Draft Horse Tie Stalls - DIY

I offer this article as my opinion based on using this type of stall for over 30 years. I don’t claim to be the leading expert, just a horse farmer sharing what has worked well for me. I don’t advocate tying horses in stalls like these for days on end. Mine are in and out each day. In winter, they spend the nights in the barn. In the hot summer months, they are in during the day, away from biting flies, but they spend their nights on pasture grazing in the cooler temperatures.
horse tie stall
The newly-completed Suffolk mare tie-stalls showing the hardwood divider and mangers.

My barn is built in such a way as to have a small 31/2 -inch step-up into the stalls. The stalls have a concrete floor slanted toward that step. The elevation allows for a small accumulation of manure. The slant helps urine to drain to the back of the stall and onto the floor below, keeping their beds mostly dry. I clean the stalls at least once per day. The curb makes for a good shovel stop. The stalls, by design, keep the animals clean.

I have used dirt floors in the past with this stall design; it works just fine too. I have built a raised platform floor built from hardwood lumber. This design keeps them a bit cleaner than the dirt or clay floor but needs to be replaced as the wood rots. Urine also accumulates under the floor, aiding the rotting process and adding to unpleasant barn odors. I choose concrete for durability and cleanliness. I cover the stall floor with a rubber mat and bed with sawdust or straw.

I build my stalls either single or double. The double stalls work quite well for harnessing, grooming, etc. The only downside is if one of the horses doesn’t stay on his side or hates its stall partner. Recently, I acquired a pair of mares. One of these girls is especially light in the rear end during her heat cycle. Correction has helped her mind, but building single stalls keeps everyone safe even when I’m not there.

Size of the stalls is very important. The width for drafts should be 5 feet. A wider stall will encourage them to roll, risking the chance that they will cast (go down and get hung up) in the stall, leading to injury or even death. I build my double stalls 10 feet wide. This gives each horse enough room. They don’t seem to roll in them due to the other horse being there, I guess. I can only say that using a double stall has not been a problem for me, especially when it comes to a pair of geldings who know each other and work together often.

The depth of the stall from manger to the back of the stall is not quite as critical. I like to have mine fit the horse so that, as they make their manure, it falls off that step I mentioned earlier. When I had large, 18- hand, Percheron horses, I wanted 7 feet from manger to the back of the stall. This worked well for most of them, but there is always that one horse who will hunches up upon defecation and eliminates in his bed.

Upon recently switching to Suffolk Punch horses, I found that my stalls were just a bit too long for them. They would all make their manure right on the ledge at the back of the stall. This makes a mess and even builds a sort of dam, preventing the urine from draining off, too. I completely rebuilt my tie stalls with all of the aforementioned items taken into consideration.

I decided to build all single stalls. I built one for our stallion prospect with the center divider a bit higher than the rest. I added a few extra braces and screws in his stall where it made sense. I don’t see him as being a problem, but wanted to make sure that, just in case youth and testosterone get the best of him, my building would exceed his behavior.

I kept the stall width the same 5 feet as with my other drafts and found it to be perfect. The length however, I shortened by a foot. So, my Suffolk stalls measure 5 feet wide by 6 feet long. I just widened the mangers to push them back in the stall toward the manure curb. It has been a couple of months, and the new stalls are working out very well. The mangers are deep, with no false bottom in them instead going all the way to the floor. This makes cleaning them easy. They hold a lot of hay this way, too.

tie stall chain tie stall ring
Two views of the manger chain setup. On the left we see the chain from the outside of the manger.
On the right we see the heavy ring stop that maintains tension on the chain so it is drawn into the manger to remove slack.
To tie the horses in my stalls, I don’t use a rope. I use a chain with a snap on one end and a big heavy ring on the other. The ring pulls any extra slack in the chain into the manger. So, as the horse steps forward, the chain slack gets sucked in, too. When it steps back, the chain glides back with him. I use a 2-inch hole saw to make the hole the chain slides through. The chain is 30 inches long. They can reach their feed box, into the manger and are able to lie down comfortably. They can’t reach their neighbor in the adjoining stall or get their head over the center wall.

tile stall wall tie stall wall
The socket, pin and "U" design for the stall divider post.
The hardwood boards secured in the "U" channel.
Previously, I used to secure the post for the center wall by finding center then drilling a hole in the concrete. I would put a steel pin in the floor, then drill up into the bottom of the post and set the post on the pin. This worked fairly well, but big butts will eventually cause the post to split out on the bottom. This makes for an almost complete rebuild to repair or replace the post. This time I expanded on my post and pin idea.

I had my welder buddy make me a socket out of square tubing that would accommodate a 4-by-4-inch post. I had him weld a plate on the bottom and a pin to the plate. This would still go down into the concrete floor, but those same big butts would have to push pretty hard to destroy the 12-inch socket or split the post.

I also used a "U" channel to slide the stall divider boards into. The channel just streamlined the stall and will make it easier to replace a board if one gets broken or rots out. I had the hardwood lumber cut at a thickness of 11/2 inches, it slid into the channel quite well.
tie stall divider
The tie stall for the stallion features a higher center divider wall.

Each farmer needs to consider what stall design will work best for his climate and operation. These stalls work very well for mine. We do have a large foaling stall in another part of the barn, but, for a team and every day use, these work great.

Ralph farms in northeast Ohio. To see more of his writing, visit his blog at: http://ricelandmeadows.wordpress.com
This article appeared in the August/September 2020 issue of Rural Heritage magazine.

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