This section is from the book “The Stable Book: Being A Treatise On The Management Of Horses”, by John Stewart. Also available from Amazon: The Stable Book.
Ordinary horse hay racks are made of wood; they are wide as the stall, have the front sloping, and the back perpendicular. Racks of this kind are giving way to others made of cast-iron, and much smaller. As far as the horse is concerned, it matters little whether iron or wood be used. It is said that his lips are apt to receive injury from splinters which occasionally start on the wood; but this happens very rarely. Iron racks are at first more costly; but in the end they are the cheapest. They require no repairs; at the expiration of ten years they are nearly as valuable as at the beginning, and they are easily made clean, a matter of considerable importance when infectious diseases prevail. They are never well made. The spars are placed too far apart, and they all slope too much in the front. It would be easy to make them closer and of a more suitable form.
The face of the rack ought to be perpendicular; in order that the hay may always lie within the horse’s reach, the back of the rack ought to form an inclined plane. The spars ought to be round, and two inches, apart. For fast-working horses, the rack is large enough if it hold seven pounds of hay. The largest size need not hold more than double or treble this quantity. The bottom of the rack should be eighteen or twenty inches from the top of the manger. The best situation is midway between the partitions. But in this place, a perpendicular front, flush with the head wall, can not be obtained without recesses.
In reference to situation, hay-racks may be termed front, side, and under racks. The first is that which is elevated on the wall in front of the horse; the second, that which is placed in one corner; and the third is on a level with the manger.
The Front-Rack usually has a sloping face; and sometimes the inclination is so great, and the rack so high, that the horse has to turn his head almost upside down every time he applies to it. When the stable is not sufficiently wide, or the walls sufficiently thick, to admit of a perpendicular face, the front of the rack must be inclined; but the inclination need not be great. A rack having the face upright and the back sloping When the spars are of iron, this is the best rack. It answers perfectly well for all kind of horses. It is thirty inches wide, twenty-four deep, and nineteen from front to back. The spars are round, one and a quarter inches thick, and two and a half inches apart. Each rack should have a ring at bottom for securing the horse’s head. When tied to the spars he is apt to bend or break them. Small racks are not good for large horses, though suitable enough for fast-workers.
The Side-Rack may be placed in either corner, on the right or on the left; but when filled from the stable, it is most convenient on the left side. When made of wood, the side-rack usually has upright round spars, arranged in a semi-circular form. The back is an inclined plane. The bottom on the outside is boarded up, so that the horse may not injure his head against the corner. This is the best kind of rack for narrow and low stables. It takes nothing off the width of the stable and allows the horse to stand quite within the stall when eating his hay. The front might easily be made of cast iron; the back and bottom of wood; or the inclined back might be dispensed with, and it would thus be both cheap and durable. As usually made, it has all the awkwardness of the old-fashioned sloping front, and it is gener ally too small.
The Under~Rack is sometimes nothing but a large deep manger, having a few spars across the top, placed so far apart that the horse’s head can pass between them, and let his muzzle to the bottom. This is used when the stable is too low to admit an elevated rack. It is a poor substitute, troublesome to fill, and permitting the horse to waste his hay by scatter ing it among his litter, and spoiling it with his breath. Sometimes the under-rack differs not in form from the ordinary wooden one. It is three feet long, occupying half the breadth of the stall, and having its upper border level with the manger, which occupies the other half of the stall. It is sometimes sparred across the top, but most usually open; its front is sparred, sloping, and reaching to within a foot of the ground The object of this is to permit the horse to eat while lying. Few appear much inclined to take advantage of the contrivance. Some do; but most horses eat what they want before lying down. It allows the horse to breathe upon his hay, and to throw it on the ground; and when sparred at top, he can not get to the bottom of the rack, except from the front, and the front he can hardly apply to without, lying down.
The under-rack, though generally made of wood, and with an inclined face, is sometimes of cast-iron, and upright.
In some stables there are no racks. The hay is thrown on the ground, or it is cut and placed in the manger. The first is a wasteful practice, and not common; the horse destroys more hay than he eats. The second, that of cutting the hay into chaff, is advisable only under certain circumstances. At times hay is so cheap, that the quantity saved does not pay the cost of converting it into chaff. Whether that be the case or not, it is proper in large establishments to have racks in some of the stalls. This will be understood by referring to the article on Preparing Food.
The usual mode of filling the hay-rack is none of the best. When the loft is over the stable, as it always is in towns, the hay is put into the rack by a hole directly over it communicating with the loft. For certain reasons these holes ought to be abolished, and in a great many stables they are. The moist foul air of the stable passes through them; it mingles with the hay and contaminates it. The dust and the seed which are thrown down with the hay, fall upon the mane, into the ears and the eyes, and annoy the horse as well as soil him. Hence, he learns a trick of standing back, or breaking his halter; and horses have been seriously injured by the hay-fork slipping from the hand of a careless groom and falling upon the head or neck. There should be no communication between the loft and the stable. The hay can be rolled into a bundle and put into the rack from the stable. It can be thrown in at the top. The upper spars of low racks, when they have any, should be fixed to a frame opening on hinges; it saves the time consumed in thrusting it through the spars.
The other racks are all quite open at top, and the hay is thrown in by a fork.
The most common method in America is, to construct the barns with a space or hall of about fourteen feet in width between the stalls which face each other, and running through the whole width of the building. The hay is then thrown from the loft on to the hall floor, and thence into the racks This space acts as an admirable ventilator, and is otherwise useful for a variety of purposes. The floors of the lofts over the stables are made so close, either by double layers of boards or a single layer grooved and tongued, as to prevent the seed and dust falling on to the horses below. We think this arrangement better than any we saw in England. In cities, however, in consequence of the high price of building lots, this plan can not so well be adopted. Yet this need not prevent stables being made much higher between joints than is usually practiced, and giving windows and cross gauze-wire holes sufficient for ventilation, constructed on the same principle as the respirator for the human subject.