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One thing I absolutely loved that my horse’s trainer has is a cross-tie bay and a separate concreted wash bay. When Moose came back from training I wanted to replicate, as much as I could, the things his trainer had so he didn’t feel so weird or strange coming home and those things weren’t there.
Designing and building a cross-tie area for horses on a budget is the way we planned this project. Partly, because we like to do our projects as cheaply as possible, reusing and repurposing material where we can. And also, because we knew we were not staying at that property so we needed something that would be fit for purpose but could be reused by the new owner, either as the same thing or something else.
We also built our own 3x3m stable which wasn’t entirely necessary but definitely useful. At this place we had to have them separate because Moose wasn’t using the stable all the time and was being used more as a hay shed, and the cross-tie area was used on the other side of a potential lean-to closer to where all his tack was.
Cross-tie areas are excellent to have on a farm anyway as they allow you to tie down your horse for any number of reasons, including vet and farrier visits. I find it most useful for tacking and just getting him used to being still and practicing being still in positive situations. It helps with his development.
So, it didn’t take long for me to find an easy DIY project on Pinterest and decide it was a ‘quick’ project my husband and I could do. In retrospect it was, we just did it later than we had initially planned and so the whole process felt rushed. But in essence, it really only takes a couple days and that’s a stretch as well as we didn’t use quick set concrete.
Planning your build
Building a cross tie area for horses is an important aspect of horse care. Here are the steps to keep in mind when planning your build:
- Choose a location: Select an area that is flat, well-drained, and easily accessible. Make sure it is away from busy roads and other distractions.
- Plan the design: Decide on the size and layout of the cross-tie area. A standard size is about 3mx3m. Consider adding a wash rack or grooming area.
- Prepare the ground: Clear the area of any debris, rocks, or vegetation. Level the ground and add a layer of gravel or crushed stone for drainage.
- Install the posts: Mark the corners of the cross tie area and dig holes for the posts. Use pressure-treated wood posts and set them in concrete for stability.
- Add the cross-ties: Attach cross ties to the posts using heavy-duty hardware. Use quick-release snaps for safety.
- Install lighting: Add lighting for safety and convenience. Choose fixtures that are weather-resistant and designed for outdoor use.
- Add finishing touches: Consider adding rubber mats or interlocking pavers for flooring. Install a hose holder and other accessories for convenience.
Inside or outside?
Our cross-tie area is outside, but that’s also because we knew we weren’t going to stay long at that property and just needed a simple solution. Many cross-tie areas are inside larger stables and are often enclosed on 3 sides with a range of hooks and ties to attach the horse to.
If planning an inside cross-tie bay area – especially if your build is new – then plan ahead as much as your budget allows. If you can add water, washing facilities, sloped drains and even heaters, then do so. It’ll make the area fit for purpose for many years to come but also make it useful for many purposes.
Making a safe grooming area for your horse
Your cross-tie area will most likely have a number of wall attachments so you can tie your horse safely. If your horse has been taught to stand patiently and quietly, this will make tying down even easier when you need to.
The actual ties need to be a proper length so your horse has some range of motion in his head and neck. Something like this one at Horseland is what you should look for. The carabiner hook on one side is the bit to attach to the wall hook, and the quick snap on the other side is what you attach to your horses headtsall. That way if he pulls or gets frightened, it will release without pressure, and he won’t get even more pannicky.
This allows him to see a bit more, which is good for the sensitive horse that might react to things he hears and can’t see. A little bit of movement is necessary for him to communicate what feels good. If he can’t move, you are the one with the disadvantage.
The ties should have some sort of safety mechanism to them to break away in case of an emergency. If you have a panicked horse freaking out in the cross-ties – you won’t be able to use any quick release snaps if they are attached to his halter – too much movement and flying legs.
Put the safety and quick release snaps at the wall for easy removal. This way, if your horse is freaking out you can keep your distance from him while still being able to release the pressure. You want them at your horse’s head so that if he freaks out and breaks something, the rope won’t be dangling when he releases. But really, put them at the wall and at the halter for optimal safety.
What we did
We did ours at 3m x 2.5m just because of the shape of the space we were working in. It’s enough to turn a big horse around (Moose is 16.2hh) and also tie him down to one or both sides, in either direction. We attached twist screws on with circular loops at the end to hook lead ropes or bungee cords to.
On the neighbor side, which is his most sensitive (as he reacts to shadows currently), we will put another lead rope across to tie across him and use that side as the wash side as it angles down that way anyway for water flow.
The only thing left to do for this project is to either pave or box it in. This area tends to hold moisture for long periods of time and especially in the wet season. So once my husband is back on deck and feeling better then we will look at an option to seal the base.
So far both Moose and I absolutely love the space. A few things I may add is a bracket to hook a bucket onto with his grooming brushes and things I need to carry back and forth from the tack shed. We have a water tank right by it which will be useful in summer to wash him down, so probably some kind of hook system to attach a hose to eventually.
What do you think? Do we need to add anything further to the cross-tie/wash bay area? I was thinking maybe we could extend the roof of the shed and add a few more water tanks to catch water, but I don’t know if that’s feasible yet.
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