Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marginal At Best and the Ideal Barn

This morning the ice was amazingly even worse than yesterday - the surfaces were more glassy and the snow that we got - just a bit - didn't do anything to help. But the horses got out - very carefully - and are picking their way around their pastures. They seem to mostly be pretty sensible about it and careful as they walk. I particularly wanted to get them out as we're expecting some very cold weather Thursday and Friday with wind chills well below zero F, and it's possible the horses may have to stay in.

We also had a game of "water tank heater roulette" this morning - we've had one iffy tank heater for a bit and it finally conked out. (The geldings were being playful one day last week and pulled their heater out of the tank - it may have been damaged in the process.) We shifted some things around and every tank has a heater that works, although Charisma, who doesn't mind cold water, has a small floater that will keep at least the top part of her tank open. My (long-suffering) husband is on the search for two replacement heaters - we use the large circular sinking heaters - as our local feed store had none in stock.

* * * * * *

To deal with the winter blahs, I've been having fun designing, and drawing, the "barn of my dreams". I doubt I'll get it - I'm getting a bit old to take that all on, and it would be very expensive. But I can still dream! Yesterday morning, I sketched out the basic plan, and then my older daughter and I discussed it at lunch - it was fun and she had her own additions.

So, say you have 12 or so horses (that's the size of our existing barn), and our property, which is about 15-20 acres. And assume there's nothing on the property, no barn or outbuildings or fences, so you can start from scratch.

Now, for the barn itself - it's not fancy - no brick, or stone, or elaborate stuff - this is a barn designed for horses, not people. A nice steel Morton barn would be nice, with a center aisle (I'm fond of shed row barns but they're not ideal in our climate.). All the horses would be able to see their neighbors - vertical bars between stalls, and the feel would be airy and open. The horses would have V stall guards so they could stick their heads out, and the barn aisle would be extra wide and kept clear of tack trunks and equipment. I considered but rejected dutch doors to the outside - with the weather there'd be a lot of drafts, and getting outside doors open with snow and ice would be a problem. There would be a nice big tack room at the front, a separate feed room, a small heated office (the rest of the barn would be unheated for equine health) and a wash stall with cold and hot running water. The barn would have excellent ventilation (soffits and fans) and light. Every horse would have a large sliding window to the outside with a screen for summer and cross-ventilation. Stalls would a minimum 12x12, but preferably 12x15.

All hay and equipment storage would be in a separate building next to the barn, for reduction of dust and fire risk. There would be a large steel indoor arena with large windows at the top under the roof, and excellent footing. The sides of the indoor would have rooflines that extended outwards to form sheltered overhangs for the outside areas (dry lots) on either side. All gates would be properly braced and hung so opening and closing would be a cinch, and all gates would be 12' wide to facilitate equipment access.

The barn would have a cross-aisle that opened directly on each end into one-acre or so pastures on each side of the barn - these would make use of the shed rows created by the extended roofs of the indoor in inclement weather. These would serve as winter dry lots, and would also provide direct access to the pastures. Five or so pastures, each about one acre, would open out of each dry lot, and would be used in rotational grazing - smaller pastures work best for this. The exterior fencing would probably be 4-board wood, with electric tape used to subdivide the separate pastures, to make mowing easier. Since, when the horses were on pasture, all that would be needed would be to turn them out directly into the dry lot, leaving the gate to the correct pasture open, there would only need to be two outdoor water tanks, immediately adjacent to the barn to make water and electric line access as easy as could be.

The barn and indoor would be located at the center of the property, not the front, to make it possible to have pastures radiating out from the dry lots in all directions, again to facilitate turn out. Having to plow the driveway when it snowed would be outweighed by the labor savings involved in easy turnout and bring in. Also, the property would be such (ours is) that the highest point was in the center, allowing for proper drainage around the barn and from the dry lots - no pooling or ponding water in parking lot or dry lots. If there were a house, I see a small cape or cottage style house - nothing fancy.

The outdoor arena would have excellent drainage and footing, would be large, and could be along one side of the driveway into the property. The arena would be equipped with a wonderful and colorful assortment of jumps, as well as dressage letters (or the dressage letters could be in the indoor - my daughter says she doesn't want to have to move the jumps!). On the other side would be a large round pen, built with large wooden boards with little space between, for equine safety, and at least 6' tall - and of course it would have excellent footing. Scattered through a number of the pastures would be an assortment of cross country fences, including banks, logs and other natural obstacles.

All the pastures would have some natural shade - large individual trees or groves of trees. I can just see it - rolling pastures, shade trees, beautiful horses grazing.

Here's a rough sketch of the layout:

A girl can dream, can't she? Enjoy your January day, and may spring come soon!


  1. I LoVE it. Actually, your design is MUCH, if not exactly, like the one I originally did when we moved out here, but, alas, money. We've done part of it now with an eye toward the future and doing the rest little by little.

    To start out, we went with the most amount of barn we could get with an eye to the future--60' long, breezeway for trucks.

    You're dead on about the 12' gates to let equipment in--if you want to dig out the stalls, etc. Also, putting the barn in an area where you can attach dry lots on either side! That we did, too, and it's great. Gives you the choice to lock them in, if you feel the need, or let them roam pretty much freely in and out.

    Where I differed from you was letting the horses see each other in the stalls. We did that the first year we had the barn up and then the horses started kicking at each other at feeding time and they were a mess, so we closed up the stalls (built tall walls) and now they can visit in their runs.

    Automatic heated waterers are a MUST!!!

    I love the idea of a heated wash room. Maybe someday.

    I also left room for an arena someday, if I ever win the lottery--attached as you have it in the picture. And, I'd do the overhangs for the possibility of more stalls off of it. I priced a 60' arena a couple of years ago, in this style, and it was around $100,000, but then some friends of ours got an awesome deal on a clear-span barn and did it themselves for about $20,000--maybe a little more after it was over.

    The idea of drainage is excellent, and we did locate our barn at a high point--so I know it works.

    Also, the idea of storing hay and equipment away from the barn. That's my eventual plan when there's more money to build another outbuilding--which will be after the fencing is complete this year.

    As for the fencing--I'm with you--wood boards--electric on the inside. I've had all others and it's what I like best.

    The only other questions I can think of addressing are things like where to compost manure and store woodchips. Also, having several frost free water sources--hopefully in each pasture and turnout. And, where to put gates--how large to have pasture and turnout gates--those are issues we'll be dealing with this summer.

    Oh, and I like the idea of natural shade. Our last horse property had lots of that--and apple trees--and I'd pick them a treat after a ride. Fun. This new property has no trees, but I'm going to plant apple again this spring!! Yay!

  2. I am always dreaming of what my ideal barn would look like. What a fun game!

  3. This is the most concrete and detailed dream I have ever heard of! Maybe it is not so distant for you. You never know what a little seed of a thought can do!

  4. Kate, I hope you realize your dream. I think it's possible!

    Also, a few months ago I wrote a blog post almost just like this - called "Fancy Barns", but alas, I never posted it. I could not, because I stole so many pics off the Internet, and my man was worried about copyrights on those photos.

    But it was a dreamy post of beautiful barns like you describe, with lush oiled wood stalls and cast iron v-stall doors.

    It was also a comparison post to some of the crappy barns I've been at in 20 years of boarding.

    It was also kind of an emotional post, so I'm glad I didn't post it.

    But I love your plan, and your very specific dream property.

    I truly hope it's yours soon.


  5. First, financial planners say, you have to have a plan.


    I know of a facility similar to this, it's where I meet my farrier. My only complaint is the barns are so dark inside. In our area I've always preferred runs to barns, we just don't get the weather that justifies four sided cover.

    Anyway, call me up for the barn raising. :)

  6. I am no where near being allowed to dream this big, but when I am near... I'm going to keep your ideas handy. Good points made in the comments, too! Dream on!!!

  7. You dream barn sounds fabulous. Keep dreaming. Dreams can come true.

  8. Your weather sounds absolutely miserable, I hope it warms up soon and melts that ice.

    Love your dream farm and facilities. You are not too old to do it so don't let that stop the dream. It took me a lot of years but I finally got my dream farm.

    P.S. I also have a 'long suffering' husband and find it funny that you and I both call them by the same description.

  9. Love your design, an excellent start! I have to say as I was reading your thoughts as to why you would and would not do certain things, I realized it would never occur to me to think about plowing the driveway, snow drifts, etc. We mostly concern ourselves with designs that will make things cooler!

  10. Excellent design! I've been thinking about this too, and it seems like our designs are similar... I guess horse people think alike.

  11. Excellent design ideas - I want one!! :-)

    Here's to dreaming - it's free!

  12. My little pole barn pales in comparison, but suits me just fine. If I had the money and more land, I'd rebuild it a bit better with the addition of a wash stall, and of course, the indoor.

    But there's no reason not to dream and to keep buying lotter tickets...as long as you don't spend more than a dollar at a time!

  13. Ah, it's good to dream! As I was reading, I thought I would be commenting that you should scan your design and post it. Well, I was pleased when I scrolled down! Good thoughts concerning important things to think about!

  14. I hope your barn dreams come true!


  15. I'm glad toknow there are lots of people out ther who dream of b u il ding a big fancy barn. As of now, I have no barn or arena and would like both, but it will have to wait, but I also have them planned out and even where I would put them. Keep Dreaming, you neve know what might happen.

  16. Now that is a great dream to have!!
    I have had very similar ones :) It would be so lovely to have such a well thought about and well planned facility that takes into account the welfare of the horses and that is careful with the land (it needs to last a long time) and is easy for the humans.

  17. I totally did dream of barn styles all night long!!! I looked at your post last night before bedtime.I don't think I slept much...got alot done around my dream stable though!!
    Having been in so many stable's a have huge ideas about them too.

    One thing we do have here is manure pick up. Of course, if you have rotated fields, you may spread it yourself with the right equipment as well. But, having been at so many stable that just did NOT have a good system for that poo stuff..messy piles of seeping stinking and fly hatching stuff! I would have a Concrete Pad with sides and back. slightly angled for the run off in the back . It makes fetching it to spred + dump much nicer.

    I am leaning towards the solid walls now too, Tack room wide enough for a wheel barrel to enter. Matted Isles was nice at my last place...non slip and quieter.
    I love the darkly stained wood board fences best..but for keeping critters out(we have lots of them around here)You cant beat a round poll with the "No Climb" fencing and one hot rope near the top.
    One barn I visited for riding had a breezeway around the entire arena, which was walled but open with nice screens. Was so light and airy.

    Tis so fun to come up with great solutions...now for the room and the dough$$ to follow through- Maybe tonight..bought a Lotto ticket for my sis and I!

  18. How very cool...looks like a great design. The barn I board at has some of the features you set up -such as dry paddock leading into shed area, into barn, parking in front- round pen and outdoor are side by side by on the left of driveway. Make me giddy every time I pull into driveway! :) I hope this becomes a reality for you!!

  19. Also..god bless a horse that doesn't mind cold water! My boy is not like that. I wanted to say too, not sure if this would help you out at all..but where I board at, they came up with a great idea to help cut cost and keep water from freezing. They duct taped two 2" thick stryofoam (the left over boards I had for Laz's hooves) and created a top for the water heaters that they put on with bungee cords at night. Mind you the horses are inside their stalls when they do this..it's NOT horse safe, just for keeping the heat inside and not loosing it due to cold weather, vapor, etc. Thought I would throw that idea out there..saves them about $35-50 a month so far! :)

  20. I have been designing my dream barn since I was a teenager (a LOOOONG time ago). And I have been slowly realizing it here at EvenSong.
    I built the barn in stages, and currently have it about 3/4 done: The center aisle is 24' wide, for hay storage straight out of the field, with the north wing 16' by 60'. Two large (16X18) foaling stalls, that can be shared during winter by two compatible horses (weanlings, or buddies) and two temporary 12X16's on the south side of the center aisle. Between the two oversized stalls are a tack room, grain area, and future wash stall (currently my shop). Eventually, another 16' wing will be added on the south side, with some run-in and one or two 12X16 stalls.
    I have seven 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 acre pastures (on 14 acres) fanning out around my dry lots--in winter each stall has it's own paddock, but in summer one temporary (panel) fence comes out for rotation like you describe (leave one gate open to the desired pasture). Every two paddocks share a frost free hydrant and an outlet for a tank heater.
    I have a small (70X150) outdoor arena, and won't aspire to an indoor, as I am pretty much a fair-weather-rider these days. I spent that money (ha!) on my truck and trailer so that if I really want to, I can haul 10 miles down the road to a friend's indoor. I really do more trails than anything these days, so that's a better investment for me than an indoor.
    Don't give up your dream--I didn't even start until I was in my fifties, and it'll be a while before it's finished (I'm not made of money!). But every season brings some new improvements to make horse-keeping easier on this old body. And I'm enjoying every minute of the journey!


Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.