Design Considerations for Horse Barn Construction with Modern Materials

Screenshot 2024 03 06 092928

The barn is a classic structure that has played an incredibly critical role to the advancement of human civilization. In its earliest forms, the barn was also our main form of housing! Known as a housebarn, it housed everything: people, livestock, grains, the whole lot. It eventually became understood that separating the livestock from the house was a good idea, and the barn began to take its historic form and place in societies.

Another critical component to the advance of civilization was the horse. For thousands of years until the steam and then combustible engine, the horse was our best form of locomotion. It was how communities near and far stayed in contact and how war was waged, both of which led to growth at a macro level. The horse continues to this day to be important to ranching and the horse racing industry, in addition to being a helpful companion and resource on small farms and at hunting lodges.

In this article we will discuss the pairing of these two great components of humanity into perhaps the barn’s most important iteration: the horse barn. We will discover how the barn is a perfect solution for housing, caring for, and working with horses, and how to create the best modern horse barn with modern materials to further optimize the structure and its function.

Key Components of Horse Barn Construction

The differentiating factor between a barn and one dedicated for use as a horse barn is the interior layout and design. The most common barn architecture—both traditionally and in modern times—is called a three-aisle barn: one main aisle down the center, with secondary aisles on either side.

While this layout isn’t absolutely critical for a barn to be a barn, it’s how they were traditionally constructed and serves as a great functional foundation for the needs of a horse barn.

Broadly, the three aisles serve these roles: the center aisle is the traversable area, where horses are led in and out, while the side aisles are used for horse-specific “rooms” and storage areas.

Let’s take a look at the components that define the interior of a horse barn and how to plan for them in your design:


Horses are more individualized creatures rather than other livestock that live and work on farms in groupings or herds. Their behavior combines with this unique place on a farm or ranch, and combined with their great size, horses are best housed individually in stalls.

Stalls provide horses with shelter, comfort, and security. The classic scene in a barn is opening the door and walking down the center aisle while horses' heads poke out from their individual stalls on either side. In terms of layout, stalls are partitioned “rooms” that fill the bays transversely from the posts that form the main aisle. Stalls are also utilized to prepare horses for their work by offering an enclosed space to apply tack. You can imagine how hard it might be to successfully apply saddles, bridles, and reins to one horse among many in an enclosed but open barn area. Likewise, stalls are an excellent area for veterinarians to perform check-ups on horses in a confined space.

Tack Room

Speaking of tack, a dedicated tack room is essential to any horse barn. Tack rooms are an area to properly store saddles, bridles, reins, grooming supplies, blankets, and any other manner of equipment associated specifically with horses. A tack room doesn’t need to be huge, just large enough to effectively store equipment up to the size of saddles.

Feed Room

One of the most important aspects of a horse barn is a storage area for hay bales—and significant storage at that. If you live in a region that experiences winter to any degree, it’s important to store months worth of hay for the horses.

Thankfully, hay bales are manufactured in blocks and can be stacked strongly and neatly. Plan to utilize a number of bays in order to store hay bales so that they will also be protected in the barn as well as being positioned easily for feeding.

Grooming Area

A grooming area should be given a designated space for grooming and bathing your horses. When designing a new barn, planning for water and drainage is a massive advantage that can make grooming, bathing, and cleanup as simple as possible. A grooming area can be as simple as a single stall where horses can be brought in to individual groom and bathe then returned to their holding stalls.

Additional Design Features for Horse Barn Construction

Creating a Great Center Aisle

While the center aisle will exist as part of the build, in a horse barn it will be used often as the horses and their riders and trainers will be moving in and out of the barn frequently.

Because of all the regular movement, it’s a great idea to install non-slip flooring along the center aisle, rather than the hay-filled stalls or plain flooring in the tack and feed rooms.

Water Supply

Although not essential, the component of water supply should be considered during horse barn construction. Rather than having to leave the barn to carry water back in, having a faucet in the barn allows for providing an adequate water source for the horses to drink. When winter comes, having water, and unfrozen water, available inside the barn with your horses is a massive benefit. There’s no need to make it complicated either: a single spout and drain somewhere in the barn is all you will need.

Lighting and Electricity

In addition to a dedicated water supply inside the barn, adding electricity and subsequent lighting to your horse barn construction plans is also a great added feature. Lighting helps perform daily tasks and also provides the opportunity to take care of anything after the sun goes down, or at least be able to go into the horse barn and check that all is well.

Creating a Paddock or Turn Out Area

Horses spend much of their time outside of the barn, a practice called “turnout.” Horses benefit from being “let loose” as it improves their mental wellbeing, allows them socialization, exercise, and an opportunity to exhibit their natural behaviors, such as grazing. It also gives them access to the health benefits of sunlight and fresh air.

“Let loose” was put in quotations because turning out horses doesn’t mean allowing them to run free. Rather, a dedicated area adjacent to the barn, called a paddock or turn out area, is fenced in to allow them some space to achieve the above, while still keeping them confined in order to bring back into the barn for their care and to prepare for their duties. In addition to fencing, it’s also advisable to “floor” the paddock to keep it clear of inevitable mud.

A great way to achieve this is to use permeable pavers, such as TRUEGRID® permeable paving grids filled with gravel to provide a non-dirt covered (mud-producing) paddock that is readily drained.

Indoor Arenas

There are also horse barns that incorporate an indoor arena or riding area. This can be used to break and/or train horses, practice riding and provide lessons, or simply to exercise horses on days of inclement weather. Note that this will significantly enlarge the horse barn and thus construction costs, but it is absolutely doable. A horse barn with an indoor arena is a complete structure not only for properly housing horses, it also provides capabilities to birth, rear, break, and train horses, in addition to dedicated facilities for riding lesson ventures.

How to Prepare to Build a Modern House Barn


The first step of horse barn construction is decide the size. The main consideration is how many horses you plan to house, then to add on the square footage to provide extra bays for the tack, feed, grooming, and hay storage rooms. If you’re going all the way with an indoor arena with additional facility rooms and elaborate lighting systems, design is even more critical.

Small Horse Barns

Small horse barns are often designed for hobbyists, backyard horse owners, or those with just a few horses. They typically range from around 24 feet by 24 feet (576 square feet) to 36 feet by 36 feet (1,296 square feet). They may include a few horse stalls, a tack room, and space for equipment storage.

Medium-Sized Horse Barns

Medium-sized horse barns are suitable for larger horse operations or those with more horses. They can range from around 36 feet by 48 feet (1,728 square feet) to 48 feet by 72 feet (3,456 square feet) or larger. These barns may include multiple horse stalls, a tack room, feed room, grooming area, and hay storage.

Large Horse Barns

Large horse barns are typically designed for commercial boarding facilities, training centers, or breeding operations with a significant number of horses. They can range from around 60 feet by 100 feet (6,000 square feet) to 100 feet by 200 feet (20,000 square feet) or more. They may include numerous horse stalls, multiple tack rooms, feed rooms, grooming areas, wash racks, veterinary treatment areas, indoor riding arenas, and extensive hay or equipment storage.

Material Selection for Horse Barn Construction

Traditionally, barns are constructed with heavy timers via timber framing, also known as post and beam. “Barn raising” is a phrase that describes how communities in the past would get together in order to physically raise joined-together timber frames. Although timber framing lives on and is a wonderful aesthetic, there are other modern options to consider when building a horse born.

Timber Framing

Timber framing is a horse barn construction method in which heavy timbers are cut and joined together and set into place as a highly sturdy skeleton from which a roof and walls can be added. The methods of timber framing actually inform the three aisle design.

While timber framing is still used for barn construction, it has a number of disadvantages that make modern materials more attractive. If you are planning on a very large horse barn capable of housing an indoor arena, it simply isn’t possible (nor financially feasible) to rely on timber framing to span such widths.

Prefabricated Metal Panels

Prefabricated metal panels are a great modern solution for erecting durable horse barns quickly. Horse barns can be sized and the appropriate panels delivered to be assembled rapidly, which includes the roof and wall structures. While this is advantageous, prefabricated metal panels lack in aesthetics and also need to be insulated upon completion.

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF)

Insulated concrete forms (ICF) are a modern solution that blends the power of concrete with high-end insulative materials to create one of the most durable, thermally efficient building material “composites.” ICF are hollow blocks made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam that are assembled and then filled with concrete. The pairing of the two materials offers barns a significant advantage over other materials: energy efficiency. The clear R-value of Fox Blocks ICF, for example, offers R-22. This is an incredibly potent advantage as it allows for your horses, their hay, and your tack and other materials immense protection from climatic changes that occur during the annual cycle of seasons. As this is an inherent property of ICF, no additional insulation needs be added after completion of the walls, a task that many barn owners simply skip due to costs and labor.

In addition to their excellent thermal efficiency, ICF provides extreme durability from the concrete and tie-ins within the ICF blocks. A horse barn built from ICF will give peace of mind about damage from intense weather, including tornadoes and hurricanes, meaning that your stock of horses and associated supplies will be kept completely safe for the long run. Not to mention, an ICF wall system is also fire rated for up to 4 hours.

Once a horse barn has its ICF walls constructed, traditional roofing can be installed, whether it's with simple trusses for gable roofs or large spanning roofs for extra large horse barns. In fact, the reinforced concrete walls of the ICF have the capacity to support long span trusses or beam point loads.

As the walls themselves are complete, an ICF horse barn can be finished with many modern cladding options, including lap siding or board and batten siding to create a traditional barn appearance. All in all, utilizing the modern technology of ICF creates a powerfully built, thermally efficient barn that can be aesthetically finished however you see fit.

Craft a Horse Barn of Structural Renown with Fox Blocks ICF

Modern horse barn construction is an exciting venture that can deliver decades and even centuries of high output function, and horses are a major investment that requires care and protection in a safe environment.

While there are a number of modern materials available to further optimize the old style wooden horse barn, the advantages of ICF are a game-changer.

To learn more about the power of ICF and how they fit perfectly within the needs of a great horse barn, reach out to the experts at Fox Blocks today.