Not all horses are created equal – some are much bigger than average, and some are much smaller. Take for example draft horses and miniature horses. Before introducing the big or the small horse onto your horse property you might need to make a few adjustments. While the general rules of horse keeping apply to all horses you must consider their size. Stalls and fences in particular need adjustments for the biggest and smallest of horses.
In Central North Carolina’s climate most draft horses do fine when kept outdoors as long as they have access to shade, protection from the wind and plenty of clean water and food. But most likely you will keep your draft horses stalled at least part of the time for the convenience of caring for and feeding them. A barn provides a safe environment for you and your horse, while saving on labor and land costs.
Two types of stalls are commonly used for draft horses, box or tie stalls. The box stall should be large enough for the horse to lie down, and to allow the handler to work around the horse without being crowded. The minimum size of a draft horse’s box stall is 12’X12’, but 14’ X 14’ is ideal. Tie stalls take less space, usually 8’ long and 5’ wide. They work especially well for feeding and grooming horses that are turned out much of the time. Stall ceilings should be at least nine feet high and the stall doors at least four feet wide. If the draft horse is extremely large, a wider door might be needed. Doors larger than four feet wide should slide rather than open on hinges. Also, be sure lights and wiring are out of reach of the horse. That goes for any horse, but what might be out of reach for the average sized horse could be easy for the gentle giant in your barn.
The sheer size and height of the draft horse demand special attention to the design and materials used when making fences. Planning where the horses are contained depend on available space, amount of shade (if no shade is available a run-in shed is needed) and convenience.
Fences for draft horses should be five to six feet high. Rails should be spaced about eight inches apart. The strongest fence material is steel pipe, and it is the most expensive. Wood is a strong and safe fence, but also expensive and requires regular painting and repair of rotted posts and boards. Polymer coated wood is even more expensive but saves on maintenance costs in the long run. Various types of PCV are also available and low maintenance but not as strong as pipe and wood.
Woven wire is low cost and easy to install with either wooden posts or t-posts. It is most effective with a single wooden sight board at the top. These fences will last longer and do a better job of keeping the horses inside if they are re-enforced with electric wire or tape inside at the top and bottom. The hot wire will keep the horse from leaning on or reaching over the top or sticking his head under the bottom to nibble that grass that is “always greener on the other side.” Another plus to the woven wire fence is it will discourage dogs from entering the pasture.
Inspect your fences regularly to be sure they are free of projections such as wire or nails that can injure the horse.
The miniature horse owner can downsize considerably to house their little equines. An acre is plenty of space for up to three miniatures. Again, in Central North Carolina’s climate they can manage just fine kept outdoors in winter as long as they are not body clipped, have shade, a
wind-break and clean water. In fact, your main caution is to be sure the miniature horses do not get overweight or founder on too much lush grass. It is advisable to divide the pasture or paddock into small sections and rotate the horses’ grazing area.
For the same reasons as with any size horse there are times when it is convenient to put the mini in a stall. If your existing barn was not designed for minis they’ll be perfectly happy in a big stall, or if you have two minis you can divide one stall to make two. If they get along with each other two minis can even share a stall, but the divider may be needed to separate them for feeding. An eight by eight feet stall is plenty of space for one miniature horse, even six by six for the very small minis. Be sure there is plenty of ventilation in your mini’s stall. If it is built of solid materials like concrete block or plywood you may need to install a ceiling fan to push air down into the stall. If the stall door is solid, consider installing a “window” so the mini can watch what is going on outside its walls as well as get some fresh air.
When constructing fences remember that while going over the fence is a concern for most horses, miniature horse can go under. Five feet is still a safe height, just in case you have a really good jumper, four feet will do. Place the bottom board eight to twelve inches from the ground. Four to five rails placed close enough so that the mini can’t squeeze through are recommended if building a post and rail type fence. If you opt for woven wire fencing be sure the mesh is small enough that the mini doesn’t get a tiny hoof caught in the fence. Again, install a sight board. Some minis seem to think a woven wire fence makes a really nice place to scratch, especially when they’re shedding their winter coats. For that reason, and the ones mentioned above, an electric strand at the top and bottom will discourage fence rubbing. Some mini owners install a “scratch panel” inside the paddock for their little horses in hopes they will not use the fence or gate for that purpose. An eight-foot section of hog panel with a post at each end works well.
Electric fencing works fine until the power goes out or the horses get so spooked they run through it. Another thing to watch for are deer knocking the electric strand down. But if you do opt for electric, the electric tape gives better visibility and is stronger than wire. Use two strands, the bottom eight inches from the ground and space the second strand twelve inches from the bottom one. Be sure to keep grass and weeds cut from under the bottom wire so not to short it out.
With these few adjustments to your horse property you can safely house your over or undersized horse and make them feel right at home.
Making Allowances for Big and Small Horses including Miniature Horses