What should I look for in a safe run in shed?
Ah - good question!! Run in sheds or shelters or paddock houses or whatever you like to call them are a great mystery to me. For one, my horses rarely stand in them during rainstorms. Secondly, I can provide super fluffy and nice bedding, and they prefer to sleep alfresco. Go figure. However, a good run in shed can be super basic, or totally sophisticated, but it better be safe.
Here’s what to consider.
-Location. High is better, so that water can drain down and your shelter doesn’t end up in a swamp after a rain. Visible from many points on your property. If for some reason the open sides face the outskirts of the farm, and any horse enjoying the shelter is inside and instantly invisible, consider windows so that you can see what’s going on in there.
-Overall construction. The walls are sturdy, the posts are secured into the ground with concrete, and the screws and nails are all hidden. If you are in an area with snow, the building should be engineered to withstand your area’s snow. I can guarantee that some of the California shelters would collapse in any other part of the country that actually has a winter.
-Overall design. Typically, the three sided shelter faces open in the opposite direction of the wind. Ventilation is key, and easy to do with windows or a gap between the roof and walls. (Yes, even three sided sheds can get ripe with ammonia and manure smells.)
-The size and openings of the shelter should prohibit any horse from trapping another one inside. For example, the photo shows a narrow opening that is relatively deep, and therefore only suitable for one horse.
-Choose your footing wisely. A concrete slab will need to be covered in mats and bedding. A dirt floor may need to be scooped out, replaced with new dirt, and packed down when a habitual urine or manure spot grows deeper and deeper. If this is the case, save your back and make sure your opening allows your tractor inside.
-Consider plumbing and electrical as potential luxuries AND hazards. Yes, how nice to have lights and water into the shed, but it can mean possible chewing by horses, critters, and who the heck wants to check that stuff everyday, all the way into the paddocks?? Most run in shelters are in paddocks - put a water trough by the gate so it’s easy to see every single day. If you need electricity in your run in shelter, make sure all wires are in metal conduits, out of reach of the horses.
-Conduct periodic checks on:
-Gutters (if needed) are intact, no sharp edges, no chew marks.
-Roof - no leaking, no flapping parts, no sharp edges where horses may be able to reach
-Concrete around posts - are they still hidden by dirt and safe? Exposed concrete plugs can damage hooves, repack the area with dirt and consider some erosion control measures.
-Look for exposed nails, screws, chew damage.
-Get rid of cob webs!
What words of wisdom do you have about run in shelters?