So as winter rolls around again, my two horses live outdoors on grass. While the fields they live in have ditches & trees at the edges, they don’t really protect from all of the weather that we get in Ireland.
So I wanted to get a field shelter for the horses, as when it gets really cold, rainy & windy, it can get pretty miserable.
First up, I asked some friends, hit up google and found out what are generally very good qualities to have in a horse field shelter:
10 REQUIREMENTS FOR A GREAT HORSE FIELD SHELTER
1) The field shelter must be portable. If you move fields, you’ll need to move the field shelter. Secondly, if the ground around the field shelter gets muddy, then you’ll need to move it as well.
2) Wind breaker. It’s got to offer 2 or more horses good shelter against the wind, coming from all directions – so a 360 degree field shelter.
3) Easy & cheap to fix & repair. When the bad winter & storms last Jan & Feb, I heard lots of stories of people who had mini-stable type field shelters with roofs, which blew over & were completed mangled in the high winds. I don’t want to have to buy a new full field shelter every time the wind throws it about.
4) Safety. If the horses are near / in the field shelter and it gets blown over, I don’t want them to be trapped inside it.
5) Cost effective. I want a field shelter for under €1000.
6) Easy to travel with. I do not want to hire a truck in order to get the field shelter delivered! A simple field shelter we can put into a horse box & assemble easily at home would be ideal.
7) Aesthetics – It’s got to look small & neat, and not look like I just built SouthFork in our front field!
8) Shelter – It’s got to shelter 2 horses VERY comfortably, and possible shelter up to 4 horses at any time.
9) Roof not required. I’ve heard a few stories about horses rarely looking for stables with roof shelters – more often they will stay outside in bad weather with a wind breaker instead. 3 walled roofed stable field shelters seem to be used more in the summer to get away from flies, rather than in the winter from what I’ve gathered.
10) Horse proof – the horses are not to wreck it by scratching on it or eating it!
So first up it was over to google. I live in Ireland so due to the size I needed to source a shelter made/sold in Ireland.
From an initial glance the basic shelters started at €1,000, were mainly walls & roofs and they were HUGE in size. Some were like mini houses! Most were not easily portable as they needed to be secured into the ground to stop them being blown over.
DESIGN AND ENGINEERING
So it was back to the drawing board. I’m very lucky that Dad is a designer & inventor, so after hearing of my issue, he decided he would design the perfect field shelter, that would hit all of my requirements above.
So the engineering research started. Dad researched the most effective design & materials for wind field shelters. Designs were drawn, re-drawn and walked out on foot in the field. We visited lots of local engineering firms, co-ops and steel & wood suppliers to find what we were looking for.
With everything planned, we visited O’Dwyers Steel, one of Ireland’s largest steel & manufacturing firms which are located in south Tipperary & they agreed to make our new product for us.
We ended up using steel and creosuited wood planks. It looked great in their showrooms!
TRANSPORT HOME & INSTALLATION
It consists of 3 seperate pieces. Each piece can easily be lifted by 2 people. It fitted easily onto a small trailer (or would be also fine inside a horsebox) for the drive home.
We decided to install it in the area of the field (right near the top of the field) where the horses like to spend most of their time.
To stop the horses scratching on it or trying to eat it, we put a single while tape of electric fence around it.
The horses were very interested in it while it was being put up, but wandered away to eat after the excitement died down again.
HOW DID IT WORK
For the first week after we put it up, as you can image we spent most of the time staring up the field to see were the horses anywhere near the new field shelter. The weather was pretty mild for November so the answer was no.
Over the last 7 days though there’s been a change.
One particular day, it was REALLY cold & windy. Everything was being blown around. The horses were standing being the field shelter and their tails were completely still – not moving at all! So our wind breaker design was an engineering success! It worked!
Since then the horses have started to use it pretty much very day. There is a lot of shelter from it, and they don’t ever have to stand too close it it to get its benefits.
That was always the big danger – will my horses actually use it once we build it? And the answer is a resounding YES!
So – I’m very happy that we now have a portable, effective and easy to fix field shelter that my horses seem to get a lot of use of.
If you’d like to get one, contact O’Dwyer Steel & let them know you are looking for the horse field shelter that John Heney designed