What Kind of Barn is This And Does Anyone Have One?

I was thinking (hypothetical/ future here) that a “barn” like the one below with a dry lot or surfaced track attached to it could work really well for providing free choice hay that isn’t ruined by rain or wasted on the ground while also providing horses shelter (not sure how this one is structured but I was thinking two walls and two sides open for airflow) and a soft place to lay on turnout. Does anyone know what this style is called? Or have one? I’d love to hear about real world use. I worry about legs getting through the gaps but I imagine it must be safe for the Maddens to use on their retirement farm.



Looks like a dairy barn to me.

Personally, I just see horses trying to get themselves through the gap and getting into a wreck. Cattle do it all the time.


I saw a barn like this in a video of Clydesdale in Scotland on YouTube recently. Although horses were still in individual stalls, they were feeding hay in the aisle as shown here.

I believe this is a custom barn, modeled after some aspects of standard dairy barns. I don’t believe there is an official name in the horse world besides ‘modified dairy barn’ - when I worked int the barn building industry this was referred to as a “custom barn”. The photos are from JMS’ barn, @beau159 - the facility owned by the Maddens. That barn has no ‘true’ stalls; IIRC the aisleway is 16ft and the stall area themselves something like 30 ft deep - this is not at all the normal 36ft barn set up with 12x12 stalls on one side, 12ft in middle and 12x12 stalls on the other.

This is a great approach to horsemanship-centric care versus industry-standard care, the two philosophies sometimes intersecting and then diverging due to constraints like rising land costs, increased amount of horses on smaller acreage, etc. Certain sacrifices must be made in areas with high human/horse population, and most barns are modeled now to fit as many horses in as little space.

To the average BO this kind of set up is not realistically in reach. If you are looking for something similar, I think the best set up is a shedrow with an open side and Hayhuts interspered out in the paddock/pasture.

I don’t see the gap as an issue but I do have experience with cattle and this kind of set up. Often it is the most pragmatic approach to feeding bulk head, and the cattle/horses having to put their heads through slots to eat keeps them stationary, which reduces bullying and food squabbling significantly because the bullies are too busy stuffing their faces to push others around.


Curious why it would be out of reach for the average BO? Just due to size/ construction costs?
I was thinking of a similar concept but on a much smaller scale (and not nearly as fancy on the outside - I’m no Olympian or BNT so no need for frilly faux stone exteriors or fancy weather vanes etc).
This would likely be the paddock/ pasture/ turnout shelter and hay feeding station rolled into one with a separate barn with standard stalls for layups or other needs. The longer I have horses at home the more I question the need for stalls at all except in extenuating circumstances like my horses coffin bone surgery or when we had a week of -10 to -20 degree weather that our area just doesn’t get.


If you have horses you want to prioritize movement over standing still and stuff inf your face for milk or dairy production.

The best horse welfare situation would be in a herd on open range with year round grazing :slight_smile: and failing that, the biggest pasture or turnout you can manage on the land you can afford, with run in shelters and supplementary hay fed as needed. A round bale in a hay hut, or small bales tossed put daily.

Blankets as needed in wet or snowy weather. Maybe a small barn in case you have an injured horse.

But there’s no need to keep horses inside at all, and it’s just more work.


The enormous cost. I left the barn building industry in 2016 but back then, the average cost for an average barn (36x60) was north of $50k. The structure pictured was in the probably six figures for costs alone, not including pour in/foundation.


The pics are Madden Mountain, where the retired horses and some of the young horses live. I follow their facebook page and love their videos.

This barn is only used in the winter - in the summer they move to pastures without access to this barn. I think there are 2 or 4 paddocks off this barn and the horses have quite a bit of space outside, but I don’t think they feed any hay outside in the winter. This setup works well for groups of horses that don’t have major differences in dietary requirements and is an easy way for the staff to get eyes on the retirees twice a day without having to go out in the snow (the farm gets a ton of snow). It’s also set up so they can drive the tractor down the middle to feed and through the horse area to clean.


I have seen a barn like that in the Netherlands. The yokes are a bit larger and I always marveled that they would stay in the stall.



I thought that was it.

My horses agree.
I’m on my 3rd set of geldings in 18yrs & tell people I built the World’s Fanciest Runin:
36X36 pole barn w/center aisle, as @beowulf described.
Horses have free access to stalls year-round.
Drylot surrounds the barn & opens to pastures.
They have inevitably chosen Out over In, though I do find all 3 (16h horse, 13h pony & 34" mini) sharing a single stall on occasion.
Today is a wintry 24F “feels like” 9 & they’re out in pasture.
That they stay out, even overnight, is evidenced by the minimal manure left in stalls.
This morning a single small pile in 2 of the 3 stalls.
Par for the course & by their choice.
I’ve seen the horse head for pasture to manure when I come to feed, then go into his stall to wait for hay & grain.


My very first thought. Works very well and no reason not to use it with horses as long as everyone gets along well.

I can see some pissy boss mare wailing on an unsuspecting low ranking herd member just because she can ( i have one) and they wouldn’t notice because they were eating and it isn’t easy to get away with your head & neck stuck through something…


Anything that has bars with open slats between them, in any configuration, is an opportunity for a leg to go through and get caught. Visualize a horse with colic, rolling next to these stanchions. Rolling over, leg goes through. Now, you’ve got a real problem. Build with as little extra structure as possible. Do not build anything that a leg can go through and get caught on. In this picture, if one horse is eating, has it’s head through into the manger, and another horse comes by and decides to move that horse out of that spot, the horse has to get itself OUT of there, in a hurry, in a panic. Just build open run in shed if you don’t need stalls. If you must put a round bale feeder in the middle of it all, that the horses can rearrange themselves around at will, that works. You can put the round bale in the feeder with a tractor, pulling the strings or net off it in advance of dropping it in there.
My winter barn is built like this, two big communal shelters, on either side of the hay storage in the center. Since I don’t have a mud problem, I can feed outside on the grass, year round. If it’s snowing heavily, I can unroll the round bale inside the shelter, but normally, I just unroll it on the grass outside, which spreads it out so there is little political interactions between horses. And if there is, one horse can simply move to another spot without having to pull it’s head out from between some bars first.


I’ve seen a more horse-safe version of this that may do for what you’re envisioning. It was a run-in shed that straddled the fenceline between two pastures (although you could also put one inside a single pasture.) Both long sides of the shed were open, one toward each pasture. Down the middle of the shed in line with the fence was a half wall, and on top of the wall was a hay feeder which horses could access from either side. At least one end had a door where people could pass through the dividing wall. I probably have a picture of this setup somewhere but it may take me a bit to find it.


What I like about the Madden’s barn is that the hay is in the aisle. People can deliver it and clean up after it without ever having to go in with the horses or out in the weather.

I’ve seen hay pavilions, some as run in sheds, that were also mighty fine. But not as labor saving as the dairy barn style.

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I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with the bars but I do think a modified version is an ingenious setup for the right situation. Meaning: probably not for a boarding, training, or sales barn that doesn’t have a stable herd situation. I’d love one at home in the middle of a large dry lot with flexibility in the fence configuration so I could separate horses if needed.


From what I understand they have a few retirement herds, so the ones in this setup are probably the docile, not very accident prone ones.

Where does one find this fabled breed of horse???

I look at the pictures and think of neck and poll injuries galore. I know it works for the Maddens, but I also can’t help but think these retirees have been through it all in their lives and very little concerns them… the average herd, you always have an asshole who likes to pin someone in a corner just to deliver a beating.


I have seen this quite a lot at European breeding farms. It’s a cool idea for the right setup, but I won’t ever have enough horses to make it efficient.

It isn’t that much different than a hay hut, etc., just on a big scale and covered.


I know this is the Maddens barn - I mentioned that in the OP :wink:.

I am not sure about building costs but imagine building a modified version would not be all that much more expensive than a run in (I hope). As for the movement aspect - the horses will totally park their butts in front of the hay. But that’s true with a building like this or with hay huts/ other hay feeders. The only way to keep them moving that I have seen is a very large pasture (150 acres) which just isn’t doable for most places and budgets. I figured a set up like this allows someone to feed hay and check on the horses without going in with them and allows for a hay station and shelter combination.

The bars do make me nervous so perhaps an option without bars (wood walls instead?) would work.

I would love to keep my horses out all the time, and try my best to do so, but tornados, ice, and extreme heat are all a thing here and I’ve heard too many stories of horses being killed by lightening, or injured on ice, and my specific horses do not do well in heat. So they are out most of the time, but having a barn to bring them in to is a must for my horses, climate, and personal comfort.