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Horse Barn Gyms and Detached Saunas A Hit with Equestrian Athletes

You don’t have to be an Olympic rider like Horizon Structures’ customer, Boyd Martin, to appreciate the benefit of taking an ice bath pre or post a workout or event at your barn. A water trough stacked with ice set in the corner of an empty stall can do wonders for post exercise recovery and improve circulation (though immersing yourself in such a unit takes some courage), but there are more options than that to keep yourself healthy at the barn.

All riders are equestrian athletes but many of us don’t treat ourselves as such and worry much more about the fitness, warm up and cool down protocols of our equine athletes than we do ourselves. While many other sports athletes spend much time committed to their nutritional and exercise needs, the equestrian is generally so busy with their equine partner and juggling family life or other commitments that just getting to the barn is an achievement.

Let’s face it, finding time to get to and from the barn and complete chores plus finding time to train and ride can be difficult enough, without having to add a commute to and from the gym.

While training abroad I’ve often been tasked by the ‘trainer du jour’ to hop on a stationary bicycle set up in a tack room or enjoy post ride acupuncture or massage treatment at their barn location.

As riders our level of fitness, body awareness and flexibility as well as mental acuity all factor in to how well we will support and direct our horses from the saddle. When the ‘gym’ or exercise space is conveniently located within the horse barn, it’s hard to say no to the logic of preparing ourselves better to complete the training of our horses.


Make That Extra Stall Work

The addition of one more stall to a horse barn build to accommodate a small barn gym or exercise area is becoming an increasingly popular choice for horse property owners.

When you consider how user-friendly the open dimension of a 12’ x 12’ stall or even a larger space, that can be matted, mirrored (many folks use horse arena mirrors), and designated as an area for working out or receiving alternative modality treatments is, it makes sense to utilize it.

Many therapies including medical technologies that are utilized on horses are also commonly administered by the right licensed professional to humans too. For example, consider how many equine massage professionals also treat people? Why not make that barn call fee more worthwhile?

Tack rooms and offices in the barn can all be enlarged during the planning stages of barn building to accommodate a gym workout area. An adjoining room to feed rooms/office space or a separate room altogether that offers a view both to the inside and outside of the barn is the perfect inspiration to get everybody on board with participating, particularly in larger horse facilities. Group fitness sessions that include mat exercises are a great way to limber everyone up before training on horseback starts for the day. There are many online resources, books and media options that specifically detail equestrian athletes fitness regimes.


A Loft Space Gym

As horse barns are usually quite expansive, the addition of a loft space above the stalls provides a perfect open space to house a gym. During planning consider the placement of the gym as jumping up and down on a floor or dropping weights can cause unexpected noise and commotion above the sound sensitive equines housed below.

Adding a large screen TV with Wi-Fi access or gym equipment that incorporates a screen with internet access offers extensive options for downloading/streaming equestrian athlete focused routines and programming. Even if you are working on the elliptical rather than following an exercise session on the screen, no reason why you can’t be watching an educational equestrian program or international competition to get you focused on the forthcoming ride.

Just as it does for horses, working out with warmup/cool down sessions helps to prevent injury as muscles, tendons and ligaments are stretched and warmed up before more strenuous exercise is attempted.

Cardiovascular health is another important aspect of rider fitness, and interval training exercises are as good for us as they are for our equines.

Equipment for the gym is often available for purchase second hand online, Commercial gyms regularly update their equipment, which is perfect if you want a commercial heavy-duty piece of equipment. Bear in mind utilizing gym equipment for commercial purposes is often not covered under warranties if originally purchased or manufactured for personal/residential use.


The barn gym availability also saves money on expensive and often unfulfilled use of gym memberships. Its provision negates the need to commute to a gym and schedule attendance to their hours of operation and provides a private retreat for yoga, tai-chi or other fitness routines.

Many horse barns already include a bathroom with hot and cold running water, so adding a shower unit is very straightforward. A private dressing room area to change clothes can always be incorporated.

Why Not Heat Things Up

The addition of a rather handy detached sauna near your gym, can provide a means to embrace another level of fitness and health benefits. It requires little more than an electric service and a water source.

While traditionally saunas were heated by wood lit under a pile of stones, modern saunas are often heated using electricity, which provides a drier heat and less humidity though the sauna space should still be vented.

The advantage of an electric sauna is that the unit can be set to go before use so that it is already at temperature when you need it offering convenience to the user. The downside is that electric use can be expensive, depending on where you are located and what unit/size you buy and how energy efficient it is.

Pick a sauna unit that is well-insulated to reduce energy needs, and has pressure treated foundation lumber to withstand moisture from the ground and is sided with low maintenance modern material to offer durability and eliminate the need for repainting/re-staining. A dedicated electric line may be needed depending on building code requirement for the electric sauna unit, (usually 220 service).

Infrared saunas are also popular among athletes, as they operate by heating body from the inside out so they are particularly favored for a pre-work to improve flexibility.

The long-standing use of saunas for equestrian athletes such as jockeys is well-known. A weight loss method, perhaps a hangover cure too with its detoxification powers, the sauna offers many more health benefits to the user. Skin rejuvenation, improved cardiovascular function, stress relief and pain reduction to name just a few.

Post riding sauna use can help reduce the lactic acid build up as it relaxes tired soft tissue and also improves blood circulation. These benefits can significantly help the body repair strained or damaged tissues and is a good preventative measure to reduce the chance of future injuries.

In the case you do suffer an injury depending on its type, the use of a sauna can accelerate recovery times and at the same time help with weight reduction. The latter is especially significant for athletes as an injury can sideline their ability to execute the same level of exercise as they previously enjoyed causing weight gain. There is something very appealing about losing weight while you are sitting still.

The downtime that sitting in a sauna provides can also help athletes relax, meditate, and develop better mental focus and endurance.

While the use of a sauna offers great health benefits to a healthy individual, it is prudent to speak with your health professional before utilizing one if you have certain medical conditions such as angina, congestive heart failure, diabetes, or are pregnant.

When athletes have access to everything in one space then taking advantage of using all the services available will likely happen.

If you run a large boarding barn or equestrian facility adding a gym can provide a valuable opportunity to make additional income from the users of the gym and/or the option to offer add-on health services such as massage, reiki etc. Just be certain to attain appropriate liability insurance for its provision if you are charging for services.

If a horse barn gym appeals to you, converting an existing stall space may be the answer. For new barn builds adding a specific space for a gym room is very doable. Modular barn builds of saunas are also quick and easy to have delivered and set up.

A sauna does not have to be large to do the job. A 5’ x 6’ unit can comfortably seat 4/5 people. Just ‘add water’ and some lighting, and you’re ready to sweat out all those toxins and enjoy the relaxation and other health benefits a sauna provides.

About Horizon Structures

Horizon Structures is now the industry’s leader in quality built horse barns, horse stables and run-in sheds. The high level of craftsmanship in our Amish built barns, horse stables, storage buildings, sheds and garages provide for a long lasting structure that comes with our Written Guarantee.

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