June 2007
Horses, Horses, Horses!

Horses, Horses, Horses!

Summertime is a beautiful time for building. Many first homes are built in the summer. These homes are the delight of their owners, as many hopes and dreams are placed into the first homes people build themselves. On a smaller scale, someone’s first barn being built is also a great delight. Since summertime is the best time to build, this June article is going to delve into the prospects of building a horse barn.

There are so many different types of barns, from simple to spectacular. You can find a great deal of information on the internet about different barn types, how to build them and who builds. Building a horse barn is a very specific craft. If you want to get the most for your money in the long run, it is best to get information from those who specialize in building barns for horses, as opposed to just building a hay barn. I found a source that is particularly good by going to www.equisearch.com and doing a search for ‘horse barn building.’

In one article, a review by Jessica Jahiel, PhD, on a book called Horse Housing by Richard Klimesh and Cherry Hill, she states, "The saddest words heard from any horse owner who’s ever built a barn that wasn’t quite right — or built a good barn in the wrong place — are ‘Dang! I wish I’d known that before I started—it’s gonna cost a bundle to fix this!’" She is right on this, and what I would like to get across to the readers of this article is the importance of researching everything pertaining to building a horse barn before they actually build.

There are so many things to consider if you are going to build a really first rate barn. Now if you are just going to build a "run-in shed," that’s a different story, but if you are planning on having a really nice barn for your horses, then here are some things you want to consider before building.

(1) What is the best location to build your barn? This depends on your situation of course. Will you build close to your home or further away? How are the drainage conditions on the site you are thinking about? Also, something that I would not have considered but could be very important is the wind direction at the site you pick.

In an article by Champ Hough with Elizabeth Iliff called ‘Build a Barn That Works,’ Mr. Hough points out the importance of knowing the wind direction at the site you pick. "When you find your site, spend time there on a blustery day to identify the prevailing wind direction; then orient your barn with that in mind. You want good air circulation, of course, but you don’t want your center aisle to be a wind tunnel - so orient it at about a 45-degree angle to the prevailing wind. If strong winds come from all four directions, you might build a square barn with entrances on all four sides and the ability to close down any one, two, or three as needed." As you can see, this horseman has had a great deal of experience building horse barns (he has built at least thirty of them), and he is very willing to share his expertise with anyone willing to do the research.

(2) How big do you want your barn to be? This depends on many factors, such as how many horses you have, how much space you have to build in and how much money you are willing or able to fork out for the project. Obviously, the bigger the barn, the more cost there will be. Size is important though; if you have ever tried to turn around a seventeen-hand horse in a small aisleway, you know what I am talking about.

(3) What type of lighting will you want in your barn? Lighting is very important if you are going to be working in your barn for any length of time at all. Placing light fixtures where they are useful to you, yet do not endanger your horses is key. Also what type of lighting would be best for your situation, conventional or flourescent?

(4) What type of flooring do you think would be best for your barn? Horse’s legs and hooves must be protected, so for much of the barn just good hard packed "earth" is usually fine. Many people like to have aisleways concreted or paved with a special type of pavement because it is easier to keep clean and has good traction for horse hooves. Some want the whole facility concreted or paved, but personally I think it is healthier for horses to have a little earth under their hooves, especially in their stalls.

(5) What type of tack room, feed room or storage room will you have in your barn? All three of these are needed in a working barn. Some people like to combine them into one big room used for all three purposes, while others see the need for separate rooms. I personally think it is best if these rooms are separate if you can afford it. The feed room would need to be lined with some kind of metal liner to keep rodents and vermin out. It would really not need a great deal of traffic going in and out, whereas the tack room would. Whatever the case may be, you have to do what is feasible for you in building the barn that is right for you and your horses.

So, there you have it, at least some starting points to get you on the right track when thinking of building a horse barn. Alas, the list could go on and on, but I only have a certain amount of space for the length of this article. My point here is to prompt you to do the research needed to build a great barn, so that you will say "Wow, I love my barn and I am so glad I built it this way!" rather than "Dang! I wish I’d known that before I started—it’s gonna cost a bundle to fix this!"

Janet Bryant is a freelance writer from Oneonta.