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Photo courtesy Horizon Structures

by Nikki Alvin-Smith for Horizon Structures Presents Series

It’s true that good things come in small packages and horses are no different. But what about their housing needs? When it comes to the choice of stabling, owners of the smaller equus breeds face different challenges than those of the horse owner.

For this author the pleasure of owning and riding donkeys set a career with horses in motion. This is probably true for many equestrians. The smaller species of equus is more accessible for grooming and caretaking for a child, and is a better fit when it comes to riding too. Less intimidating to a child than their horse or pony sized counterparts, the donkey or miniature offers a cuddly bundle of joy.

When I was 10 years old my family and I headed down to the Cotswold region of Gloucestershire, England to purchase my first pony. I was beyond excited. We entered the driveway to the stud and saw donkeys and ponies galore in the fields alongside the car, and when my parents, kid brother and I sat with the farm owner in his office to discuss our equine needs, I was certain a new pony was coming home to me soon.

Not so much. Instead, unbeknownst to me, my parents opted to purchase two baby donkeys, a half brother and sister named Sage and Cleo. To say I was frustrated is an understatement. Nonetheless the donkeys would grow up as our staunch companions and I would train them to work under saddle. My kid brother and I spent many happy hours traversing the Buckinghamshire countryside alongside friends on their ponies. Needless to say, eventually I was to own my first horse, but the donkeys lived on at my parents home until their 30’s, and my Mom was forever in love with them.

We constructed their stabling ourselves, a 12 x 12 stable with overhang on two sides within the field for them to share. The stable door was four feet high, and when we locked them in the stall all that could be seen was either their noses or the top of their exceptionally soft furry ears.

Not surprisingly, Sage and Cleo disliked being denied their freedom to roam in and out of the stable, and locking them up was reserved for illness, or having them caught and ready for a vet or farrier visit.

If you own a herd or just a few minis, mules or donkeys or a mixture of all creatures great and small, the consideration of their access to the outside world with a view over the stable door, an opportunity to interact with their caregivers and visitors and their contentment in a much smaller space than a 12 x 12 stall can save you money when it comes to building a barn.

There are several modifications that might be made to horse barns to accommodate the smaller equine and when made at the time of the original design and build of the barn, these modifications can save the purchaser money overall.

Modified Dutch Door
Modified Dutch Door

A general rule regarding the size of a stall for a miniature horse or donkey is 10’ x 8’. The smaller size obviously means maximum usability of the barn as it provides the opportunity to add more stalls per foot in the structure.

  • Removal of the grills on the stall fronts and replacement of the sliding stall door with a 4’ x 4’ hinged door or possible a mesh 4’ x 4’ door that allows the occupant to see into the aisle, and the caregiver to have a clear visual on the horse.
  • Save money by not adding a grill above the partition wall.
  • For very small animals you can lower the dividers and stall fronts to a 3’ height with 3’ x 3’ doors.
  • Build smaller Dutch doors to a mini friendly size so animals can see over the lower part of the door.
  • Lower the windows so the occupant can see outside.

From a horsekeeping standpoint there is much to be gained from making these modifications in barn design for the smaller equus.

Animals that can see out the window and over the door will be much less bored, and are much less likely to develop vices. If you are worried about wood chewing, the addition of a strip of metal to chewable and reachable surfaces is a simple solution, and can be completed by the manufacturer at time of building.

For the visitor the access to the cute mini or donkey face that can be petted easily over the door by children encourages better interaction between horse and human. This is especially valuable if you are designing a camp for kids, or run a therapeutic riding program.

Smaller stable size means less bedding/matting and creates a cozier environment for the wee beasties in winter months. Not only are you adding more stalls per barn to increase potential occupancy, you can also enjoy the option of separating the herd for tacking up and grooming. This option to separate the mini or donkeys, is a necessity for a breeding or rescue operation.

So if you are interested in a barn design with a ‘cuteness overload’ factor as a visual treat to be enjoyed from your kitchen window, and one that creates a happy, contented environment for the mini, mule or donkey, don’t be shy to ask your barn construction company for special design features. Small stalls can also be suitable for small pony breeds and even Paso Finos.

Choose a company that is well-versed in building structures for horses and that has experience with the safety features that all types of equus require. Modular builds are particularly convenient when it comes to housing minis, donkeys and mules, as you don’t have to compromise on a design and can choose one that suits your individual needs and like all modular structures they are highly portable and on site set up and delivery can be instant.

The only caveat regarding these modified barn builds, is that if you come to resell the property the barn may be less useful as a sale feature to the future buyer who might have horses. Nonetheless there are many folks out there who have alpacas, goats, sheep and other small livestock that will probably appreciate the smaller stall sizes.

In conclusion, when you keep the ‘equus’ you own happy, you won’t regret putting their needs first. Happy horse, happy owner! This applies whatever size the wee beastie is or whatever its duties, riding/driving/therapy or simply a loving pet.

This article is brought to you courtesy of Horizon Structures Inc., Atglen PA – Modular horse barn specialists. Horizon Structures also offers both residential and commercial kennels, coops, multi-use structures and playsets. Please visit Horizon Structures to learn more.

10 X 24 double wide miniature barn
10 X 24 double wide miniature barn

Photo courtesy of Horizon Structures

Photo courtesy of Horizon Structures

About Horizon Structures: One horse or twenty, there's one thing all horse owners have in common...the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners. At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart "horse-friendly" design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses' stabling needs.

All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need -

Horizon Structures also sells indoor riding arenas, chicken coops, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures.

Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook. Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business. He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.

For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at Horizon Structures.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith: International published writer and creative content producer. Ghostwriting, blog services, PR/Marketing specialist. Nikki also produces catalog and website copy, white papers, e-books, corporate brochures, advertising copy, photography, videography for a wide range of businesses.

As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 35 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international level and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Iberian breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run Willowview Hill Farm, a private dressage training operation in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. Please visit to learn more about her affordable services.

Find more interested and relevant articles in our section on Barns & Stalls.

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