Living in a rural community, aspects of country living impacts on elements of the built environment from livestock barns on working farms to stables and whether it be commercial or non commercial, animal welfare is very, very important.
Below is a guide to stable design and although a little long, if you are considering building one, it’s worth reading.
PLANNING ADVICE AND CONTROLS
Every local authority will have its own Local Plan with policies relating to horse keeping. Some local planning authorities produce Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) relating specifically to horse keeping, and the Horse Pasture Project is producing Simple Planning Guidance for horse keepers. Planning permission is necessary to change the use of land for exercising, training and jumping horses. Permission is usually required for stables, horse-related development, and some fencing. In specific areas where the countryside is especially sensitive to damage, other relatively minor development may be controlled.
Some councils may ask you to submit a formal application for a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Use or Development to determine if your proposal requires planning permission.
It is not only the landowner who can apply for planning permission. A tenant or horse owner or keeper can apply for permission on a piece of land, but they must get the owner’s permission before they start building of course.
The welfare of horses and ponies must be the primary consideration. The Equine Industry Welfare Guidelines set out minimum requirements for housing horses and ponies. The size (and type) of stabling will be dependent on the size, type and requirement of the horses and ponies to be stabled. Perhaps it is better to consider the future when building new stables, and allow for the 12.2hh pony’s stable to be large enough to accommodate the 15.2hh horse that a child might grow into! Equally, rather than expecting a broodmare to foal in a standard 3.7m x 3.7m (12’ x 12’) stable, if you have allowed for a foaling box, it can perhaps be used as a hay store in the eleven months leading up to foaling. Your local BHS welfare officer is available for guidance.
As well as basic welfare considerations, safety must be taken into account when designing buildings for horses and ponies. Electrical fittings must be positioned so that horses and ponies cannot reach them, sockets must be to an appropriate external standard and light fittings should be caged for safety. Fire precautions must be followed, with fire fighting equipment in a readily accessible position. An area of fenced hardstanding outside of the stables is generally included in the design. This serves many useful purposes, including that of enclosing the horse or pony if he escapes in the night.
New buildings must be as inconspicuous as is possible to minimise the impact they may have on the landscape. Careful siting can reduce the impact. Ideally, new development should link in with any existing buildings to make it as unobtrusive as possible. Using natural folds in the landscape, or surrounding shelterbelts or copses of trees can render new buildings inconspicuous. Design of new development should always avoid siting buildings in an elevated position on the open skyline where they will appear to be most prominent. Local Planning Authorities normally seek to limit the amount of stables to what is appropriate in size and scale to the fields concerned.
Whilst earth 'bunds' may be a useful way of dealing with any arisings from excavations of soil from the base of buildings, they can cause a very artificial landscape to be created. A great deal of care should be given to their use. As with all new planting in the countryside, any hedges or trees planted to screen buildings must be suitable and ideally of native species. Species which grow naturally in your local area will generally grow more quickly and happily than non-natives.
Basic guidelines for the size of a stable is that it should be large enough for a horse or pony to stand up with at least 0.9m (3') clearance above it's head, and with sufficient space to lie down, stand up and turn around without difficulty. A rule of thumb recommended by the BHS is that a pony would need a 3m x 3.7 m (10' x x12') floor area, and a horse 3.7m x 3.7m (12' x 12'). The height should be between 2.7m and 3.4m (9' & 11'), with stable doors a minimum 1.2m (4') wide, and 2.3m (7'6") high, with the bottom door being 1.2m (4') high.
Good ventilation is essential, and must be achieved without placing the horse or pony in a draughty environment. High-pitched ceilings improve ventilation by allowing a greater volume of air to circulate, diluting any ammonia resulting from urine. High-level vents, preferably at the ridge, are essential to allow continuous air movement around the stable. A window in the back as well as the front is a plus point, as the free flow of air will further improve ventilation, and your horse will appreciate the extra view.
The most artificial colour seen in the landscape is white. Not even sheep are white, and a horse is never described as white. In fact the only white you will see in the natural landscape is rubbish - namely plastic bags! The colours that generally blend into the landscape are dark colours. Brown and even black is unobtrusive for most of the year, except when at the top of a hill and seen against the skyline. Look around and notice how the natural landscape features are not green, but dark brown or black. Look at buildings in the countryside and think of how they blend with their surroundings.
By using dark colours on your stables and buildings, you can make them less intrusive in the landscape. Timber buildings can be treated with a dark wood stain, and concrete block buildings can be painted a dark colour. Roofs should be either a very dark brown or black.
Materials can have an important effect on landscape character areas, and it is important to look around and appreciate what buildings blend in with the landscape and give a sense of local distinctiveness. Historically, 'tarred' weather boarding is by far the most common cladding, or covering, for timber framed buildings, whilst the orangey browns of locally made bricks may be an appropriate material in areas of the county where barns and stables were historically built from locally produced bricks.
Whilst the walls of stabling must be able to withstand any damage from horses and ponies, they must also ensure that horses and ponies cannot damage themselves, especially if they were to get stuck, or 'cast' in the corner. The stable should have no sharp edges that the horse could catch itself on and allow the horse plenty of room to move around in as well as lie down. The use of kick boards around the wall are an excellent choice as they not only provide a smooth safe surface but they can be placed at the height you want and are easy to clean. Traditionally, timber 'kick-boards' are used on the lower half of stable walls, to a height of 1.2m (4'), particularly if the walls are constructed of brick or block as they are less likely to injure the animal.
The floor should be of a hard wearing, waterproof and non-slip material. Concrete is generally used, and must be carefully laid in order that it is non-slip and that it has sufficient 'fall' across it so that it drains to a suitable gully and soakaway. Rubber matting is an excellent choice for stable floors as it can also be used as either a base for the stable bed, the bed itself or for use in walkways to create a warmer and more comfortable surface.
Whilst the first consideration must be to keep the stabling dry, the importance of good ventilation cannot be over emphasised. Ridge vents not only help improve ventilation but also prevent any condensation forming. Various roofing materials can be used, from roof tiles or slate, which are extremely expensive, but probably the most visually attractive, to corrugated sheets of metal, which whilst cheap can cause problems of condensation and are extremely noisy when it rains! An excellent roof type is roofing felt, which should be of a sympathetic colour. If possible choose a roofing product that offers extra light to be let in and that is weather resistant.
The doorways must be easily accessible and be wide enough for the horse to easily fit through.
Access from the stable to the rest of the yard is also important when it comes to access to the feed room, hay barn, muck heap and the tack room for example.
Most stables will need a variety of services:
Within each stable there must be adequate drainage available. Each stable can have a gentle slope that leads outside to a communal drain, the gully of which can then be easily disinfected, or each stable can have a drain within the stable which then leads to the main drain, therefore allowing the waste to go directly into the mains drain from each individual stable, which is a great option for preventing contamination from one stable going all along the yard, this is especially important if you ever have to disinfect a isolation box for example.
This is arguably the most important requirement of your horse or pony. A clean supply of fresh water must be supplied at all times. The supply should conform to the Water Fittings Regulations 1999 (see Water Regulations Advice Note). The outline of these regulations are common sense, such as expecting water supplies to be protected from freezing, preventing water from being sucked back into the main supply from a dirty trough or bucket and ensuring that a stop-valve is fitted to the supply. The water supply to stables should be in a convenient position, but placed out of the reach of horses and ponies.
Electricity and Lighting
Whilst it is not vital to have mains electricity, it is useful and lighting may be essential if a vet is called in the night. Batteries can supply sufficient power for simple stable lighting, but recharging these can be inconvenient. Alternative sources of energy (such as solar panels) are suitable for some stables and should be investigated. Any electrical supply must be out of reach of horses and ponies. When considering lighting the outside of stables, think about the impact of such lighting on the surrounding landscape, and think about the modern problem of 'light pollution', whereby it is often difficult to see the beautiful night sky because of intrusive local lighting. The use of external lighting should be considered particularly carefully in the country, with lights operated by PIR's.
An access track or roadway is often essential to get to and from the stables from a public highway. But consider the suitability and impact of the surface material in relation to the setting of the yard. New access tracks and roads will require planning permission. A well thought out design might allow for the roadway to be screened from view by hedges of mixed native plant species.
Management of the muckheap is an important issue for horses and ponies, their owners and keepers and their neighbours! (see Manure storage and disposal advice note). The muckheap must be sited where it will not contaminate watercourses such as rivers, streams and ditches, as well as groundwater. It must not be sited where it will cause a nuisance, such as to houses and users of public rights of way. And it must be sited where it can be conveniently accessed from both the stables and the road if it is to be collected for disposal. It should not be too close to the stables as to cause a nuisance to horses and ponies from flies. Ideally the muck heap should have a solid base and sides to enclose it.
FIXTURES AND FITTINGS
There are many useful fittings that will enhance the practical use of your stable such as tie rings, hay rack, water drinkers, feed mangers and window vents, stable window panel.
- Tie Rings can be used for both tying up your horse to and also tying up hay nets. Ensure that they are fixed at an appropriate height.
- Hay Racks can be positioned either in a corner or along the wall for hay to be easily placed into. Ensure that they are fixed at an appropriate height for the horse to suitably and safely use them.
- Water Drinkers can be a great asset especially in mare and foal boxes where water buckets on the floor are not advisable.
- Feed mangers are useful for easily distributing feeds and they can be positioned for ease of use. Feed mangers that can be removed allow for easy daily cleaning.
- Window Vents are a great asset as they can be opened or closed depending on the weather, wooden stables often benefit from these especially in the summer when some stables needs increased air flow.
- Stable window panel are small panels that can be left open to allow the horse in the next stable to see through the panel thereby offering more sociable stable or left closed to offer privacy.
POSITIONING AND LAYOUT
Careful positioning of your yard is essential, with thought being taken into account of access not only for horses but also for deliveries such as hay, straw, shavings and feed and also access for veterinarians, clients and farriers.
The yard layout that you choose must be workmanlike and safe and offer easy accessibility to all who will need to use it.
- The Tack room needs to be within close proximity to the stables but also have secure location to help guard against thieves.
- The Feed Room needs to be within close proximity to the stables and also have access to it for deliveries of horse feeds.
- The Muck Heap also needs to be close to the stables but not too close that it would pose a fire hazard. The muck heap also needs to be able to be removed by tractor or any other means if necessary.
- The hay barn should have easy access for deliveries and be close enough to the stable yard to be practical but without causing fire hazard issues.
- The shoeing box or area must allow the farrier the ability to easily park outside it.
- The veterinary box should allow the vet to easily pull up outside it and be close enough to the stable yard to be of practical value.
- Lorry Park will need a safe area for loading and unloading and easy access off the yard.
- Isolation Box should be slightly away from the other stables.
For further information please visit https://www.bhs.org.uk/