Horse Barn Planning, Designing Building

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Excerpt from Horse Housing by Richard Klimesh and Cherry Hill

By Cherry Hill

When it comes to horsekeeping facilities, I am very particular. Not only do I want a safe and sturdy barn that is comfortable and healthy for my horses, but I also want the barn to run efficiently, be easy to maintain, and have that special ambiance. That's because I spend more time at my barn than in my house!

Before we settled in Colorado in 1983, my husband Richard Klimesh and I had owned and leased horse acreages in Canada and seven states from Alaska to Arizona and from Oregon to Illinois. During that time, we experienced quite a variety of weather and encountered topography and soil ranging from rocky mountains to desert to lush farmland to swampland. And we saw all kinds of horse barns?dank dungeons, luxurious people palaces, wind tunnels, ammonia factories, sweatboxes, flimsy ticky?tacks, chewed down and patched up shacks, and barns that rained inside when it wasn't raining outside.We also saw a handful of barns that were just right. We learned that there are certain things that just don't work well for horses, whereas other layouts and materials make horsekeeping sweet.

When we designed my current barn, we employed the good ideas we'd gathered over the years. Like many of our projects, the barn started on a napkin in a restaurant. From that, we honed the plan, inserting all of the necessary details. Then, Richard masterfully crafted a barn that suits my particular needs perfectly.

I usually have between six and eight horses (from foals to seniors) in various stages of training and management. With no children or employees to help, the "Klim Team" does it all. I'm responsible for the health care and training, and Richard heads up facilities' design and maintenance. In addition to that, we both are full?time photojournalists, book authors, and together work as a video production team. The term "spare time" just isn't in our vocabulary. That's why we both appreciate an efficient set up that facilitates daily chores and routine tasks.

Because all of my training and riding and the majority of our photo and video shoots start at the barn, my tack room functions as command central. Not only do I store tack and equipment there, but veterinary supplies, horse records, film, daily shot lists, and storyboards are kept there as well. In addition, the tack room has a section where I clean, repair, and launder horse items. The wash rack and grooming area make up a full?service equine "beauty salon" complete with overhead infrared heater and a central vacuum for grooming horses and blankets. There are varied places to tie horses, which is a necessity for photo/video shoots when I need to have a few groomed and tacked horses ready at a moment's notice.

Where we live, we have a full spectrum of seasonal weather?from frigid winter winds to blazing summer sun at 7,000 feet in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies. So we designed the barn to provide comfortable shelter from both. In the last chapter of this book, I'll take you on a personal tour of my barn, which, I hope, will help you come up with some ideas that will work for you.

Building a horse barn is a big deal. It requires considerable space and lots of labor, money, and time.The more time you invest in the planning of your horse barn, the less redesigning and remodeling you'll have to do.

I know I'm somewhat biased because Richard is my best buddy and husband of over 25 years, but he has built me some great horse facilities and has practical ideas and suggestions for horse housing.That's why I'm so glad that he is sharing his knowledge and our collective horsekeeping experience with you.

Horse Housing is a tremendous resource whether you are planning a new barn, remodeling existing buildings, or are in the process of purchasing real estate with horse facilities. You'll know barns inside and out after reading this book.

As you research and plan, let those gray cells work as you design your own dream barn to fit your horse needs, your locale, and your lifestyle.

A poorly designed barn can make you gnash and gnarl on a daily basis?believe me, I've been there.

A well designed barn, on the other hand, makes daily horse care and training flow like a peaceful Rocky Mountain stream.

Happy horsekeeping, Cherry Hill, author of 25 book on horse Training, Horse Care, and Riding Books and Videos from Cherry Hill at

by Richard Klimesh

I wrote this book to horse owners but for horses. Taking proper care of horses is a noble, humbling, and rewarding experience, and, even with the best facilities it takes a lot of work and dedication. My goal is to help you make your barn safe and comfortable for horses but also pleasant and efficient for you to work in. I've corralled information, ideas, and resources that you can use to create an affordable and attractive barn that will serve your needs and those of your horses.

There are as many different barns as there are horse owners because everyone's horsekeeping situation is different. I saw this first hand during the seventeen years that I was a professional farrier. Traveling throughout many areas of the United States and Canada, I worked in barns of all shapes, sizes, and levels of comfort and efficiency. I realized that lighting, flooring, ventilation, and traffic patterns could affect safety, attitude, and quality of work. I also noticed how these factors affected the health, attitude, and behavior of the horses in the barns and of the people who cared for them.

Barns are often built to satisfy the needs of people, not the needs of horses. Indeed, I've seen many barns that once built are rarely inhabited by horses. Instead, they serve as repositories for horse feed, tack, and equipment. That's okay, since the myriad items required to care for horses have to go somewhere. And, in fact, horses are generally healthier and, we can suppose, happier, not living inside a barn, so long as they have adequate feed, water, and protection from wind.

But there are times when a barn is essential for providing proper horse care or for the attainment of your goals as a horse person. A stall can enable you to keep a horse clean when he is in regular work or being shown, or to keep an old, sick, or injured horse warm, dry, and confined. It can provide any horse with shelter during extreme weather, such as a blizzard. Using stalls, you can closely regulate the diets of horses by feeding them separately.

Having a clean, well-lit, sheltered place for you and your veterinarian and farrier to work is essential. People do better work when they're not squinting in the dark or battling the elements, so your horses will get better care. It would be difficult for a vet or farrier to see abnormalities or perform work, especially on limbs, in a dimly-lit or shadow?filled barn. These hard-working professionals appreciate barns that have pleasant facilities and shy away from those with unsafe, unsanitary, and dismal work spaces. Wouldn't you?

Before I became a farrier, I studied architecture at Iowa State University. Soon after, I began my first career as a carpenter and cabinetmaker. During that time, I found that there is usually more than one way to build something, and more than one material that will serve a given purpose. Since then, I've also seen that there are certain combinations of spaces and materials that have been proven to be safe and comfortable for horses. When it comes to horse facilities, if a method, material, or design works well, I suggest you think long and hard before changing it. Different does not necessarily mean better.

This book will provide information, or tell where to find it, that will help you determine what you need in a barn, sort through the options, and make decisions that will work best for your stable. (The words "barn" and "stable" are synonymous in this book and are used interchangeably.)

I've included Helpful Building Terms in Appendix 1 to help you better understand the processes and materials used in barn construction. A working vocabulary of construction terminology will help you communicate more knowledgeably and efficiently with barn designers and contractors in order to get the barn you want.

In Appendix 3, Resource Guide, you will find a list of web sites containing information applicable to barn design and construction, as well as contact information for manufacturers of materials and products mentioned in book. The World Wide Web forums and newsgroups listed there can be a useful source of answers, options, and opinions if you run into problems or have questions at any stage of your barn project.

In Chapter 7 you will find sample plans for barns designed for one to six horses. All the plans can be modified to accommodate more horses. The design and building principles that keep horses safe and make daily horsekeeping efficient apply to barns of all sizes. If you plan a large facility and need to hire an architect, you will also find a selection of architects and builders in the Resource Guide.

I've found that a seminar clinic, magazine, or book is often worth its entire cost if I discover just one snippet of information that makes horsekeeping safer, easier, or more economical. I hope this book repays you many times over.       

Richard Klimesh


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