Buying a Horse Barn - How Much is Too Much? | Horizon Structures

You are here

Buying a Horse Barn - How Much is Too Much

By Content Admin, 04/15/2021 - 8:20pm

Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith


When the average equestrian embarks upon the quest for a new horse barn their mission is usually to provide housing for their existing equine partners plus some storage space for hay and supplies. For a horse business owner, the vision of dollars rolling effortlessly into their bank accounts as local Equus aficionados clamber for a stall in the barn, can overwhelm the sensibilities of even the most stoic and savvy personage. But just how much barn is too much?

Where should this appetite to plan for future needs, meet budget constraints and realistic requirements?

The often-misquoted line, “If you build it, they will come,” spoken by actor Kevin Costner in the film Field of Dreams (1989), could well be used in the realm of horse barn building and buying.

As most horse barn owners know, there is almost never an empty stall in a barn. When you start on your new barn project the idea of adding a few extra stalls, ‘just in case,’ is a sure-fire way to be the proud owner of more horses than you currently embrace as part of your equine family.

Here are a few ‘heads up’ on the smart way to figure things out without overspending or under thinking the size and design of a new horse barn purchase:

Flexibility in Design

Generally, it is cheaper in cost per square foot to build up rather than out. While this is certainly true for human housing, horses won’t be climbing staircases to the 2nd story to go to bed! So actually, aside from the addition of loft space for use as storage or recreational space, anticipated extra needs for stalls are best off added at ground level.

The most flexible ‘add-on’ barn design is the shedrow. Not only can Dutch doors, overhangs and certain stall spaces left open on the front side for easy access for storage supplies, be encompassed in the design, the shed row doesn’t have to sit in a row at all. Boomerang shapes, L-shaped, U-shaped and 4-sided courtyards can all result in functional horse stalls and offer privacy plus protection from wind and poor weather.

Modular built construction can be quickly set up and placed on site, and with forethought in site placement and design, additions can be implemented as needed to address future needs.

The ‘less mess, less stress,’ option of modular or prefabricated buildings also offers less expense in site preparation for smaller sized buildings. If you are itching to get your horse barn set up and ready for use promptly, the modern modular with its seemingly instant arrival is a powerful draw for many horse owners that seek to develop a horse housing infrastructure on their property.

Can You Have Just One?

Horses? Probably not. Horse barn? Probably yes, unless you are a professional trainer/competitor or are running a horse boarding operation.

A well-designed layout can make a relatively simple horse housing structure such as a low profile barn, extremely serviceable for the backyard horse owner. Stalls with exterior access Dutch doors to paddock spaces with an overhang can add shelter and free daily ingress and egress for the equine occupant. Interior room for hay, bedding, feed and tack storage can be incorporated, and a small aisle for tacking up and grooming time is the ideal solution for a budget friendly set-up.

If you plan to stable more than 1-4 horses, a separate structure to provide storage for provisions needed in large quantities may be necessary. The ability to also incorporate a quarantine stabling space is also a great idea if a high volume of through traffic is anticipated for horse sales, show horses that will extensively travel to compete or a rescue operation. Quarantine space is also very useful for the busy boarding barn for use when a horse is suspected of a contagious disease or needs a quiet space to recuperate from illness or surgery.

Financial Sense

The amateur horse owner is often strapped for cash flow and the idea of plonking down a large cash outlay for construction of a horse barn can be beyond financial reach. However, larger horse barn building entities often offer affordable means to finance the cost of the barn via 3rd party lenders with whom they regularly work.

Ensure that what you borrow is doable on a month-to-month basis, and that the total outlay for the new barn project will be provided in a ‘to the penny’ quote. Pre-fabricated and modular horse barns are an ideal solution as they involve less mess and stress throughout the construction time, are quicker to implement and can be quoted as a final price that includes delivery and set up expenses.

Remember that delays that occur due to weather, material availability, construction crew availability and your priority on the company’s list of seasonal jobs, can all cost you additional money. These delays often occur when working with on-site pole barn or stick-built construction. For example, if you are forced to pay expensive livery costs to keep your horse(s) stabled elsewhere for additional months rather than bring them home to your backyard when planned on a set timeline. Before you place a deposit on a new barn of any type, always check the timeline for delivery/completion.

If you contemplate building a horse business then the financial outlay should be viewed as a capital expense that can be depreciated/amortized over time, with the possibility of interest payment deductibility against business income. Cash flow management is critical in any business and consultation with a tax professional can exact great benefit in the decision-making process when it comes to barn acquisition.

Poor craftsmanship or unwise selection of building materials can ultimately also cost you money. Damage can occur to the structure during high winds or excessive snowfall, the materials can fail and require replacement if they are unsuitable for the task at hand. For example, use of wood that is not pressure treated; underrated rafters and truss systems for the snow load in your area; type of wood and quality used; size of lumber and methods of fastening; roofing materials and their installation, siding materials and paint/seal application methods and types used. Always ask about warranties offered and do your due diligence by reviewing/researching testimonials. A company that offers trust and transparency by allowing you to speak directly with their previous clientele offers a great testament to their integrity.

See our referral rewards

Mistakes made in selection of the company you choose to collaborate with on the build can not just cost you money on the entire project, it can also suck up your valuable time you would like to use elsewhere and cause much stress to boot if things go seriously awry.

Plan in Stages

Unless you are fortunate enough to be endowed the physic powers, it is probably best not to overspend past the monthly amount you can afford to pay-off on a loan or have saved for the barn purchase. For business owners a solid business plan with a conservative projected income stream based on present income levels will identify the current needs versus future wants.

However big or small the horse barn facility ultimately required, it is prudent to plan its design in stages unless you have an unlimited budget and/or are blessed with financial security.

The ‘extra’ items in a barn build, such as style selection in siding materials and design decisions such as inclusion of designated wash stalls, can all add to the initial capital expense of the barn.

Look for a quality construction in the barn that will provide longevity, low maintenance to save on labor costs in the future and work with a company that includes many items as standard without making additions for every detail. Make a list of needs versus wants, and address the former list first before making a selection of the wants list. A bit like buying a car – you test drive a low end model, but once you sit in the mid level model it’s likely that the 1st car simply won’t do as it’s lesser size and features are seemingly now insufficient.

It’s always a great idea to know the full marketplace and costings when considering any major purchase, but be realistic about what will work perfectly well for the job at hand and what niceties you wish to add to give pleasure rather than add functional benefit.

Never be shy to ask the construction company for advice about where costs may be saved. Collaboration with a knowledgeable and trustworthy partner throughout the construction design and purchasing process can yield more ‘bang for your buck’ and bring ideas to the table that you might not have thought about. Many companies will also offer discounts on multiple purchases, and loyalty deals for returning customers.

Nikki Alvin Smith

Nikki Alvin-Smith is a seasoned freelance writer who loves to share her lifelong experience with everything horse, farm and travel. Her work has been printed in more than two hundred equestrian magazine titles worldwide and her published articles number in the thousands including travel and lifestyle press.

A Brit who has called New York home for more than 37 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to her writing.

Her experience as an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician, with a youth spent showjumping and foxhunting, provides lots of educational truths and fun moments to share with the reader. Additionally she has been a horse breeder/importer of Hanoverian, Dutch and Iberian horses for 25+ years.

Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard. She is the proud mother of three children, Tristan, James and Chelsea (twins), and the latter two have kept with the horse riding as adults.