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Free Access Shelter
Guidelines for Horses

A free access shelter has many benefits for horses and their owners. In the winter it provides protection from wind, rain and snow. In the summer, the animals can seek relief from the sun and flies. Covered feed bins eliminate waste from wet and scattered hay or grain. Bins located off the ground help prevent sand colic. Horses tend to deposit manure in or around the shelter so it is easier to collect for storage.

There are a few things to consider when choosing a location for the shed. High ground is best since it is usually the driest. If possible, locate
the structure in a naturally protected site that doesn't receive the brunt of wind and rain. In the Pacific Northwest, harsh weather generally
comes from the southwest but can vary depending on the topography.

Each horse needs a minimum of 144 square feet (12' by 12'), but a 14' by 14' space provides room for more free movement. A three sided shelter works well and allows ample ventilation. A sloping roof with gutters and downspouts diverts the rainfall to minimize mud. The wall on the low side should be at least 9' and the entrance 11' to 12' high to prevent injuries. An extra 4' to 6' overhang at the opening will help prevent rain and snow intrusion and add extra shade in the summer.

Place water and feed facilities that are convenient for the owner and efficient for the horse. The hay bin capacity per horse should be at least 20 pounds. It is healthier for the horse to eat from a bin at chest to wither height or lower to keep dust particles and feed from the nostrils and eyes. Installation should be at approximately 2/3 the height of the horse. Water buckets will stay cleaner if they are located away from feed.

Shelter Dimensions Per Horse

  Height Width Length Depth
Shelter 9' back, 12' front 12' 12' 12'
Hay Manger 38" - 42" 20" - 24" 30" - 36" 24" - 36"
Grain Box 20" - 24" 20" - 24" 20" - 24" 8" - 12"

Hill, Cherry. Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage. Storey Communications, Inc, Pownal, VT. 1990.
Price, Steven D. The Whole Horse Catalog. Simon & Shuster, Inc. New York, NY. 1985.
McBane, Susan. A Natural Approach to Horse Management. Methuen, London, England. 1992.
American Youth Horse Council. Horse Industry Handbook. American Youth Horse Council, Lexington, KY. 1993.

Information originally provided by the Thurston Conservation District