Essential Stocks

Should you add a set of stocks to your barn?

“They are a very good investment,” says Todd Gralla of gH2 Architects. Horse stocks for your barn, that is. Since 1973, gH2 Architects (founded by Todd’s father, Stan) has designed hundreds of horse facilities worldwide. But, big or small, the firm always recommends a stock area regardless of a horse operation’s function.

“All barns should have a basic veterinary area with at least a single stock,” Todd says. “It’s not just about palpation and breeding. There are other things you have to do – clipping, cleaning a wound, floating teeth, giving shots. We all know that horses react differently to different procedures that we need to do with them. Out of safety, stocks are necessary.” Before you add stocks, thoroughly think through what you want and what might be needed.

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“It’s just part of a good design,” Todd says, “thinking about it and having an open mind to look at options and different ways of doing something.” Here’s his list of what to think about.

1. Access: If possible, put the stock area in an easily accessible, central spot in the barn, with room for adequate space around the stocks. “You want to provide access to that stock area from the outside of the building directly into that space,” Todd adds. “You want an area where a veterinarian can pull up a vehicle immediately outside where it’s convenient to go in and out to get what he or she needs.” Todd makes that parking spot covered, if he can.

2. Traffic: You want one-way traffic flow through the stock area, ideally in one door and out another. “That way, you aren’t trying to turn a horse in a tight space or back it out of the stocks,” Todd explains. “That’s how a lot of accidents occur.”

3. Water: You need to get water to the stock area and away from it. Todd often incorporates a spring-loaded, retractable hose reel and sprayer at the rear of the stocks, mounted about 7 feet high. “How it’s plumbed depends on the building,” he adds. “If the stock is tubular steel, the lines can be run inside so there are no exposed water lines. Or it can come down from the ceiling. However you do it, you don’t want any exposed water lines. “I can’t tell you how many stock or vet areas I go into that have tiny, residential-type floor drains – they either are slow or they back up all the time,” Todd continues. He recommends high-capacity trench drains with a sump box and clean-out backet to catch larger debris such as manure and hair, keeping main drain lines clear. “We generally put them to the side of the stock because some horses don’t want to step on it,” Todd says. “The drain usually runs the length of the stock.”

4. Flooring: For traction and sanitation, Todd likes seamless rubber flooring for the stock area. “There are rubber mats you can custom-cut for the room, and then go back and seal the seams,” he says. “Or you can use a troweled-in product. They can be troweled in over most hard substrates like concrete, or even a packed gravel screen. They’re flexible, non-slip, seamless.” The problems with sectional rubber mats or interlocking rubber bricks are the joints – they trap bacteria and can be difficult or impossible to sanitize.

5. Electric: “Power is another thing often supplied at the stock,” Todd says. “It can be overhead, with a retractable reel, or people might prefer it at the wall.” The plug should be out of the horse’s reach and should have a GFI (ground-fault interrupter) circuit breaker with a water-proof cover. “You can retro-fit almost any existing plug to a GFI,” he explains. “The best way is at the breaker box. It’s more reliable and it has a longer life. The ones you find at the wall are ultra-sensitive by design and burn out faster.” Todd uses GFIs “everywhere in a barn. It could be wet anywhere, and you could have wet hands or feet. It’s a good safety measure to keep from getting electrocuted.”

6. Lighting: “You want good task lighting,” Todd says. “You are often doing fairly detailed tasks in the stock, like suturing.” Lighting should be high, out of a horse’s reach and encased in a protective cage.

7. Corners: “We never lay out a stock area where any cabinetry or counters have outside corners that a horse could run into and injure himself on,” Todd says. “If we design counters along a wall, they are wall-to-wall.”

8. Heat: You might consider an additional heat source to the stock area, even if your barn is heated. In most cases, Todd installs gas-fired radiant tube heaters, or electric heaters, at least 10 feet above the stocks.

9. Stocks: Finally, think about the types of stocks you want. You can buy pre-manufactured stocks or order them custom-built. Stocks are typically made of steel – powder-coated, galvanized or stainless. A basic stock costs around $900, while higher-end stainless steel models can range from $6,000 to $10,000. “Our stocks have slots where you could put in a steel butt bar to accommodate a smaller horse or yearling,” Todd says. “Part of the whole value of the stock is to hold the animal. If the horse can move around too much, it could cause a serious accident.

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“Most of our stocks are also padded, at least in the inside front and back doors where the horse’s knees and hocks are in case they kick or paw,” he continues. “We also recommend stocks where all four sides open up, again for safety.” You also have to decide between an open or solid stock. The solid stocks are built solid from just above the floor up 4 feet to 4 1/2 feet. “Many people think that the chance of a horse getting down in a stock with open sides is greater because it can get its legs out,” Todd says. “But I think that’s a matter of preference and personal experience.”