Next, the Buildings
Geographic location is unquestionably the overriding influence on building style and materials. Obviously Colorado or Vermont climates require vastly different priorities from those of Florida or Texas. Age-old indigenous architectural styles of different regions were driven by climate. Think of the steeply roofed New England barn, built to shed snow. Pegasus Equine Design’s Holly Matt notes, “Old barns were built by farmers who knew what they were doing; they knew what their animals needed.”
In many areas, residential building requirements are creeping into farm design. Horse barns may no longer be considered “agricultural” and may not be exempt from residential building codes. They may require fire sprinklers and other safety features. In Wellington, Fla., for example, building codes require barns to be built to strict standards to withstand hurricanes. Matt recalled that on one project, she wanted to use high-quality galvanized doors and windows from Germany, “They were perfect for climates like Wellington, because even powder-coated metal will eventually rust if not galvanized underneath.” But they first needed to be officially approved for storm resistance by Florida before they could be installed. “That took a lot of extra work,”she says.
“People are recognizing that all barns are different,” says Martinolich, “and they need to be customized for different functions–breeding, stallions, drafts, etc.–and for different locations, and different owner’s preferences. People say, ‘If I’m going to invest all this money, I want to do it properly.’”
“Like in homes, people are also asking for convenience and function: wash stalls, radiant floor heat that’s just enough to take the chill off, vet facilities, automation, fire protection,” Oldaker says. But returning to the idea of the building as a machine, she adds, “Haylofts may be romantic, but they just don’t make sense any more.” Blackburn agrees. “Lofts and a ceiling can stop a building from being a machine,” he says. “People ask me, why skylights in Florida or Texas? It will just get hot. Well you want it to get hot, because you create a huge temperature difference at the ridge, and that creates the chimney effect. Heat rises. When you combine that with the Bernoulli effect that pulls the rising air out, you get a breeze even on a still day. It ventilates, cools and gets the bacteria out. A good barn doesn’t need lights (in the daytime) or fans.”
Matt says, “Most barns do not have adequate ventilation. Horses need 5 to 10 times more fresh air than humans because their lungs are bigger. What may seem fine to us is not to the horse. Horses depend on clean, fresh air to keep them healthy throughout the year. Their respiratory systems are fragile and to keep them feeling their best they must be provided with three levels of ventilation. Starting at the top level, roof ridge vents, vented skylights, eaves, and cupolas allow stale air to escape, while the main level windows and doors provide fresh air intake. Stall floor-level ventilation allows heavy ammonia gas and dust to escape the stalls. All three levels of ventilation must be provided in order to create an optimal environment for your performance horse.”