How to build an open horse shelter

Written by marie sberna
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How to build an open horse shelter
Horses need shelter from the elements. (horse #4 image by Adam Borkowski from

Horse shelters provide protection from the sun, wind, rain or snow. The best shelters are three-sided buildings, allowing the horse to choose when it needs shelter. This building should be sturdy enough to stand up to the weather and the horses. Be sure to face the open side away from the elements and choose a location that is on high ground, to prevent flooding inside the shelter. The size of your shelter will depend on the number of horses you have--approximately 100 square feet per horse. Be sure it is tall enough to allow your horses to put their heads up high. This project, which is 12 feet deep by 16 feet wide and uses a sloping metal roof, is designed for two horses.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 6- by 6-inch treated posts
  • 2-by-6 boards
  • ¾-inch plywood or 1-by-12 slates
  • Barn siding
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Post hole digger or auger
  • Cement

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  1. 1

    Level out the building site and clear it of all debris and large rocks.

    How to build an open horse shelter
    Make sure there is no debris at the construction site. (horse image by Marek Kosmal from
  2. 2

    Dig the holes for your corner posts. The holes should be at least 6 inches below the frost line. Be sure to use treated wood so your structure will last longer. The four posts for the back will need to be 8 feet high from finish grade and spaced 4 feet apart. The two front posts will be 10 feet high from the finish grade, and the two side posts will be 9 feet high from the finish grade (creating the slope for the roof).

    How to build an open horse shelter
    Make sure the horses can get inside their new shelter with heads held high. (horse lovers image by Lars Christensen from
  3. 3

    Secure the posts by pouring cement around the posts in the holes. Back-fill with dirt. Let the cement cure for 72 hours.

    How to build an open horse shelter
    Secure the posts (rotting wood on old barn near wears valley Tennessee image by Jorge Moro from
  4. 4

    Construct the frame with 2-by-6's. Place two 2-by-6 treated kickboards beginning at ground level, stacked. Place one 2-by-6 level with the top of the rear posts. Place additional 2-by-6's every 2 feet.

    How to build an open horse shelter
    Cut the boards to the proper length. (sawing wood image by Aussiebloke from
  5. 5

    Cover the roof with plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). Finish with a steel roofing material or asphalt shingles.

  6. 6

    Build solid walls inside the shelter at least 4 feet high. Use plywood or 2- by 12-inch rough sawn lumber.

  7. 7

    Cover the outside walls with barn siding or tin.

  8. 8

    Trim the corners of the walls to prevent sharp corners from injuring your horse.

Tips and warnings

  • Making the shelter portable will keep it cleaner inside. Or you can build the entrance large enough for a skid-steer or tractor to get through to clean up the manure. Although a concrete floor would make cleaning easier, it is not good for the horses' legs. So if you prefer this type of flooring, add rubber mats to cushion the floor. Consider adding electrical sockets and lighting, for emergency purposes. Check with your county and township to acquire building permits if necessary.

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