Horse Barn Planning, Designing Building

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Excerpt from Horse Housing by Richard Klimesh and Cherry Hill

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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