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Wood for stall boards?

In rehabbing a barn, I have ripped out everything but the posts pretty much. When I do a google search it seems most people use pine boards? (Unless amish built as they seem to be able to access oak. ) So do I go with pine boards (edited to add, or maybe fir if I can get it) for the interior, or oak? If I go with oak, I will likely have to track down a saw mill to get them. But my other concern is wear and tear on my joints drilling in screws for (hard) oak and sawing to size. But I also know how fast horses can destroy things! If I go with pine I was going to use 8in wide or 10 in wide boards (more likely to survive a kick?) Thoughts appreciated on how to best get this done with only one older person doing it…

Can you get Ash?

We used White Oak, which might be hard to find. Buy it green, use galvanized nails/screws so the tannin in boards doesn’t rust fastener heads off as time goes along. Boards harden as they dry out, which is why you want green wood if they have it. Plus Oak tannin tastes terrible green, most horses leave boards alone while green.

We got ours from a sawmill, unplaned (rough finish, not smoothed down), to keep the boards thicker, stronger. You lose thickness, width, going with smoothed, planed boards. So a 2" x 10" is actually that size. Green boards are HEAVY, you probably will need help putting them up and screwing them into place, whatever board thickness you plan to use. Green wood will shrink a bit over time, years, so anchor it down in several places on each board, to keep it straight.

Stalls here have double walls for safety. Had ONE horse kick thru a wall, trap her leg and then saw it to bone before we found her. Taught us not to trust single board thick stall walls!! Granted, she was a big girl with BIG (size 4 shoes) hooves, lot of power, but a double wall would not have let her hoof go thru to get trapped. She healed, was useable later, but it was a long time doctoring her DAILY, bandaging over bone, stall rest for months, until we got skin and hair back on the leg.

Pine is too soft, tasty, for us to consider it for stall walls. Even with the White Oak, we have angle iron pieces under stall bars to prevent chewing wood.

Red Oak is not as good, grain is not as tight, can be splintery. Check with the Amish, they would know where to find sawmills.

If you go with pine, use #1 Southern Yellow Pine (tongue and groove for extra strength). White oak is good too, but you will need to drill holes before screwing together. Red oak will work as well, also need to drill before putting screws in.

Your location may dictate your options. I’m in PA and can get oak but frankly it’s a pain to work with. I went with tongue and groove pine. Cost wise the difference wasn’t huge between rough cut oak and the pine. Out west I think cedar is sometimes easier to come by?

I’m in New England, and have used rough cut oak from a local sawmill for two barn renovations (2x8 boards, reinforced in the middle of the stall wall). We created a channel at the posts and the back wall with angle iron and slipped the boards in so that they can be removed if needed. Which we have done when we take down a wall between stalls to make a foaling stall.

My experience is that horses love to chew on pine as much as kids like to chew on popsicle sticks, but YMMV.

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For stalls we used dimensional lumber from the local supply store (we used what is sold as 2x8) which is pine.
It has held up just fine.

The fence is 1" rough cut oak and we have replaced far more boards in the fence than on the stalls.

We used T&G Southen Yellow Pine, 6" boards. I’d have used 8-10 if not T&G.

They are stacked to 4’6", then 2" wood spacers use to add plain 2x6 boards to 9’

All boards are just slid into metail U channels.

The stability issue is taken care of with a center metal brace screwed in. It’s got a pretty flat, curve profile to no real damage to a horse is possible.

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I boarded multiple horses for years in a barn where the stall walls were double thickness of exterior grade 3/4 inch plywood (CDX), instead of dimensional lumber, making the walls the same thickness as nominal 2x lumber. It held up great all that time, including against kickers (not my horses). The plywood didn’t splinter, break, or crack – or injure any horses – over the dozen years I was familiar with this barn. The stalls housed, at various times, an assortment of stock, warmblood, arabian, and gaited horses, and ponies (but no drafts). I visited the barn roughly another decade later, and the stall walls were still in good shape (at that time, over twenty years old).

I mention this because I considered doing the same, after this positive experience, if I had erected a pole barn (however, I went with a MD all metal one). I know the barn owners did the work themselves; the husband welded the basic stall structures, and the wife was on the small side, like me.

I don’t know if plywood has decreased in quality – as so many things seem to have.


My stalls are rough cut poplar, 2x12 or so. The tops of the wood are protected with metal after the chewing started.

Thanks for the input. I have some time yet to figure it out. It will be only me doing it so that is a consideration… or reality.

Since it is to be a one-person job, I recommend tongue-and-groove southern yellow pine.

Oak is too heavy and difficult to cut, drill, and nail or screw. Plywood is too awkward for single person handling. Plain lumber needs proper spacing, best achieved with two installers.


We had a horse at a training track who did the same thing with getting a leg caught between boards in a stall wall. It was a long time ago now, myself and another groom found the situation when we fed in the morning. We figured she must have been cast somehow, but she was standing when we found her. She wasn’t normally a stall kicker. I opened the stall next to her, and found her foot and ankle sticking through the wall, the boards snapped closed on her cannon bone. The other groom pulled on the board, and I lifted the leg out. It was amazing that the mare survived, and that the leg was not broken. But it cured me of ever trusting an unsupported wall of planks in a stall. These were OLD oak boards, very hard seasoned, I would not have ever thought that it was possible that they had that much “give” in them. I’ve never heard of another case of this happening until you wrote this.

The moral of the story is… always add a center support post in the middle of a stall wall.


And I guess I dont have to be -it is that-or this-- maybe I should be open to a mix of hard wood (oak top most chewable board) and pine (everything below)…? That would significantly reduce the wear and tear on me if only 10% is oak…but maybe discourage horses from eating everything the first night before I have had a chance to consider metal strips…(Although I know some horses also love to scrape holesin thinner pine boards…so creative and destructive!).(Why do horse love wood so?!)
Agree about post mid-way to help support. You all have given me alot of great ideas-dos and donts.

Ash in U slots is my favourite next to cinder block. No screwing/nailing and if a board does get damaged, it can easily be replaced without having to remove screws/nails or put new ones in. Extra bonus, if you make your U slots tall enough, you can raise/lower the height of dividing walls depending on how friendly the neighbours are with each other.* Another bonus, if the barn is already set up that way or you can make it happen, 2 sets of U slots per wall is ideal. Shorter board lengths = less breakage from kicks, etc. and also make them easier for one person to replace on their own.

*read that as “how late in her pregnancy the mare is before she decides she can’t stand the sight of the gelding in the neighbouring stall anymore and how sick she gets of the foal before weaning that she decides she needs adult company again” :rofl:

Do buy the steel made for horse stalls/u slots/tracks? I got some but will need more but was wondering if I could make u slots on the wider 6x6 s (back wall) using wood. (The shipping is rather pricey.)

I agree about doing it that way, At least repairs are easier.
(Edited to add, dull me, it took a bit of staring at pictures before I realized folks used u tracks to do corners…)

I’ve been in both steel U track barns and barns with the U tracks made from wood. Both work absolutely fine.

Thanks-(and for understanding my question that was missinga few words! )

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Oak is worth the extra work and expense, if you can handle both!


Just as an update, Thanks for all the advice.

I went with oak from the mill (8ft and 16ft) for dividers and wall kick boards. I used pine as the fronts (clarified–of the stalls facing aisleway) just for looks but with an oak board on top for wood eaters. I used a combination of U track and nailing into post depending on the configuration and spent a lot of time staring at things and being indecisive and not knowing what to do. I decided I hate nails (after pulling out and deconstructing the original stalls), love the impact driver (where has it been my whole life?) and I love screws (oops that was a mistake let me take that apart…). Nothing was standard so everything had to be cut (ugh). As I am on a budget I used goat panels (4 gauge wire (?) for stall grills (more expensive than straight livestock panels but squares are small.) I figure I can hang plywood over the grills if there are fighting neighbors as I sure love the light and open look and air flow as the barn could be quite dark. I also added more windows (amateur hour but they work.) I also have traditional black stall (racetrack-type) screens for stall doors (to be hung.)

I am I think in the final 25 percent to complete. However, I cannot post pictures as I did not pull out the original posts and some other existing configurations so straight and plumb is not the rule in this universe, which is a little embarrassing. (I will not invited to join the master carpenter union.).But it is in tight and fingers crossed, safe and strong. The true test will be after a week of kicking, chewing, spinning, arguing horses!

Last question–I still cannot figure out whether I should screw in a 4 foot vertical board every 4.feet along my horizontal kick board walls–to strengthen and help absorb kicks, and if so rough oak or smooth edged deck board…? Do I need to worry about the edges of the rough oak boards? I am so indecisive…why i waste time staring…most of the horizontal boards are 6-8 ft in length screwed to posts or u trak…Thanks!