Loafing Shed Construction

When you regard your horses as members of your family, you want the best for them. All of my loafing shed plans are designed with safety and comfort in mind. The following article will help you decide what kind of shed to build, where to place it and the safety factors involved.

Loafing sheds, also referred to as run in sheds, are simply small barns designed to protect your livestock from the harsh weather elements. Loafing sheds, or pasture shelters, should be built using the same construction techniques as any other well-built barn to ensure a strong structure that will withstand the abuse of crowded animals.

When choosing the style of the building and roof, several options are available. Metal buildings with a shed roof or gable roof are easily adaptable for use as a loafing shed. Whether using wood siding or metal siding, a liner wall or kick guard, should be in place to protect the animals and the building. The siding should always be kept 2-3″ above the ground to allow for air circulation and to prevent rust or rot from contact with soil and urine. Adding a tack room will also allow the sheds to be used as storage buildings.

Wooden sheds are more commonly used because of the simplicity of construction and the more readily availability of materials. More home owners have built outdoor sheds, storage sheds or storage buildings of some sort and are familiar with shed plans and wood construction than metal construction.

Since most sheds will have gates that allow animals to be penned, the lower walls must be reinforced to prevent the walls from being crushed or pushed out. Because of their remote locations in a field or pasture, most field shelters are not visited by people very often and structural damage may occur if not built using sound construction practices. Care must be taken to prevent protruding nails or sharp edges from injuring your animals.

A permanent loafing shed should be constructed in a well drained location to prevent your horses from standing in muddy stalls. Pea gravel or rubber mats placed in the stalls will ensure your horses have a dry comfortable visit. A close daily hoof examination should be given if large gravel is used. A portable loafing shed can be moved periodically to a clean dry site.

Horses and ponies need to be provided a run in shelter that gives them clean and dry protection from the weather. The simplest forms are a run-in shed, a free run loafing shed or an enclosed stable. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of all methods before deciding on the form of housing for your horse. Once you have weighed all the pros and cons and have decided to build a run-in or portable loafing shed or a permanent construction loafing shed, here are my recommendations for your design and location.

An attached corral or pen allowing the animals to be contained when necessary for quarantine or observation will be beneficial. It will also let the animals become accustomed to be confined when loading, medicating or in case of bad weather. A new horse will need to be confined for a few days while becoming acclimated to new housing.

1: The shed must be located in an area that will not flood or be in the path of running water.

2: Position the front or open side to the South or East. Don’t place the open side directly facing the prevailing winds.

3: A shelter placed near other structures such as fences or gates will hinder cleaning the shed and will prevent easy access for the horses. Corrals or runs should have gates wide enough to allow a tractor or skid steer easy access.

4: A portable loafing shed can be moved to different locations to aid in cleaning and allow the ground in that area to dry out. It can also be moved in case of flooding. Fresh dirt or a new location aids in hygiene and prevents hoof borne diseases.

5: The design must be large enough to allow all your horses to stand and lie comfortably in it. A small design will allow bossy, dominating horses to bully and ban the meeker horses from entering the facility. The recommended size is 100 square feet for each average sized horse. Most box stalls are 10′ x 10′ or 100 sf. Larger stall areas make it more difficult for bossy horses to dominate the shelter.

6: Make the entrance large enough for a tractor to enter and drag out the old dirt and manure and replace it with fresh soil.

7: A permanent loafing shed with an open floor design will allow the soil to be replaced as needed. When the manure is removed from the shelter, some soil is removed with it and must be replaced depending on how quickly the soil is packed down or removed due to cleaning. The shelter floor must be kept built up to prevent it from turning into a mud hole during rainstorms. A concrete or paver floor is easier to clean but is harder on the horses legs and is not as warm to lie on as an earthen floor.

8: The ceiling must be high enough for the horse to have sufficient head room for the prevention of head injuries. The entrance should be a minimum of 8′ high.

9: All construction material such as the roof and siding must be securely fastened and checked often to prevent it from becoming loose. Use long galvanized or stainless steel wood screws when fastening the roofing metal and siding. Nails will rust, become loose, and fall out or break. Ring shank galvanized nails are acceptable for use in treated lumber. Horses can be easily spooked from a sheet of tin suddenly slapping against the shelter during a storm and they can injure themselves by attempting to flee from the noise. A noisy shelter will also discourage horses from entering the shelter when needed.

10: Make certain all nails, bolts, and screws are fastened tightly and do not protrude. This may injure a horse and not be noticeable until it is infected.

11: Gutters and downspouts added along the rear of the shelter will help rain run-off from seeping in and making the shelter muddy and uninhabitable. If your shelter has a saltbox design or gable roof, a gutter along the front of the shelter will keep the horse (and you) from walking through rain run-off while entering the shelter.

12: If the shelter is permanent, provide a GFCI outlet for grooming and hoof trimming and lights for horse health care.

13: The use of a large rolling magnet will pick up nails and screws during and after construction. A nail or screw will easily enter a horses hoof and will create a health hazard.

14: Maintain the shelter by checking weekly for any broken boards, loose siding or tin. Make sure all nails, screws, trim, protruding lumber, or other obstacles are secured to prevent injury.