Building a barn and getting horses.

The stayemmade about disposition is probably the most important. The seond is the footing and height. I have a good buddy who has a quarter horse crossed with a draft horse I cannot remember the draft horse breed for the life of me. He always said the footing was sound and given the stoutly frame could bring an elk out no problem.

If it were me and was looking for a mountain animal I would look for something in the Morgan breed of horses. The old man has Morgans and his have sweet dispositions even the stud. They are from the "old bloodline" and it was said "A Morgan will plow your filed all week and then drive you to church on Sunday". You could ride in and they would definitely pack out your critter. The down side to Morgans is they can be finicky with their diets. They do really well on grass hay, too much alfalfa can twist them up.

Now if going to the backcountry I'd consider a mule or mules as well. They tend to be less skittish of things with teeth and sharp claws, however, they can be, as we all know,a bit, more stubborn.

Obviously it's gonna come down to your personal preferences and what the budget will allow. I'm not a horse expert by any means just a few ideas. I gave serious consideration to taking one of the Morgans this year and am looking at doing it next year.

Horses are a great tool to have in the hunting tool box.
First thought when I read the OP. Morgan, first choice for a mountain horse.

For your barn/shop, if you have to build it as a combo build it as big as you can afford. I have a 60x40 horse barn and a 60x40 shop. The horse barn I had build, the shop was already onsite when I bought my place. knowing what I know now, I'd build each bigger if I could afford it. My needs are slightly different probably, but I'd say I'd recommend it regardless.

My horse barn has Six 12x12 stalls, tack room and future wash stall. I have a spot for a 3x3 bale to feed horses. I store my winter hay in the shop and I buy enough for an entire winter before folks get into panic buying mode. Each stall has a turn out feeder and each stall has an auto heated waterer. Think about winter when you build and where you'll have run outs, where wind will come from, where you may have drifts needing to be cleared.

Hay is a complete seperate subject.
Congrats on relapsing into the horse habit. I find the more I ride in the off season , the more fun having horses on the elk hunt is. Find a trail riding group like Backcountry horsemen to kinda force you to load up fairly often and go do overnights. You will dial in your camp set up through the dry runs. Right now my overnight-long weekend trailer camp could fit on 2 pack horses in the boxes I store 'em in. i could get down to one pack horse for a solo weekend if I had to.

Barn Design hasn't been a big priority of mine, but if I had the need to build one I'd be sure to have a breezeway to saddle, groom, shoe and vet in the shade/under lights/ and out of the wind and weather. Could serve as a parking spot for tractor etc... Make it 12 ft wide and the Stalls 12x12 under the roof. Have full stall width opening options on the stalls so you can get a tractor with bucket in. If you want runs, go 36x12 outside minimum. I like pasture access so you can turn out/catch from the stall/runs. 12 ft panels give flexibility until you verify how you want your layout. If cost is a limit, you could do just a covered overhang and tie horses separate to feed. Individual stalls are NOT required, but nice. Don't forget Electric fence as an option to divide up the herd and save pasture/hay ground.

Covered Hay storage is important to me, especially with hay north of $300 per ton. I'd consider a separate pole barn for that from a Fire Safety issue. It can be an additional covered area if a breezeway isn't an option. Be sure it is tall and wide enough for the most automated hay delivery options possible (Squeeze or Stack Retriever)
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One of the first things you learn about horses, is they like to roll in the dirt. I guess a show horse needs to be all polished up, but horses like a little dirt in their coat, it seems.
One of the first things you learn about horses, is they like to roll in the dirt. I guess a show horse needs to be all polished up, but horses like a little dirt in their coat, it seems.
Different kind of horse people.
What would I know.
Nicest people around, love their horses all the same.
I suggest you reach out the member Mountain K on hunttalk. His Facebook page in Kincheloe Mountain Horses.

I would pick his brain and listen to any advice he has to give. His horses and mules are always top notch and spends a lot of time in the mountain with them.
Well since you asked for advice…
Anybody who thinks that mules are unpleasant to ride hasn’t been on a very good mule. That said, good mules are harder to find than good horses and probably less forgiving. A good older pack mule retired from an outfitter or something would be a great addition to your program. Most old broke mules will keep you out of more trouble than get you into any.
For the average beginner horses are simpler, easier, and more available as riding animals.
In choosing a horse I’d spend 99% of my energy on finding one with a great disposition. For every fault that is disclosed by a seller you’ll discover a couple more yourself, so why begin with issues. Get the nicest (most pleasant) horse you can and it will also be the safest. Not the fastest, or the youngest, just the one that likes people and is easygoing.
As for a barn or a tack room I’d buy a nice stock trailer with a tack room and just use that. Tarp your hay or feed round bales in the winter don’t worry about a barn. Horses are tough, way tougher than any human ever. If they can get out of the wind they will do fine outside. Water is probably more important than food a lot of the time, and harder to deal with so spend money on a good winter proof watering system be it a creek or a heated waterer.
Last, decker packsaddles are not only better for packing odd loads, which you may never do, but distribute weight better and are more adjustable. Buy a good packsaddle, preferably with bio thank (synthetic) rigging and it will be worth more than you paid for it in 20 years.
All that said horses add a huge headache and innumerable joys to most hunts. They allow travel and harvest in places you’d never hunt without them and are as much a style of hunting as a tool. You’ll love it.
As someone else said, rent them! I’ve been doing it for two years and packed two bull elk and a moose out with them. I’m too swamped with my life to do justice to keeping them ridden year-round. Plus, it’s nice not to have to worry about them the 10 months that I don’t need them.
I suggest you reach out the member Mountain K on hunttalk. His Facebook page in Kincheloe Mountain Horses.

I would pick his brain and listen to any advice he has to give. His horses and mules are always top notch and spends a lot of time in the mountain with them.

Amen. Go to their YouTube and watch the sale videos of their animals, super cool
I am ever curious about horses, so I looked into Kincheloe horses just now. I have watched his videos before, it is pretty obvious he trains horses very well. It was extra nice he trains gaited horses. The videos of a walking horse he sold at the Powell auction in 21 were very impressive.

I've purchased two of my horses at that auction over the years. Both of them have worked out very well. It is maybe not the place to purchase a horse cheap, or if you know very little about horses, but there have been quite a few really nice horses sold there the last few years. From a horse trainer's perspective, an auction gives them an excellent chance to get full market value for the animals.
The last number of years, maybe 8 or so, I have used borium shoes with snow pads while elk hunting. The traction on icy rocky trails is very reassuring. The snow pads do a great job keeping snow from balling up on the horse's feet. At first I was concerned that the snow pads might make thrush more of a problem, but so far so good on that.
+1! Borium is incredible not only for snow/ice but also on slippery rocks. Climbing or going downhill is huge traction improvement with borium. Snow pads versus balling is much better for horse as well. The trade off for safety versus low potential for thrush is worth it IMO.

Hoof condition dark versus light is big deal for hoof structure and long term hoof stability. You start tacking on heavier weighted shoes, hoof structure is critical.

Disposition, hoof type and condition, confirmation, wither height (just me), age, hands tall, are characteristics I look at. If I can lift a hoof without any feedback, plus 1. May sound crazy, but if I get inside the horse's space and it gravitates to me, I know that horse will be great to work with and under.

Not much to add on barn except to have a solid pad with chain cross ties anchored solidly in concrete. Huge benefit working on both easy and hardheaded horses. Plus LED lighting in all work areas.

I sold a Simco roping saddle years ago and still cannot believe how stupid that decision was. Still bugs the crap out of me.
Tough time to get into the horse game as horses are going for stupid prices right now.

You are in the right part of the country to watch for packing equipment at auctions for cheap. As far as the tack room in the back corner of the shop I would add a door that goes directly outside from the tack room. Less packing saddles across the shop to put them away. That was a mistake I made. Still might add the door

I use to have mules for riding and packing but since 99% of my hunting I do on my own I decided to move on from them. Just to many things that can go wrong when you are by yourself for me. Now we just have the wife and kids barrel horses. I will eventually have a couple llamas
A lot of good info here - my contribution:

  • Water - run the line. Fresh water is essential, especially in winter. Horses living on hay need that water or they will get impacted guts and it gets ugly from there.
  • If feeding round bales invest in a hay hut, pricey, however your hay stays dry and you will get 97+% utilization vs ~70% using a round bale holder.
  • Make your horse area in the barn easy to access for a skidsteer / tractor. Sure beats a wheelbarrow.
  • Check out mules, they are a different animal than a horse. Incredible stamina, sure footed, wont let you do stupid things, develop a strong bond with you (don't mistreat them, they remember and may settle the score).
  • If you have a mare, don't take her to the mountains if she is cycling or do to come in heat. Mother nature has blessed females with the ability to create life, the down side is the chemistry can get a little out of balance leading to more excitement than you want.
  • If you choose to use a crupper and your animal is not familiar, saddle the nag up with the crupper in place and choose someone who needs adjusted to get on. They work as well as any bucking strap.
  • Get that nag legged up before heading deep or in steep country; just like us muscle fatigue will set in. I had a friend bring a gelding that wasn't in shape, the second evening coming out his horse was blown out, I suggested he walk the 7 miles out, he decided not to and the horse started refusing direction, crow hopping and ultimately collapsed and rolled down a slope, with him under it. It didn't have to happen
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