Saturday, April 4, 2009

Barn Envy

Do you ever get barn envy?  Some of the people whose blogs I follow have lovely barns - modern buildings with large stalls and good ventilation, that look easy to maintain.  And then there's lovely fencing - pretty and low maintenance.  And turnouts that are convenient to the barn so turnout is easy, or where the horses can go in and out as they wish.  Or a climate where the horses can be out 24/7 with lovely run-in sheds.  Or an indoor.  Or an outdoor with adequate space, a good base so it drains properly and lovely footing.

Our barn, unfortunately, has none of these.  It's a relatively new structure, about 15 years old, but was built by people who were interested in picturesque.  They knew very little about barn construction or barn operations and many of the decisions they made were poor.  As a result, our barn is poorly ventilated, requires endless and expensive maintenance, and don't get me started on the fencing and the outdoor, both of which are very deficient.  The biggest problem we have is that we can barely afford the annual costs of labor and maintenance and never have any money left over to improve anything.  The one advantage is that I don't own it so can walk away at any time if I choose.

The big advantage for me is that it is very close to my house (a couple of hundred yards), and that we have all-day turnout, with excellent (almost too good) pastures in the summer months.  I also get a big say in how my horses are handled and fed - not having this is to my mind one of the biggest deficiency of many boarding facilities.

I often dream of my ideal barn - it wouldn't be too fancy.  It would have all the necessary features for horses, and would be sited on the property so that turnout was easy.  Everything would be constructed to be low maintenance and safe.  It would have an indoor so I could work my horses in the winter and when the weather was bad.  The horses would mostly live outside, with big loafing sheds and round bales under cover in the winter.

I'm certainly not saying that it's not possible to live with a less-than-perfect barn and facility.  Many people do so, and happily work with and enjoy their horses.  I'm just considering an ideal world here.

Now, why haven't I found my own place and done this?  I don't really know - probably worried I couldn't manage all the work on my own and worried about the expense.  If you have your horses at your own place, how did you decide to do it, and how did you go about it?  If you would like, put a post on your own blog (link back to this if you like) and leave a comment here letting us know that you have done so.  I'd really be interested in how people have decided to have their own places rather than continuing to board.


  1. We finally took the plunge and got our own place because the barn we leased and the people were not very trustworthy or nice. I was tired of boarding at others barns and putting up with their ideas on how my horses should be fed, turned out and taken care of.

    On the other hand even though I love having my own place, it's a lot of work and expense. Everything here may look nice in pictures but there are lots of things that still need doing. Like that really pretty white plastic fencing needs to be washed every year or it looks horrible. It also has lots of pieces that need to be replaced where the horses kicked it in the winter (it shatters). I really don't like it and would wish for a more practical fence like split rail. So even though it looks nice it's a major headache

  2. Ah now I know why you asked me the question this morning...
    If I hit the lottery, I promise I will fix our barn!

  3. Kate, If I'm completely honest, I'll say yes to your question of barn I try to remember that I may have it even better than others! LOL! Grass always looks greener on the other side so to speak so here's how I look at my less than perfect set up! I have two early 1900's barns that are very sturdy and still standing tall! They need new paint. They have excellent ventilation because of tiny cracks in between the boards but keep harsh elements off of the horses, they have a cozy place to sleep in handmade stalls by my husband at night away from packs of coyotes. The fencing we have is four strand rope (no, it doesn't look that great but it's safe). When my little guy (Romeo, yearling)accidentally ran into it a few weeks just gave with him, no injuries at all! I have a newer 48'x 54' building with high ceiling that I have a round pen to work them....that's it. No indoor or outdoor arena just pasture but we're working on an outdoor this year. No one will care for your horses like you do... I would never consider boarding our horses anywhere....yes, it's lots of work but well worth the peace of mind. Just make sure you have someone you trust who can tend to your animals while you go away.....key! We don't travel much anymore but we did a lot of it before we had horses and don't miss it at all. Good post, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Lu

  4. Ah, I have barn envy, but I am happy anyhow. My barn is not picture perfect and I need a good wash stall, and more storage, but it suits. I have run in roofs on both sides and the horses have free access all day to be either in or out.

    I was lucky enough to inherit the house and property and managed to add the horses due to a grandfather clause in the zoning ordinance.

    Boarding out was expensive and a longish drive. When the really good stable I'd found was closing, I started to build here rather than look for another place. I had run into so many issues with boarding, care, etc. that getting the Boys to the backyard was the only answer. And, in the long run, it's cheaper!

  5. I'd LOVE to see a couple of pics of your barns! I'm actually on a "barn hunt" (for photos) out here in California. We don't have many and most of the ones out here are prefab (metal).

  6. For us it was easy. Melissa loves horses and I am a farmer. Neither of us is scared of work, and the thoughts of maintaining a hundred and fifty acres of leased land (from my in-laws) wasn't off-putting to me in the least. We inherited a bunch of bad set-ups as well, but have improved things as cash flow allows and we are currently looking to purchase additional land which will allow us to continue our expansion. The horses and cows pay for it ALL around here.

    We thought long and hard about our board rates BEFORE we started accepting retirees. We needed to ensure that we priced ourselves so that we had enough money coming in to pay for upkeep, expansion, repairs and maintenance, as well as a generous salary for our help and a living wage for us and our simple lifestyle. I love farming and Melissa loves horses, but neither of us believed that we needed to work ourselves into penury to support our lifestyle. We've included some of the things we thought about on our web pages for those who may be contemplating such a move.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Kind regards;

    Jason and Melissa


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