill, while the open view from the grill lets them get a glimpse of the big world outside.
No matter what sort of stall door you use, be sure to keep all hardware oiled and make sure it’s installed properly. Stall latches that protrude from the door could injure or frighten a horse as they’re being walked through the doorway. When you leave a stall door open, be sure it’s open all the way. If a turned-out horse gets loose and runs for the safety of the barn, he’ll probably dive into that open stall as quickly as possible, whether there’s room for him to get through the doorway or not.