the perfect barn: lighting

during my barn-sitting gig, i cleaned the stalls quite a few more times than normal, as centex has been enjoying enduring a monsoon. i typically LOVE cleaning stalls. it’s meditative, satisfying, physical work. i don’t even mind cleaning henry’s stall (he is the peeing-est, pigpeniest pony in the barn!). what i do mind is not being able to see what i’m doing when i’m knee deep in shavings, wet and dry, and trying to sift out pulverized apples.

our little barn has 7 stalls on the south side and 5 stalls, plus two cross-ties and tack room, on the north side. an aisle runs down the center. the only electric lighting in the barn comes from classic fluorescent fixtures running across the aisle. there are no lights above the stalls.

the fluorescent light barely reaches into the stalls. not only was it dreary, i felt like i couldn’t see well enough to do a good job. there were shadows everywhere, especially when i had to clean around a horse or turn my back to the light source. and, when i cleaning the stalls on the south side, which receives natural light, i had to contend with looking right into the sun or being backlit. it was a frustrating challenge.

what i realized as i ruminated on the best lighting for a barn is that, at a minimum, stalls should be lit individually and on a separate switch than the aisle lights. (don’t want to jolt everyone awake during bed check!) if i could have turned on the stall lights while cleaning stalls, i bet my work would have been done better and faster! this would be especially true if the stall lights were oriented lower and positioned around the stall rather than a single light source from above. of course, this is assuming the BO has the capacity and funding to redesign the electrical layout of the barn.

I found this perfect summation from nancy ambrosiano, author of Complete Plans for Building Horse Barns Big & Small on stable management:
“Planning for barn lighting is different from regular work-surface lighting, since you have a big equine body in the way of things,” she says. Lighting straight down from above is blocked by the horse’s torso, throwing the stall floor and the horse’s legs and feet into shadow. “Rather than centering a fluorescent fixture over the middle of the stall or grooming area, place lighting at the corners or wall edges, shining inward to light lower-leg focus areas,” she says. (see more at:

you can see the fluorescents running along the aisle. the fans in the center are a nice touch, too.

can i get an amen?! from what i can tell from many threads on COTH, the consensus seems to be to place the long fluorescents above (at least) two parallel stall partitions, thus doing double duty (illuminating the sides of two stalls at once) and covering as much ground as possible. i’d also suggest placing the aisle fluorescents along both long sides of the aisle, to cover more area and illuminate the front of the stall.

i know some of y’all catch shifts doing stall at your barns. any pet peeves about barn lighting, or tips to make cleaning stalls more efficient?


8 thoughts on “the perfect barn: lighting

  1. I agree with individual lights for each stall. The barn I just left had that in the old part, but the new part only had one light switch for the entire barn. I can’t imagine trying to clean stalls with no light in them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hahaha…I’m loving this post. Andy and I will daydream/brainstorm about how we’ll build our dream barn in the future. Our last idea was having automated doors that we could control from in the house so we could turn out horses. 😛

    But I do really like the idea of individual lights for each stall! I use to clean stalls with a big headlamp on so I could get everything.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Make sure the headlamp has enough lumens! Makes a huge difference. Auto doors for sure…we were debating about either sliding auto pocket doors or a swing out gate with motion sensors so it doesn’t accidentally close on a pony.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. poorly lit stalls are the WORST to clean! my barn does pretty good tho: we have three strings of lights – one down each row of stalls and one down the central aisle. plus we have a TON of skylights. skylights really make a world of difference (esp if you’re doing most of your stall cleaning during the day)

    Liked by 1 person

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