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A stable is a building in which livestock, especially horses, are kept. It most commonly means a building that is divided into separate stalls for individual animals. There are many different types of stables in use today such as the American barn which is a large barn with a door each end and individual stalls inside or free standing stables with the classic top and bottom opening doors. The term "stable" is also used to describe a group of animals kept by one owner, regardless of housing or location.
The exterior design of a stable can vary widely, based on climate, building materials, historical period, and cultural styles of architecture. A wide range of building materials can be used, including masonry (bricks or stone), wood, and steel. Stables can range widely in size, from a small building to house only one or two animals, to facilities used at agricultural shows or at race tracks, which can house hundreds of animals.
The stable is typically historically the second oldest building type on the farm. Free-standing stables began to be built from the 16th century. They were well built and placed near the house due to the value that the horses had as draught animals. High-status examples could have plastered ceilings to prevent dust falling through into the horses’ eyes. Complete interiors – with stalls, mangers and feed racks – of the 19th century and earlier are rare.
Historical stables in Great Britain had a hayloft on the first floor and a pitching door at the front. Doors and windows were symmetrically arranged. Interior was divided into stalls - a large stall was for a foaling mare or sick horse. The floors were cobbled, and later of brick, with drainage channels laid across the floors. Outside steps to the first floor were common for farm hands to live in the building.
For horses, stables are often part of a larger complex which includes trainers, vets and blacksmiths.
Historically, the headquarters of a unit of cavalry, not simply their horses' accommodation, would be called a stable.
A traditional German farm stable with roaming space, Vechtehof Nordhorn
A shed row-style stable at a riding club in Panama
Stables of the Einsiedeln Abbey in Switzerland
Media related to stables at Wikimedia Commons