A Correspondent, C.W., having made some inquiry respecting the dimensions of stables, it being an object in which the interest of the public is materially involved, the following article, I conceive, will be acceptable.
"Necessity," they say, "makes a man acquainted with strange bedfellows." Truly the necessity, convenience, avarice, or carelessness of man often makes the horse acquainted with strange-that is, queer stables; most of them on the general surface of the earth, but others beneath it, while the first-floor is frequently the habitation of the better class of horse. Where a man may keep his horse from convenience is one thing; but as C. W. states he has built one stable, and intends building another, there can be no doubt but that he wishes to erect a good one, comprehending all that is necessary to his horse's convenience, comfort, and well-doing. The expense he means to go to in the shape of material, inside or out, has nothing to do with either-such depends on his taste or pocket.
C. W.'s question chiefly relates to the height of stables. A low one must, under any circumstances, be a bad-that is, an unhealthy one; while, on the other hand, a too lofty one is difficult to keep sufficiently warm for the horse's comfort. I should say that from thirteen to fourteen feet (at most) is about a correct height for a stable. Much has been written and said on the subject of ventilation; yet are persons apt to make mistakes as to the means of insuring it. We all know that exhalations rise upwards, whether arising from the insensible perspiration exuded from the body of the horse, or from that far more noxious source, foul litter. I will not suppose that in a well-conducted stable such a system as "mucking out" at stated intervals is permitted to exist; but supposing all saturated straw is properly removed every morning, there will be more or less exhalation: this, rising as high as the ceiling will permit, floats about till it settles on that and the surrounding walls; hence the damp often found in ill-ventilated stables. But let it be noticed that this perhaps imperceptible exhalation is ever going on; so, though it is constantly ascending, in its progress the horse inhales it, and the previous exhalation having no means of escape, a portion is kept down by that overhead; thus an impure air pervades the whole stable.
If it is admitted, which I trust it will be, that exhalations rise, it must be quite evident that the higher we place the means of its escape the more effectually we get rid of it. We frequently see ventilators (as they are called and designed to be) placed half-way up in the walls, or, at least, eight or nine feet from the ground. They are all but useless for the intended purpose, while they, on the other hand, answer a very bad one, namely, admitting the cold air (if it is cold) in far closer proximity to the horse's body than he would find comfortable. Windows to a stable should always, in my opinion, be made very close to the ceiling; ventilators the same; the great use of the latter being that they can admit a current of air when wanted so close to the ceiling that they purify the air the horses breathe, without rendering the general temperature of the stable cold and chilling. I hold that all horses should stand in the stable what may be called north and south; it matters not which extremity of the animal stands to the north. My reason for preferring such a position for a stable is this: in summer the ventilators can be opened, and will admit a refreshing cool air into the stable: and in winter, or cold weather, if they or the windows are opened, it is a genial breeze we want.
It will be found one of the greatest comforts possible to horses if for summer a second window (we will call it) is made to fit the aperture in the wall. This need simply be a frame, on which such canvass should be stretched as we usually see used for meat-safes; the same for the apertures of the ventilators. Those for the windows may be removed in winter to save them from weather: those used for the ventilators may remain all the year round. I have had an extra door made of the same materials, which afforded opportunity in summer to leave the usual stable-door open when wished. All these are very cheap contrivances, and add wonderfully to the comfort-and I may say well-doing-of horses, who can scarce get rest when their tormentors the flies intrude themselves.
I perceive that C. W. very judiciously intends having two stables, instead of putting all his horses together. It must strike every one that horses for different purposes are used at different hours, and thus, when many stand together, they are all kept on the qui vive; for instance, a hunter should have what hay we wish him to eat given him at three or four o'clock the day before hunting. Now, as this quantum may not be quite as much as he would eat, it is unfair he should see other horses racked up at eight o'clock; the same by water-not that I was ever one for stinting a horse of water to the extent some persons carry it. It was all very well to give a hunter little or no water on hunting mornings when hounds met at break of day; but that system is quite uncalled for when they meet at eleven. Still the treatment of horses destined to different occupations must be somewhat different, and thus horses should each stand with their own class.
Having said thus much of ventilation and the classing of horses, I will now venture my ideas of the size stables ought to be as regards look, convenience, and safety. They should be, if the racks and mangers run the whole length of the stable in front of the horses, eighteen feet from wall to wall; if there are corner racks and mangers, seventeen feet are sufficient. The width of a stable should be like that of a dining-room, just the same whether intended to accommodate eight persons at dinner or eighteen. The length of the stable depends, as a matter of course, on the number of stalls: I should say that for a six-stall stable thirty-six feet from wall to wall would be about a desirable size; this will be found to leave each horse about five feet ten for his stall. If persons fancy a wider stall looks more imposing, or if, in their opinion, a wider one is any comfort to the horse, by all means let them make their stalls so; but, personally, though I should recommend a roomy stall-which five feet ten is-I would rather not have them wider; it encourages horses to stand, as it were, corner-ways, and further admits of their getting the trick of stretching themselves out when they lie down, by doing which they frequently get cast. A person not very conversant with horses might good-naturedly remark: "It is cruel to deprive a horse of the means of resting himself in a comfortable position." My reply would be: It is not a comfortable position, and is only resorted to for a very short time by horses in extreme pain, or under extreme fatigue. The position is in itself a painful one, and is only used in the cases I speak of when, in common parlance, a horse "don't know how to lie" to ease himself. Under either of the circumstances alluded to, he is entitled to a comfortable box; but for horses in health, and in common work, it is merely a trick they learn which very wide stalls encourage. A horse can lie down and rest perfectly comfortable in a very small space-for this four feet would suffice; therefore, allowing him five feet ten, I think it will be admitted, is all that can be wanted both for appearance and convenience.