"Emergency move-home plan" (updated: moved elsewhere and doing great!)

I have commented in a few threads that the boarding situation in my area is getting really chaotic. Barns are closing, more people have horses so there aren’t enough spots available, etc. When barns close, people are even retiring older horses and sending them to Virginia for pasture board. The expensive private barn where I board my horse, which is completely hidden from the road, is regularly getting people showing up desperate for a stall for their horse (the barn is full and has a long wait list.)

My mare is 24 and retired – we do not need the indoor, etc. I started looking for a less expensive barn for her last fall, and am now glad I didn’t find anything. She is a high-maintenance retiree – needs very limited pasture, but space to move because she is arthritic, soaked hay for mild heaves/allergies, etc. She is luckily very easy to have around – excellent ground manners, not destructive of fences/stalls/blankets etc.

I do not expect the barn to close, but anything could happen! Therefore I am looking for ideas for bringing her home in an “emergency” – say a 60 day notice that the barn is closing (which has been standard for closing barns so far.) Because I’m honestly convinced that if that happened, the only other choice would be to put her down.

I am lucky enough to have enough land at home that zoning allows for 2 horses. I have about 1/3 acre to work with should I need to bring her home. Building a “real” barn, running electric to it, putting in a frost-free hydrant, etc. doesn’t make sense given her age and health.

(Interjection: yes I need to setup for 2 horses so she has company. There are several local reputable rescues always looking for foster homes, the Morgan breed rescues etc so I am not worried about getting her a companion.)

Fencing: I can fence up to within 5 feet of the property line. I do not think that the town would look kindly on electric fence, at least not anything that is quick to put up. I am thinking of starting with round pen panels because I can get them quickly, and DH and I can move them. I would start with a small area (divided in half for 2 horses) and add more over time, etc. but they are expensive!

Shelter: I am kind of stuck here because the land has a slope to it, I can’t put shelter at the highest point because of a 50 foot zoning setback and wouldn’t want to anyway because it’s right by the road. Adding a “pad” for a run-in shelter seems like it would be necessary… but expensive.

I do have storage for hay, shavings etc. Manure management – would need advice from the town about this, but they do allow people to compost manure on their property.

Has anyone else done this? what did you do and how did it work out? Budget? I am expecting mid to high 5 figures which seems a lot for something that is supposed to be temporary – but can afford it.

I can’t help w much, but you might think about White Lightning Coates high tensile wire - if you can find it. One can set the fence posts pretty far apart and a fence builder can install it pretty quickly. It looks nice and you can choose to electrify it or not. I think it may be less expensive than round pen panels over all of you do a large area.


In an emergency with no infrastructure I would do panels and the ShelterLogic cover over them.

With more time to plan, I would look at a Noble Panels run-in – https://www.noblepanels.com/12xpens.htm

It can be dismantled (and sold!) if you no longer need it, along with the panels.

Depending on how big the property is, whether this is visible from the road and house, you might want to upgrade to a nicer run-in. Klene Pipe Structures has another bolt-together and add sides and roof option, or Horizon Structures if you can get a truck in to deliver it pre-made.


Go get all the zoning figured out now. Know what you can and can’t do. Have a manure management plan in mind.


Oh absolutely! I know what the zoning code says, but details matter. A minimum of 2 acres is required, and one horse or pony per additional acre. (They are very clear that you can’t get two minis and count that as one horse!) We have 3 1/2 acres total; it’s the remnant of a farm. We are in what used to be a very rural area. We have a huge dairy barn, but it’s not suitable for horses, and it’s full of DH’s stuff in any case. Sigh.

There are very few horses anymore in town; probably 10-ish properties have them in a town of 40,000 people. One of my good friends gave me the name of the specific town building person she worked with when setting up her place.

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Resellable is definitely a feature. I like their 12 by 24 with the divider installed. Miss Mare is food-aggressive and will kick other horses, especially in a confined area. But she would be very unhappy without a buddy.

I don’t have all your answers but have a few thoughts.

If you go for the fence panels make sure they are safe. The tops need to fit together with no “v” or other place for the horse to get a foot caught. You can see what I mean by looking at a lot of round pen panels with rounded corners. Same safety issues on the bottoms, some marketed as safe for horses have a “v” type foot. Avoid those. I bought these: HiQual 6 Rail Flex Panels years ago and have been VERY pleased. They hold up very well. I’ve had them for I think over 15 years. The rubber joining system means they can be installed on slightly unlevel ground and have some give if a horse hits them. The square corners at the top mean they fit together with no gap for a hoof to get stuck. I had a very unfortunate issue with a horse that developed seizures. I had these panels installed as fencing next to my run-in with T-posts to hold them up in a straight line. His seizures consisted of spinning out of control. Poor boy hit those panels hard enough to break the t-posts off at the base. He came out of that horrible seizure with only a minor scrape to a hind leg, (we did have to put him down - so sad). I believe the rubber connectors of these panels gave enough to keep him from greater injury.

Another suggestion is using greenhouse shade cloth to keep down the wind. I believe mine are about an 80% shade rating. I put those on the front of my hay shed to keep rain and snow to a minimum until we could finish with something more solid. I’ve never looked back. They keep out everything but let some air pass through. You can order custom fit so they won’t flap and look quite smart.

Another not obvious cost saver is geotextile (like they put under roads). You just lay it down when you put your paddock footing in. Keeps the footing in tact and lets the water drain. It really keeps those smaller dry lot areas dry. I’ve used it in a smaller dry lot for maybe 15 years. This underlayment also cuts down on the overall cost of the pad for the run-in area as you don’t need to put in a complicated layered base. I bought mine from a company that supplies contractors in a big roll.

I’m sure others have fantastic ideas. Oh, one other thought, look on Pinterest for ideas. Seems like an unending array of creative ways to shelter horses


Hi QuietAnn. Knowing roughly which community you’re in, you might mosey down to the Building Inspector’s office. They are going to have jurisdiction over whatever you put up and can be helpful going over your options. I’d think hard about a run-in shed, which I believe is considered a temporary, moveable structure in MA, and therefore has less stringent building codes. IIRC, they can be built like a pole barn and/or sit on just sonotube instead of a full foundation. I’d use rubber mats as the flooring, although you might want to put 12" or so of crushed stone with some stone dust over it as a base for drainage and to keep it level.

Is your property configured so that you can add a shed extension to your garage? That would give you electricity, if not water. Best bet is to “T” off your water line somewhere in your yard and run a line 4 1/2 feet deep over to where you’ll install a deep shutoff hydrant. Please don’t put it inside the shed or paddock: horses love to rub against them and either turn the water on or hook their halters on the handle and nearly tear the hydrant out.

Just a few thoughts. I didn’t know so many barns were closing in our general neck of the woods, but I think some BOs are aging out and younger owners don’t want the hassle. So sad.


Thank you! It’s just nuts right now. A 35-horse barn in Derry, NH closed, and I know a smaller one in Ipswich closed last fall, because one of my friends boarded there and had to move her horse on pretty short notice. I think one in Georgetown is closing, and something maybe in Hamilton/Wenham, as that’s where most of the people looking for stalls are coming from. H/W, as you know, has already lost several barns to development in recent years.

My BO seems committed to keeping the place open, but I don’t want to get caught out with a high-needs horse and not a lot of choices.

If running water/electric, it would actually be coming from the house as the big barn is on the other side of the property. And yes to temporary – my friend in town specifically chose run-in sheds because of less hassle with the zoning board. Her biggest problem was that her property borders a pond, and she needed setbacks for wetlands protection.

I really don’t want to do this but I need to have a plan.

You have a barn? Got to be a way to use it! Even if what you do is build off of it so it creates one side of your new building.

Just today I heard about a barn in Byfield, I think, that’ll be closing this year. It makes me very sad.


my city just went to a rewrite of the animal control ordnance… since we have miniatures and real horses (and ponies) I was able to convince the city that 3 miniatures equal one real horse… and also had them do away with the terms Horse/Pony/Miniature as I really do not believe an enforcement office could tell if they were looking at a Horse or Pony.

But back in the 1970s when we lived in Kentucky we kept my wife’s pony in our basement. It was a drive in basement so we could walk the pony in/out easily. The house was a Cap Cod that had been built in the 1930s with a coal furnace that was later changed to natural gas…we converted to old coal storage room into the pony stall.

We did get a knock on the door from the city health inspector… We have been told you are keeping a horse in your house… well not a horse but a pony … then showed them the set up and they left. A few days later they came back to say they referred us to animal welfare who showed up a few days later… again went through the show and tell… that guy was all for the setup… helped I guess as we came down the stairs that the pony whinnied at him from her stall. During the day we kept her in the dog run in the backyard. City guy came back to tell us after checking the animal ordinances there was nothing that prevented us.

(regarding rescued Morgans, we have gotten one from the Morgan Safetnet, that program is pretty good)


What makes it not suitable? It seems most logical to try and modify it to be usable instead of putting up a new barn/shelter. You only need room for 2 horses and husband can move some stuff around?

I would opt for more solid permanent fencing ( electric is not) for the perimeter from the start so round pen panels work well until you can get that done.


If you have an old dairy barn, I would find a way to modify it for a stall, preferably with a door to the outside in the stall. You can build the stall with round pen panels, that again can be taken down and resold. You can also create a “feed room” with other panels to keep your feed and hay inaccessible to your horse.

I have a 60’ round pen, as well as 3 10’ X 10’ stalls that are made with round pen panels. The stalls all have a panel with a door in them, and the stall panels can all be added to the round pen if I want to make it bigger. Mine was custom built by an Amishman in Pennsylvania and is about 12 years old, but still looks brand new. It was not cheap, as it is hot dipped galvanized steel, nor is it light. It was worth every penny, and I cannot imagine farm life without it.

The round pen itself can be used for turnout, allowing you to control the amount of pasture access. I would recommend anchoring the round pen using t-posts, but again, they can be pulled up and resold.

This is the 4th farm I have owned in having my horses at home for the last 25+ years. One item we will never be without is round pen panels because they are that stinking’ useful.


I’ll get some photos tomorrow. There is a small space in front of the big roll-up door that might be ok in a pinch. The floor is concrete, though. Except for that section which has a high ceiling, the ceiling is about 6’6". DH bought the place several years before we met, mostly to have room for his car collection.

Meanwhile, my farrier came to trim my mare this afternoon, and told me of 3 other barns closing. All are small, but still. She has several clients who are putting down their elderly horses, rather than trying to move them. She has helped a couple find new places, but says there just aren’t enough openings.

(In better news, she says the mare has wonderful hooves and has had a pretty seamless transition to being barefoot.)


I would get the fence done now, I suspect ‘nice’ looking Centaur/Ramm/high tensile would be ok, depends on just how New England Nimby your town is?. If the dairy barn itself isn’t usable, can you create a run-in shed/stall set up that is basically attached to it? This saves you the cost of a back wall. Most barns used to have those actually, ‘calf barns’, open sheds that attached to the main barn. I’ve seen some very nice shedrow/run in stalls on COTH.
Although Shelterlogic seems like a fast and attractive answer, I would not go with it. First off, they aren’t that cheap once a footing that is decent for New England winters is added in. Secondly, they really don’t last very many years. And third and most important, they are Loud. Wind, rain, sleet, it is exhausting that noise, no matter how tightly the fabric is held down. Not much fun for a horse.
So, I would either build a little leanto on the barn, my first choice if the location and drainage is right, or get a nice mobile, ie temporary, wood shed. I’d put the fence up. I’d have it looking New England attractive, but no horse as of yet, just waiting. It relaxes the neighbors!
And then if January rolls around and you need to move…you can.
Your horse sounds like an ideal candidate for this sort of set up by the way.

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When I first bought my place, I had a plan similar to yours in case I needed to move my guy home before I could get my “forever” barn built. My plan was to get a Carolina carport (not necessarily that specific brand) and line the sides with wood for shelter and put up electric for a paddock.
At the time, the carports were pretty inexpensive and could be put up really quickly, but were well anchored and I liked the flexibility of design they offered - I’m sure the pricing has changed a bit in the intervening years, but it might be worth looking into.

I would not worry about the concrete floor. Some people prefer them. I had a barn that had them. I put stall mats in all the stalls and never had any issues.


I wouldn’t worry too mich about the low ceiling. We have two stalls in the underpart of the old barn. I don’t think the ceiling is any higher than yours. Most horses seem to adjust. I was surprised myself.

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Don’t over think things. Don’t over budget. When I moved my horse to my current property there weren’t any fences. You can put up panels in a stall size, hand walk the horse until more permanent fencing is up. We made a 48x48 drylot and added a tarp covered stall. Then added the perimeter fence. That stall is still tarp covered to this day. The key is having a tight tarp angled so the water runs right off.

Check Pinterest- many budget friendly shelter options.


Also a vote for just putting a stall in the existing barn. It’s the easiest option, and mats are cheap compared to building a whole structure. You may even be able to purchase a temporary stall (like the ones at horse shows) and use that. Plus, it would hold its value; once you are done just sell it and you will probably get what you paid for it.

I bought fence batting material from farmtek. It’s going up this weekend so I’m not sure how well it will hold up, but it was a fraction of the cost of wood and will be a lot easier to install. The rubber ramm fencing is also cheaper than wood. You could just do corral panels too, just as said before, make sure they are safe; in my area 3 horses got their legs caught in the top V of the panels in the last few months and one needed to be euthed.

As for low ceilings, I’ve come to find high ceilings are a thing humans want; the horses don’t seem to care. Unless she’s a huge draft horse, she will fit in even a 6ft tall stall just fine.

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