Choosing the overall design of your barn has a lot to do with the discipline you prefer and how many horses you plan to have on your property, but Corr strongly suggested thinking about resale value and keeping the facility versatile with a barn that adheres to established standards.
“Sooner or later you’re going to sell it,” she said. “You want to think about that. If you build a dressage size arena, you’re marketing it to dressage people only. If you make it bigger, you open it up to other disciplines. Even if you have ponies, build 12’ x 12’ stalls and nothing less.”
Hayward added that architectural styling shouldn’t be your first priority. You have to consider the role and function of the barn along with aesthetics.
“You can have a barn that’s absolutely stunning and be exceptionally functional and healthy for the horses,” she said.
There are several different base designs that an owner can choose from, and barn designers such as Oldaker and Hayward can modify or change them to suit the owner’s preference.
“I’ve never built two barns that look alike yet,” said Hayward. “Everyone has some new little twist, but they all have something that is their starting point.”
Basic Barn Designs
• Run-In Shed – The simplest shelter to build, three sides with an open side to allow the horse to come and go at will.
• Shed Row – A run-in shed with stalls instead of an open space. Usually has an overhang to provide shelter from the elements.
• Back-To-Back or Racetrack – Two shed row barns back to back. The stalls share a common back wall and economically house many horses.
• Center Aisle – Two rows of facing stalls with an aisle in between. Most common enclosed barn design.
• Trainer – Two center aisle barns side by side. Double row of stalls down the center (like a racetrack barn), an aisle on each side, and another row of stalls on the outer walls.
Once you’ve made a plan, it’s time to break ground, but consider the seasons before jumping in with a backhoe.
“Winter is a good time to plan,” said Oldaker. “It’s not good to start in the fall, because then you’re doing stuff in the middle of winter that may need to be protected. Spring is always the time people want to get going on a project. That way you have a really good season to get things buttoned up by winter. Once you get to that point, you’re working inside.”
It’s A Little Breezy In Here!
Oldaker, Hayward and Corr agreed that proper ventilation is one of the most important things to consider when designing your barn.
“The horse is a source of an enormous amount of heat and moisture,” said Hayward. “You have to remember that horses need ventilation, but people need insulation.”
Ventilation designs for animals like cows or chickens often aren’t suitable for horses because horses may spend more hours in a barn and need a good supply of clean air to maintain their health and fitness. Poor ventilation prevents stalls from drying out completely and contributes to condensation, which eventually breeds mold.
While there are several different options for keeping air circulating in a barn, Oldaker and Hayward utilize the natural law of physics: heat rises.
“It starts with the basic idea of the chimney effect,” said Oldaker. “To get the draw and air change, you want to bring in air down low and ventilate it up high. You have to calculate the balance just right, and it’s kind of tricky.”
Air can be brought into the barn through stall windows or doors or vents in the stall walls and is carried upward by ridge vents or cupolas. Keeping the area directly above the stalls open and airy, instead of having an overhead hayloft or storage area, also helps keep air moving.
“Ventilating cupolas are an old-fashioned architectural element, but it’s a functional element,” said Hayward. “It makes the barn have an interesting appeal as well.”
Fans can always be installed for more airflow, but they should direct the air up to the ceiling, not down over the horses. Both Hayward and Oldaker have been using adjustable vents to allow owners to regulate the temperature of the barn as necessary.
“A lot of people don’t realize that just because you have wonderful airflow that zooms down your aisle doesn’t mean it’s getting into your stalls,” said Hayward. “I’ve actually had barns [in which] you close the end doors so the air comes in to the animals. You need to plan for an exterior airflow point on the stalls.”
For the most part, air and heating systems aren’t necessary in the barn itself if you have properly functioning vents, but these are helpful to have in the tack room and areas where people generally work the most.
Temperature control is also useful in keeping tack from molding and feed from going bad.
“We use in-floor radiant [heat] a lot in our aisles and barns,” said Oldaker. “We don’t design it to bring it to room temperature but to keep it just above freezing. Heating the barn to where we would be comfortable for us isn’t good for the horses.”
In-floor radiant heat is a system of running tubing containing hot water through the floor. It heats the floor material, which in turn heats the air. Owners can also install heat lamps in stalls, grooming areas and wash stalls. Overhead solarium units are also becoming popular.
Seeing The Light