Set up a stall at a horse show


Being involved with horses means maybe going to shows – local, regional, national, and maybe international! And part of travel means that your horses will be stabled in some varied and funky situations. Here are some ideas and tips to make your horse’s stay away from home comfortable and safe.


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Types of horse show stalls


  • You will likely encounter one of the following types of stalls at a show – temporary tent stalls, temporary wood stalls, permanent stalls, which can be wood slat, panels, cinder block, or a combo. You may even find pipe corrals at some show grounds that are not designed for overnight stays.


  • Consider yourself lucky to get permanent stabling at most facilities. These are typically a bit larger (12×12) than temporary stalls (10×10 is common). Most have dirt floors, and depending on the facility will be leveled on a regular basis (but unfortunately, regular may be yearly…) The downside to permanent stalls is that years of staples, hooks, nails, and screws are in the walls.


  • The permanent stalls below are at the famous Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds. Miles and miles of stalls, cinder block variety, with dirt floors.



del mar racetrack stalls

The stalls at Del Mar are cinder block with dutch doors.


Temporary stalls, while typically smaller, can usually only accommodate buckets and bins attached with bailing twine, so there are not so many metal safety hazards around.


  • The dirt floor is usually a bit better also, as most of the year the temporary stall area is usually a parking lot of field. The temp stalls pictured below are my least favorite kind, the bottom half is plywood (one swift kick and that hoof is going through) and the top half is open. Many horses don’t like their new and unknown neighbor, and the food protective horse will be very stressed in these quarters. Bring tarps or dark sheets to hang with those plastic zip ties to create some privacy.


  • Other types of temporary stalls are made of indestructible miracle stuff, usually white and resemble thin plastic, but can withstand even the most powerful kick. These are much better. The top portion may or may not be open to the neighbors.



horse show temporary stalls green and white tentsAn example of temporary stalls – the walls are a bit flexible. Some have screws poking out where the pieces have been put together.


So how do you make your horse’s show stall safe?


  • Your best bet is to arrive before the horses and have a stash of supplies in your car to set the stall up. Many moons ago, I would go ahead of the shipper to set up the stalls, and then sit back, relax, and wait. Ha – there’s no relaxing.


Bring these things to set up your horse’s stall at a show:


  • Water buckets with necessary screw eyes, nails, bailing twine, double-ended snaps, and duct tape. I use duct tape to cover all hardware at shows, for some reason horses seem more likely to scratch themselves away from home.
  • Gloves. Wear them to FEEL the walls of the stall for meal hardware. Your eyes will not catch all the nails and staples!
  • Tools to remove all sorts of metal hardware left from the previous show – screwdrivers, pliers, hammers, magnet to check the stall floor. One staple or nail in the hoof can end the show and possibly your horse’s career or life. Please don’t take chances. More on street nails here. I used a giant magnetic sweeper to clear the stalls and walkways.
  • Bedding tools – shovel to level the stall if you can, poop picker to spread shavings, blade or knife to open bales of shavings. Use your poop picker and shovel to remove the previous shavings if the show grounds does not do that for you. You never know what’s lurking under there!
  • Water for you. This is hard work! Stay hydrated.
  • Thin rubber floor mats if you can. This can help add some support to the stall flooring and prevent a giant hole from forming if you horse paws. Don’t forget a pair of vice grips to easily move these bad boys by yourself.
nails in wall at horse show
A shining example of previous nails and screws in the wall of this horse show stall.
  • You should have ordered shavings from the show grounds (many shows require you to use their source) or you can bring your own. I like to use about 12 bags for a 12×12 stall, this gives you plenty of cushion on an uneven floor, and enough to bank well up the sides. Even if you don’t do this at home, I suggest doing it at shows to be safer, and you can pull down clean shavings instead of adding more as the show goes on. This also helps your horse stay cleaner!


  • The last thing I do is set up the grooming stall and then I hang stall signs, plaques, put up tents, etc. Horses first!
  • I also like to have on hand some alternate barriers for stalls. Stall guards (I like the big fat wide ones as opposed to the rubber covered chain variety) are handy for use when the stall door is solid, floor to ceiling, and the walls are also solid, which means your horse has no way to look out. This is more common than you would think!

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Thank you!