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Why Did You Put It There?

By Content Admin, 09/12/2017 - 10:44am

Blog by Nikki Alvin-Smith


Did you ever look at a horse barn and stare in amazement wondering, “Why on earth did they put it there?”

I have. There is more to placing your barn on the best site possible than you might think. Here’s our top ten list of barn location mistakes folks make and a few horse barn tips on what to avoid doing yourself.

1.I put it right next to my house so I could see my horse’s face peeping out in the morning.

Well who wouldn’t want to see their horse from the kitchen window while completing the drudgeries of kitchen chores. But did you think about the flies, the smells of manure, variant horse noises during the night that might disturb your sleep? You might not mind them but how about the rest of the family? Perhaps the barn also represents a possible fire hazard close to your home, depending on if you have hay or equipment stored there too.

2.I didn’t want to walk up the hill like Jack and Jill to fetch my horse so I put my run in shed at the bottom of the hill. My horse can walk to me.

Well I can understand that. Who wants a long arduous walk to see their horse and to fetch water. However, like Jack and Jill gravity plays a rather major part not just in folks falling down the hill and suffering a concussion but also in where water travels. If you site your run in shed or barn at the bottom of a hill you may find your horse mimicking the actions described in Paul Simon’s song, “Slip Slidin' Away.”

Slip slidin' away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you're slip slidin' away.”

A few torn equine tendons will soon dampen your spirit and give you a headache of your very own.

Downhill Barn

If you do site your structure at the bottom of a hill build the site up above level and add some provisions for drainage to take water away from the building. And by the way, why did Jack and Jill go up a hill to fetch water in the first place. Does water sit on top of a hill? Perhaps if you have a small pond but it will it be useful for watering horses?

3.I put it on top of the hill because it is nice and breezy up there.

Uphill Barn

Humm. Breezy in the summer means windy in the winter so be careful about choosing the top of a hill. How will you ascend to its location during snowstorms? Will you be able to trudge hay and shavings and other supplies up the hill with confidence? If you do site a barn at the top of a hill also think about lightning protection. I’d want to have a nice breeze and a good view too but you need to look carefully at your individual situation. How will this location this work for the paddocks? Will your horse be ‘slip slidin’ away’ once more?

Also consider electricity and water sources. The top of the hill may be far away from either option.

4.I figured next to the road was best so I didn’t have to drag my supplies far on delivery.

Sounds like a fine plan. But will your horses be secured from passing traffic if they escape the barn? Can you monitor their safety and security from your house? When placing your barn always consider the vehicular traffic, the parking and that wherever the barn is placed having a good visual on it is a good security measure.

5.I put my barn next to the stream because the land was so flat.

Fair enough. A flat site is a good site in general as minimal backfill or earth moving will be required. Consider the innocent stream. Quietly babbling along. How pleasant in the summer. However streams are also targets for wildlife to visit, can harbor insects and wildlife that spread disease and can of course, flood! So while the proximity of a stream can appear to be a good idea, the reality is that you should consider very carefully how you can protect your barn from that ‘one hundred year’ flood.

6.I had an area backfilled already that was fairly level is I placed my barn there.

Well. O.K. Level is good but what was it backfilled with exactly and was it compacted? Gravel with a layer of stone dust on top will work well over some compacted clay. A sand base is obviously not so good. You need to talk to your site contractor to be sure the pillars will be on hard ground that will not subside.

7.I didn’t realize we had water springs here until after we put up the barn.

That’s not good. Not good at all. Always check the building site at the height of Spring rains to be sure that an errant spring does not pop up. If you excavate and find one then you’ll need to address the drainage of that spring or make another site selection. Always allow a generous apron around the building when you add material as well as the actual barn size.

8.I put the barn on the boundary. My neighbor said he liked horses.

I’m sure you neighbor does like horses just as he says. Perhaps however the proximity of the barn to his home does not make him happy. The associated smells, bugs and noises are not to everyone’s taste. Plus which your zoning officer may not be pleased as most towns have specific set back limits for both the front, sides and rear of property (not always the same amount of feet) to protect people from light infringement and other issues. Driveways are also limited in their placement both to the road and to property lines so always find out what permits/limits apply before building.

9.I didn’t want to hear the noises from the horses so I put the barn over there. Far away Barn

A barn you can’t see at all from your home can be O.K. You can add security cameras/monitors that you can utilize as needed and it will save you the noise/smells etc.  As a horse owner it is generally pleasurable for us to be able to actually view our horse barn, so bear this in mind for future owners as in the case of resale of the property it may affect curb appeal. They might prefer it to be closer where they can see and hear what is going on in the barn.

10.My friend had built a barn once and she thought this was the best place.

Good intended advice is always hard to refuse but unless your friend has years of experience with site preparation and the vagaries of geology and construction, perhaps a professional that is experienced in building the sort of barn you wish to purchase would be a more prudent option. Most companies have a wealth of experience and ideas to share. Why not utilize their expert advice on barn location?

In conclusion none of us know what we don’t know. So seek out some expert horse barn tips. Do your due diligence, it will save you much expense and heartache later.

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.