Everything About Run-In Sheds for Horses

Last Updated on December 16, 2021 by Urska

The term “horse run in shed” is commonly exchanged between barn owners and managers. You’ve probably seen run-in sheds out in pastures without even knowing it! But what purpose do these sheds serve, especially if your horse lives in a stall half of the time? 

Run-in sheds are tremendously useful and beneficial to horses.  Horses that are on all different kinds of turnout schedules and routines can benefit from a run-in shed.  In this article, I’ll be analyzing the importance of shelter, different types of turnout routines, and how run-in sheds can help supplement both of these things.

I will also be discussing the design of run-in sheds, the purpose or run-in sheds, and how you can purchase or build your own run-in shed.

Horse Run in Shed: Importance of Shelter

Horses are hardy animals.  Technically speaking, they are classified as livestock.  Horses have lived for decades in the wild, without the help of humans.  But, in the wild, there are no fences. When we domesticated horses, we put them in pastures, where they are not free to roam where they may want or need.

In the wild, when horses need shelter, they simply roam around until they can find shelter.  But, when we put horses in pastures they no longer have this freedom.  If a horse’s pasture does not provide natural shelter of any kind (i.e.- trees, shade, etc.), then a horse is left to be subject to the elements in ways he would not be naturally.

Horses need shelter for several reasons.  First, extreme heat. Horses, especially dark horses, can overheat in extremely hot environments when exposed to direct sunlight.  It can also be unpleasant in their eyes.  

Second is precipitation.  Sure, horses can get wet when they’re outside and be okay.  But, constant dampness and the inability to dry off can be bad for their feet and their coat.  Constant moisture in a horse’s feet can cause thrush and other conditions. Constant moisture in a horse’s coat can cause rain rot and other conditions.

Third is the wind, and more specifically, wind in conjunction with moisture.  When horses get wet and are exposed to wind, they can become extremely chilled.  Think of how you feel when you go outside with wet hair. This can cause horses to become sick and even colic.

So, the existence of some kind of shelter is necessary for the horse’s wellbeing and comfort when spending time outside. It’s something they could come by naturally before they were domesticated, and it’s something we need to provide for them now that they are under our care.

Horse Run in Shed: Different Types of Turnout

Every barn does turn out differently.  Sometimes horses live outside 24-7, sometimes horses spend the day time outside and nights inside, sometimes horses spend the day time inside and nights outside, sometimes horses stay inside all of the time and receive turnout in indoor arenas, and so on and so on. 

Frequently, turnout situations depend on the number of horses, the size of the barn, and each horse individually.  For example, we have a few horses right now that are rehabbing from injuries at my barn, and they are on half-day solitary turnout.  The rest of our horses go on full-day group turnout and come back to their stalls for the night to sleep and eat.

Horse Run in Shed: Different Types of Turnout

Regardless of what kind of turnout your horse is on, he must have some kind of shelter.  There are different ways of providing shelter for different turnout situations. Sometimes, natural shelter is enough, but frequently man-made shelter is necessary

Run-In Sheds for Horse

One of the most popular forms of man-made shelter is a run-in shed.  Run-in sheds are perfect for horses on group turnout that either live outside 24-7 or that live outside for full days and come in for the nights.


Run-in sheds are essentially rectangular sheds with one of the long walls missing.  They provide a stall-like area for multiple horses to stand under.  Sometimes, run-in sheds also have areas for hay and water, so that it can also be protected from the elements.  

Run-in sheds are typically the length of at least a few horse stalls and are at least one horse-length deep.  They need to be tall enough for your tallest horse to be able to use without the worry of him hitting his head. Run-in’s typically looked like a smaller version of your barn.


As illustrated earlier, the purpose of run-in sheds is to provide horses with shelter from inclement weather situations.  It can provide shade from intense sunlight, shelter from precipitation, and protection from wind. It creates a dry and protected area for horses to go into whenever they want or need it.


If you are looking into installing run-in sheds at your barn, you have several options.  Many people choose to build their own run-in sheds.  They’re relatively easy to assemble, and only require basic materials; wooden planks, sheet metal, and the tools necessary to put it together.

Some companies sell run-in shed kits that you can build yourself.  Some companies provide installation and building services. Or, you can start from scratch and build them yourselves.


The shelter is an essential part of a horse’s life.  They’re not like us and cannot simply go inside when the weather gets bad.  In the wild, horses were not limited to the pasture space they are today and could seek out natural shelter whenever necessary.

Since this is not an option for our horses, we must provide them with the shelter that they need.  A great way of doing this for horses that spend lots of time outside is to provide the horses with run-in sheds.  Run-in sheds allow horses to come and go from their shelter as they so choose.

Run-in sheds keep horses dry and protected from whatever inclement weather they may be hiding from.  I hope this article helped you learn more about the importance of shelter and the use of run-in sheds! If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences using run-in sheds!


What is a run-in shed for a horse?

It's a shelter or shed with 3 sides, usually made of wood, used to protect a horse from the elements, particularly rain. They are small and simple and because of that less expensive and easier to build.
A horse has the ability to use the run-in shed whenever he likes. It can be used for year round protection. 

How tall should a horse run-in shed be?

The height of a horse run-in shed depends on the horse’s size. A large horse will require a taller run-in shed than a small horse. Horses with longer backs require a longer run-in shed to accommodate them comfortably. 
A horse run-in shed should be at least eight feet high at the back end and ten to twelve feet high at the front to accommodate a horse of an average size.

Do horses need a run-in shelter?

Horses need shelter from wind, rain, snow, sun, and heat, and a safe place to rest if they are injured or sick. A simple three-sided shed is usually enough to protect them from the weather if you orientate it in a way that the open side is the least exposed.
A run-in shelter is an area where a horse can go for a brief rest and get a chance to cool off or hide from the storm. It should be shaded from the hot afternoon sun, have a clean, dry bedding area and a water supply.

How big should a run-in shed be for 4 horses?

The size of a run-in shed should be proportionate to the size of the horses it protects. There are many different opinions about this topic, some people recommend providing a minimum space of 12'x12′ for each horse while others claim that 10'x10′ is sufficient. Another technique is calculating space needed as 60-80 square feet per 1000 pounds horse.
A run-in shed for four average sized horses should therefore be at least 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. This should allow enough space for horses to turn around comfortably. 
A good way to estimate roof height is by measuring the distance from the ground to the top of the highest point of horse's head, then add about two feet for a safe head clearance. Roofs can be made of wood, metal, fiberglass, or composite materials.

How much does a horse run-in shed cost?

The cost of a run-in shed will vary depending on the size, location and materials used. The typical costs for run-in sheds are around $2,500 for a single horse.
Larger run-in sheds that are equipped with feed rooms, cupolas, cabinets, and other exciting add-on features can cost up to $8,000.