Make your horse’s shed safe


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.


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A good run-in shed can be super basic, or totally sophisticated, but it better be safe.


dry lot attached to a large shed with grooming stall

If you have a horse that lives with a paddock and shed, you may want to add a gate, in case he needs to be on “shed rest”. Also good for keeping horses away from ice and other leg-breaking weather.


Keep it safe:


  • Location. High is better, so that water can drain down and your shelter doesn’t end up in a swamp after 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 can’t be seen, 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 possible snow loads. 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.


three sided horse shed in a paddock


  • The size and openings of the shelter should prohibit any horse from trapping another one inside. For example, the photo above shows a narrow opening that is relatively deep, and therefore only suitable for one horse so that no one gets pinned in the back.


  • 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.



Dry lot with run in shed attached

This run-in shed has a light for checking on horses in the wee hours.


  • 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 every day, 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.


  • Consider solar lights so you won’t have to worry about electrical at all.


Conduct periodic checks on your horse’s run-in shed, looking at the following:


  • Gutters (if needed) are intact, with no sharp edges, no chew marks. This is more likely to happen on a downspout.


  • 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, water damage, and other horse hazards.



What words of wisdom do you have about run-in sheds and horse shelters?


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