Blog By Nikki Alvin-Smith
Did your schooling in social studies include the subject of geography? If so then you probably know a fair bit about the various types of geography that exist. Perhaps you used to wonder when you’d ever put all those hours of learning to good use in your life as a passionate equestrian.
An understanding and application of Geography 101 knowledge, which includes 3 major types of focus, Physical, Human and Regional Geography, are all essential factors to consider if you want a successful outcome for your new horse barn or kennel building project, however great or small your design.
Essentially physical geography helps you navigate the lay of the land, the topography in both a literal and figurative sense. It includes the geology of the land, which of course affects its drainage and suitability for building. Meteorological factors such as high winds and heavy snowfalls, drenching rains and relentless high temperatures are components of physical geography and the general study of the environment in micro and macro terms all come under its oversized golf umbrella.
Personally I loved geology. What girl doesn’t like learning about diamonds! Seriously though, you can mine some serious advantages in selection of an excellent versus average farm property and where best to site buildings and paddocks by the study of the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitutes the Earth. For kennel owners site selection for the building should also encompass review of the physical geography factors to optimize the chosen location’s suitability of purpose.
Limestone bedrock for example offers great drainage as far as a natural water filter to the water table below ground which can make well water safer to ingest and more palatable, but often lacks any measure of topsoil cover so fencing and building can be difficult without drilling down with diamond bits. Sand can offer great drainage but also offers no strength, hardness or tenacity to withstand the weight of a structure or offer stability to the foundation of a building without highly specialized construction of footers and sub-structure.
The banks of rivers and waterways may offer mineral rich soils with a high moisture content ideal for lush pasture growth, but their plains may flash flood and are a high risk environment for water damage of a structure where living space is at ground level and grazing land may become muddy with high traffic use by livestock. Locations chosen for the site of structures that neighbor rivers and waterways, can also increase mosquito populations and the risk for mosquito borne diseases, and the land adjacent to water may harbor ticks and other insects/parasites that may be harmful to the health of a horse or canine.
So put your thinking ‘school’ cap on before you decide where to buy property and where to site that new structure.
Whatever the soil type, geology formation and lay of your land, proper site preparation is essential for horse barns that surpass the humble run-in shed or shedrow and for large commercial kennel builds that will span a good distance from end to end.
According to Wikipedia, ”Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that is associated and deals with humans and their relationships with communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across locations.”
What relevance does it have in the business of building a horse barn? Did you ever think about building a horse ranch in the middle of Manhattan? Probably not! It’s likely that the advent of a horse ranch in the New York City borough, would not be embraced by the present day resident dudes. Although I do confess it would be fun to see. Similarly you might like hot weather but is the desert the best place to ride and keep horses. There is good reason why mankind has settled the geographic areas that it has and left other as much alone as possible.
A horse farm requires space and access for human and horse. There needs to be an availability and proximity of necessary services such as water and electric to ensure a good living situation, places to park, places to ride and to stable and graze the horses. Different types of riding disciplines benefit from different property locations. For example, if you plan an equestrian facility where advanced Eventing is the prime equestrian pursuit, it’s best to purchase property with hilly or rolling terrain rather than an airport worthy flat parcel.
The population and demographics of an area are also important if you are selecting a spot to build a horse boarding operation. If you build it, will they come? An area saturated with horse farms will be a much more difficult market from which to draw clientele for a lesson program than a property situated in an affluent area without an existing equestrian facility.
Similarly for the kennel owner that seeks to start a dog boarding, K9 training or other canine business the area chosen for the location of the venture should carefully consider the need for the services to be provided and the demographic of the surrounding area.
The regional differences in climate dictate the style and design of the barn build. For example, steeply pitches A-shaped roofs are the norm in alpine climates while hot climates dictate open sided structures where the breeze can minimize the effects of heat for the animals sheltering inside from the sun.
In the case of kennel builds the span of the roof is generally not as large, so pitch of the roof and roofing materials used does not feature as a predominant issue, but certainly attention to the direction of the prevailing winds for cooling summer breezes is important.
Cultural development in a specific area can also determine the type of horse barn structure that is most commonly built. Tracts of open land suitable for farming quickly dictated the need for loft storage for crops and feed supplies for winter, and so the monitor style barn was born. This style of barn was the predecessor of the center aisle barn, which is now labeled ‘ An American Style ‘ barn in many regions of Europe.
In warm and temperate climates, the budget-friendly shedrow barn was quickly adapted with the provision of an overhang to offer additional shade and protection from the sun.
The kennel owner can also benefit from the addition of modern day designs such as overhangs for extra storage and shelter over outdoor pen space, the addition of an interior lobby space for office, dog bathing or care needs etc.
Take Home Message
The take home message is that all aspects of geography affect the decision of what, where, how and why to build a horse barn or kennel.
I believe my teacher, Mr. Hammond, would be proud of my use of all his hard work in the classroom. “ Hammy,” (as I and my 18 year-old classmates nicknamed him), was passionate about the subject of geography and his attitude to the subject inspired us all to learn. Geography is after all, about more than just knowing the name of the capital of a country and where it lives on the globe.