The Barn of Your Dreams

Katie Navarra

We help you ideate the barn of your dreams.

For all Joyse Banister’s horse-owning life, she kept her horses in a historic barn that had been owned by her father’s side of the family since the early 1940s. The barn itself predated her family’s purchase—it was 120 years old when she decided to knock it down and rebuild a new stable from scratch.

“It had started to deteriorate and lean a little bit,” she said. “I knew it was becoming a safety issue for our minis so we took everything down except the concrete block shop.”

Banister was lucky. The Indiana weather cooperated. Once she finalized a horse barn layout, and hired a contractor, construction only took three months. Banister had many fond memories of the old barn but was excited to have a chance to choose a horse/barn stall layout to her liking.

4 Considerations for Building a Barn

Starting from scratch offers the promise of amenities that make your horse life easier. Before letting the excitement of considering horse barn ideas overshadow some important basics.

“Concrete floors were on the top of my list,” she said. “With dirt floors, no matter how much you pack the floors you end up with an uneven surface. We put mats over the concrete, so it is still soft on the surface.”

These are a few lessons Banister learned in the process.

1. Get several quotes.

“I didn’t go with the cheapest or most expensive contractor,” she said. “I considered which was the most trustworthy and reliable and who could offer the best-finished product for the money.”

2. Don’t assume you speak the same language.

Banister requested “a good farm fence,” and let the contractor order it. Turns out their definition wasn’t the same. 

“What I thought was a good farm fence was not what he purchased and we had to redo some sections of fencing making the project more expensive,” she said. “Essentially I bought two sets of fencing. I should have bought it myself or gone with him to pick it out.”

3. Observe your land.

 The new barn was higher than the previous stable. That changed pasture and yard drainage.

“I had never thought about that but now we have standing water in places we didn’t before,” she said. “This fall we will need tile work done to redirect water after we see where the pooling comes from with the summer rains.”

4. Plan for extra space.

When Karlene Bushey built her stable she planned for a 16-foot wide alleyway to give the farrier and veterinarian space to pull in and work comfortably during inclement weather. CharlieAnne Huffam emphasized the benefit of having extra space.

We have a 12-foot concrete aisle and a truck can come in, but it is a squeeze,” she said. “We should have added two to four more feet in height so we can pull the hay wagon in. The wagon is just a tad too tall, so we have to unload hay at the door.”

3 Simple Upgrades

Building a new barn might not fit into every budget. Inexpensive upgrades can make your barn life easier and check off a few items on your bucket list. You may not have the immediate gratification of designing your dream barn. But sometimes it’s the smallest upgrades that can make the biggest difference.

1. Hot water.

 “The best upgrade we made was installing hot water,” said Stacy Anatriello. She runs a 20-horse boarding facility in a barn that was originally built as a dairy. 

Renovating the 100-year building to house horses instead of cattle took a little work and creative horse barn ideas. The barn had two unique features uncommon in many barns: an automatic manure removal system built into the floor and natural temperature control that comes along with a concrete structure. 

“The one thing I wish we had done differently when we moved in was to put stall bars on all the doors because we’ve got some who don’t like neighbors.”

2. Aisle and stall mats.

 At Lia Sader’s rescue, a recycled rubber interlocking paver system has been the best horse stable idea she has discovered. The flooring has made the barn warmer in the winter and her feet feel less tired walking on the mats at the end of a long day. 

“The horses that come into our rescue foundered or footsore, do so much better on these,” she said. “What we have saved in bedding, time, (takes about 5 minutes to clean a stall), and having a smaller manure pile, is worth it.”

3. Bright lighting.

It’s much easier to clean stalls, groom, or inspect a wound in a well-lit area. In Banister’s new barn the contractor installed multiple LED strip light fixtures throughout the barn. And adding lights is an inexpensive upgrade for any barn.

“We do a lot of clipping and the extra lights have made such a difference,” she said. 

Be patient

Once you do your homework go for it! If you don’t take the first step in considering barn renovation ideas you’ll always be looking over your shoulder wondering what could have been.

New and renovation construction projects are never as easy as they appear and often extend beyond planned completion dates. Change orders are often necessary to finish a project within a budget. Be flexible and understand that as long as you’ve done your homework and assembled a good team, the final space will be worth the wait.

Know that issues that arise almost always work themselves out and that a bit of patience, a sense of humor, and an occasional deep breath goes a long way in surviving the unexpected bumps in the road.

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