How exciting! You are going to build a barn but you don’t know where to start! Here are some basics questions to help you sort your needs out and get you going in the right direction. These are important questions whether you are building a barn for pleasure, breeding or business.
• How large is your property and how many horses are you planning on keeping? This is an important question. Some farm owners want to give their horses plenty of turn out and only have their horses in at certain times of the day. Other farm owners want to give or have limited turn out for their horses, so the horses will be stalled the majority of the time. You will also want to consider potential growth of your farm or business both in terms of quantity of horses and potential addition to the barn.
• What are your space restrictions and consider mobility? Horses are big animals and you want to allow plenty of space in aisle ways, stalls, wash-racks, gates, doorways, etc.. You may think you are saving money on keeping the aisle way narrow, but horses can panic if another horse or equipment gets too close and may cause injury to themselves and others. This can be costly. Where is your farrier going to service your horses and how easy is it for him to access and perform his services? Allow plenty of space to get equipment down the aisle for feed and cleaning. Ventilation is important too. Additionally making the stalls small may seem like a good idea to save time on cleaning and the amount of shavings, but in fact horses can create a very dirty stall by walking all over a small stall, often having to dispose of all the shavings. Also consider your horse getting cast in the stall if it is too small. A 10 x 10 or 10 x 12 may work at shows, but a 12 x 12 is much better on the farm.
• Where do you put your barn? The placement of your barn is very important. The barns orientation to wind and sun should be considered and the use of trees for shade and aesthetics are a wonderful tool. You of course want to consider drainage and water flow. You should have easy ingress and egress by feed and hay trucks, trailers, farriers, veterinarians, emergency vehicles, client and guest vehicles and utility vehicles. How close do you want your barn to where you ride? How close do you want your turn-out to your barn? Are you able to handle a mare and foal by yourself? What about a stallion? Can you easily and safely rotate horses around and in and out of a pasture and to and from your barn?
• What are the important amenities? There are some important amenities to consider and where do you place them. All our horses need to be either brushed or hosed off after they have been worked. Depending on what part of the country you live in will depend if you should or want to place the groom and wash rack inside or outside. Do you want feed and hay to be housed in the barn, or in another facility on your property? And what about tack and grooming equipment? Do you want a separate room or are you going to place it all tack trunks. Do you want automatic waterers to save time, or are you ok with filling and cleaning buckets. Taking some time to consider your time restraints will make a huge difference in determining the costs you put into amenities. In the long run, the upfront cost may save you time and money so you can enjoy time with your horses.
• Safety should be top of mind. If you are planning on having a stallion, take that into consideration when designing your layout and stalls. Consider the materials you use for stall construction, distance between slats, gates and how they swing and slide, pointy objects, human safety such as getting penned, where and how you are going to tie your horse, access to pastures, and loading and unloading trailers. These are just a few of the safety considerations.
• Storage requirements. What are your storage requirements going to be and based on your plans, will they grow? You will need to consider feed and hay, riding equipment, farm equipment and repair equipment. Being thorough in thinking this through at the beginning will really save you a lot of time, expense and potentially heartache down the road. Having a well organized farm where there is easy access to equipment, feed and the basic operational needs will really assist you in managing a cost effect farm and give you time to enjoy your passion or business.
Bridget R. Brandon is Founder and Principal of ValueMyHorse LLC, a full service equine appraisal, expert witness, consulting and marketing firm. Bridget is a life member of the American Society of Equine Appraisers and has been qualified as an expert. She has been breeding, boarding and showing Sporthorses for over 25 years. She has served as an expert for both the plaintiff and defendant side and has been hired by insurance companies such as Zurich, Liberty Mutual, Farmers, Safeco, and many others. Bridget is also an equine farm consultant for the design and redesign of farms and the development of equine businesses. Bridget is a graduate of Southern Methodist University and also works as a marketing executive.