Barn Design: Real Life Experiences

I understand, having been a Barn Manager myself that as a business to make money compromises have to be made, resources have to be weighed against income, and that boarders sometimes have to suck it up. Now, I don’t have to suck it up unless I want too. THAT is the biggest difference from having horses on land I’m renting vs boarding horses at a commercial stable.

Having horses at home also means that whatever mistakes I make – such as a loose wire over the shrunken pond leading to Pandora’s escape – is my responsibility. If a horse runs out of feed, needs hooves trimmed, needs a vet called, etc… that is MY responsibility. Being a person who is a bit fanatical about responsibility, in a world where people routinely deny conesquences to their actions, this level of responsibility is not a huge problem for me.

Whereas barn owners were either not doing improvements because of lack of money, lack of know-how, lack of manpower, or just laziness, I now hold the reins of these decisions in MY hands. Just the way I like it. 

No place is perfect, and as you work around the place you will see places for improvement. I have already made some decisions on what we’ll be doing and what we won’t do. Some features or changes cannot be done, because, after all this is a rental.

I also want to keep track of features I like, and those I don’t, which I’ve done at every barn. It makes me understand better how the intial design and layout of a farm property is the most important thing you can do.

From the house, pastured horses can be seen out the kitchen window and the back deck (if the horses are at the back of the pasture). At our future place, I would like to make sure we have a wider view of the horse pasture and paddocks from the house. The first thing I do upon waking is to visually check the horses and I like to check on them throughout the day as it means I can respond quicker to trouble.

The distance between the house and barn is a nice one (guessing about 7 car lengths). It’s a close enough walk to be easy but far enough to reduce smell and flies.

The barn should have been designed so a truck could pull through the aisle and then exit the other end. This could have been accomplished by having a wider, north door opening. Always plan for delivery trucks! Hay, gravel, dirt, lumber etc… The front gate is double gated – a nice size for trucks to enter.

Love the pipe on the roadside fenceline. While expensive to install it does give me a lot of peace of mind.

A water pump should have been put into the barn. This is going to be BIG, winter headache. As it is, I’m planning on water storage in case we lose electricity (our well pump is electric).

There are no backups if we lose electricity. For example, no propane, solar power or generator. Rural areas are not about IF you will lose power in winter but when and for how long. This is due to the weather patterns of nice days followed by extreme ice storms. Trees will fall and power lines will go with them. Personally, I would install solar and then a propane backup.

There is no metal conduit in the barn for protection against rodents. This is a HUGE worry for me. Other electrical issues in the barn include not putting outlets up for stall fans, heating water buckets or work stations. High up flourescent tubes are not accessible to the horses, but also makes changing them difficult.  If we buy a property with an older barn, I want the electrical completely yanked out and re-done (which hubby can do).

Having gaps in the wall boards in the tack room allows way too many hidey holes for mice and invites wasps to make nests. Boards need to be tight to prevent pest access into walls. White flourescent housing units are very attractive to wasps.

The barn is naturally very dark during the day because no light panels were installed in the roof. The darkness of the barn in full daylight always takes me by surprise. I didn’t realize how much those roof panels of green or white allowed filtered daylight. Opening up with more doors has helped.

The barn interior has few, properly sunk posts. This prevents having a secured stall walls and so cross ties cannot be installed. I’ve never seen this in a pole barn before but since Missouri has a lot of “old barns” I need to be on the lookout for barn designs that are going to cost me a lot of money to fix when shopping for properties.

Plan for land clearing. If we were staying long term and the owner would give us compensation, we would clear more land for the horses. Missouri has a LOT of rocks; people are advertising all the time to drill your fence posts holes and I can see why.

Remember to recycle as much as I can to save expenses. I’ll look on CL for salvaged materials whenever possible.  I’m way too quick to throw out and turnaround and buy other stuff.

Take my time, live with the place for a few seasons, learn the land’s issues on drainage, storm directions, wind, etc… before leaping in and making decisions.

I’ll return to this post and make additional comments as things arise.

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2 Responses to Barn Design: Real Life Experiences

  1. It’s good to be in charge. I used to be very happy with the setup that I had built. Now, literally every day, I ask myself why the manager of the boarding facility that I use could possibly have made such elementary mistakes. Just a plain lack of thought, mostly. Plus a misplaced belief that “it will all turn out well in the end”, which it doesn’t. The same money could have provided a facility that works much better.

    You’ll build a great facility after all the research and thought that you have put in. I’m looking forward to seeing your dreams grow.

    • horseideology says:

      I do think WHP that people just don’t understand the mechanics of hard labor anymore (YOU DO!). Taking an extra five minutes to go around something every day doing chores, impacts productivity, and eventually all these little things start to add up to lost time, increased costs, or running the risk of injury, death or escape of a horse.

      The big difficulty I have to consider is if we buy a place already developed then I have to put up with someone’ elses decisions and most time these are not wise ones. If I build from scratch it will cost more money.

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