Tag Archives: horse barns

Horse Riding Arena

Once Upon a Time

My nearly four year old grandson Colton overnighted with Grandma and Poppa last night. Colton is Jake’s son (you might remember Jake from various pole building adventures such as https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/07/construction-time-2/).

Colton likes Papa Mike just a little, so we got into some serious pre-bedtime reading and like every good story, they all begin with “Once upon a time…….”

In this case it was …..with a lady who wanted a clearspan horse riding arena which was to be 104 feet wide by 168 feet long. I’ve spent headed towards 40 years doing nearly everything imaginable with prefabricated metal connector plated wood roof trusses (not to mention a few things which are unimaginable and should not be mentioned even in fairy tales). A 104 foot clearspan truss would not only be a very big truss, but would also come with a very large price tag!

When I was the owner of a truss plant, we did 100 foot trusses – once, 92 foot once, and nothing else larger than 80’. For the most part, they are not only very expensive, they are very challenging to transport and most people frankly just do not need clearspans this wide.

Indoor Riding ArenaWe got a layout of the building from the client, and it turns out she also did not need a 104 foot clearspan, as the horse riding arena portion of the building was to be 80 x 120. This would not be my personal choice for arena dimensions – you can read my opinions here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2012/07/the-perfect-indoor-riding-arena/.

Both ends and one long side of the arena are to have a 12 foot wide aisleway (read more on aisleways here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/10/horse-barn-aisles/) with another 12 feet devoted to stalls, washrooms, office, lounge, etc.

The Hansen Building Designer’s proposed solution is to hip the 24’ aisleway/stall combination around three sides of the building, which should be a nice look.

The client has also suggested leaving the one sidewall of the horse riding arena open, however this makes the structural design of the building into a three sided building (https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/blog/2014/03/three-sided-building/) where the fourth side could be enclosed with polycarbonate eave lights at the top of the wall, for less money than leaving the wall open.

And as Colton knows – all fairy tales end with…”and they all lived happily ever after”…in their new horse riding arena!

Pole Building New Year 2013

New Years Ball

On the first of each year, I tend to get a bit nostalgic, especially for my family, my home, and how my pole building career really took off. Bear with me as I take a step or two back in time.

At the ripe old age of 33, I sold my first business in Oregon in 1990 and returned to my hometown of Spokane, Washington.

My maternal grandparents had a cabin on Newman Lake, just outside of Spokane. Built in 1909, my original plan was to spend the following summer remodeling it into a year around home. We had taken a year’s lease out on a home in the Spokane Valley.  However just a few months into the lease, a notice appeared on our door to advise us the house was being foreclosed upon – leading to a speed up of plans.

As chance would have it, the winter of 1990-91 happened to be one of tremendous snowfall in Spokane, along with some bone chilling cold and some pretty fierce winds at times. Our timing always seemed to be perfect.  Like the day we picked to install the skylight in the east bedroom. It was just above zero, the winds were howling and it was snowing. When one’s head was stuck out through the skylight hole, the snow being pounded into our faces felt like someone was throwing lit matches at us.

As with most things, there was to be an eventual silver lining.

Spokane had boomed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In 1892, the Great Northern Railway arrived. The railroads in Spokane made it the transportation hub for the Inland Northwest. Particularly driven by mining (primarily from Idaho’s Silver Valley) and farming, after the Great Northern, the Union Pacific and Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroads made Spokane one of the most important rail centers in the western United States.

Between 1900 and 1910, Spokane’s population nearly tripled, growing by nearly 70,000 people. Many of these people settled into narrow homes built on many of the city’s 25 foot wide lots. In 1908, Henry Ford began production of the Model T, and Model T garages were built in abundance in the alleys behind these homes.

With many of these Model T garages being 80 years old, and being constructed before the advent of model Building Codes, the snows of 1990-91 caused widespread collapses of these long outdated structures.

The silver lining?

My brother Mark and I began our pole building construction business in 1991, and we had hundreds of clients lined up who needed to replace their flattened Model T garages!

Pole buildings were the perfect solution, as they were extremely affordable and could be constructed quickly. It was not unusual for one of our two man crews to complete two or three of them in a week!

It was a great beginning to over twenty years of designing pole buildings, and as I look down the road I see another “good twenty or more” ahead of me yet….designing pole barn garages, houses, shops, horse barns, airplane hangers…you name it…it probably can be designed as a pole building! It’s a great start….to another great year!

Indoor Riding Arena

My daughter Bailey is a professional horse trainer in Canby, Oregon (blatant plug for her here – https://www.baileymombtraining.com). Last weekend I watched her, and horses and riders she trains, at the TWHEAO (Tennessee Walking Horse Exhibitor’s Association of Oregon) Summer Extravaganza in McMinnville, Oregon.

Own a horse or horses, ride frequently and don’t have an indoor riding arena? Probably more than once the thought of owning one has been more than just a passing fancy.

For the average horse owner, who has enough land to ride on, the tough part – the space for an indoor riding arena is already taken care of.

Most people think owning their own indoor arena is out of budget. Maybe not….

Professional horse people write off their arenas and stall barns as a business expense. You probably can too.  How? By renting out arena time or stall space, you have now created for yourself a business! You will want to have some discussions with your tax advisor. You may very well be able to depreciate the riding arena or stall barn, deduct interest paid on loans, utilities, etc. Suddenly, things start becoming much more affordable.

I can’t begin to count the number of requests we have received over the decades, for “just a covered riding arena”. If the concept of constructing just a roof is to save money, this is sorely misleading. Riding arenas, just like any other pole barn, function just like uni-body cars (or jet airplanes). Take off the sides (or skin) and the framework has to be significantly reinforced in order to transfer the loads from the roof to the ground. In the case of pole building columns, the forces taken by the wall columns increase by a factor of four when the endwalls are removed! Besides the need for much larger posts, it is possible a significant amount of unsightly and possibly view obstructing bracing may need to be incorporated.

Are you in a warm climate, where the idea is just to be able to ride out of the hot sun? Then an arena with most or all of the long sidewalls open might best do the trick to balance costs, with the airflow from side to side to help keep things cool.

In northern climates – riders want to be out of the wind, rain, snow, sleet, hail and dark of night (sounds like when the postman delivers). Building an arena without walls may be short sighted. Where I live, rain rarely falls straight down. An open walled riding arena in my area would have a damp floor in 10 to 12 feet from the open sides! If the idea is to ride out of the weather, enclose the arena and use large doors for ventilation in warmer months.

If avoiding the elements is a prime motivator for an arena, consider a combination arrangement where the barn and arena are contained in the same building. Incorporating small indoor round pens in parts of barns allows horses to work in winter when the wind is blowing ninety miles an hour. It is a special luxury to be able to walk from the tie stall to the arena in a snowstorm and not get hit by flakes (or lots of flakes) of snow.

A consideration with combination buildings is dust. If storing hay in a combo barn, provision must be made to protect the hay from arena dust.

The separate building option takes up more real estate, but keeps the dust confined to the riding arena…and not in the whole barn. For show barns – a separate building approach may be preferable to keep stray visitors out of the barn.

I’m a huge fan of insulated roofs, so it is impossible for me to be quiet on this one. Riding in the Southwest in the middle of the summer? An insulated arena roof will make it feel almost comfortable in the dry heat, where a non-insulated one will feel like an oven. In most climates – failing to insulate an arena roof dooms riders to days, if not weeks, of being “rained on” from condensation. Roof insulation is also a significant sound dampener. In a rain or hail storm, it is the difference between a pleasant patter and the beating of a bass drum!

When coming up with their riding arena and barn designs, some people opt to build a living area in one portion of their arenas. Keep in mind, while this may be convenient and save money upfront, barn homes don’t appeal to most people, so it may be more difficult to re-sell your property and virtually impossible to finance.

Have other ideas for a horse barn or arena? Let me know and I’ll do my best to look at your design from all angles.  In the end…it’s totally up to you, and the comfort of your horses.

Pole Barn Design: Horse Aisleway

As long as we are on the subject of designing for horses (see yesterday’s blog), we should give a little attention to something which seems “not that big of a deal”, but it really is…size of your horse aisleway.

If you start looking on the internet, you will find suggestions for an 8’ aisleway, to allow two horses to pass.  But this is not nearly wide enough for all the “uses” of what you envision to be just a wide horse hallway between stalls.  Other sources advise 10’ which is still not “enough” when it comes to being totally user friendly.

Let’s go back to how I teach everyone to design their buildings.  My first question is always, “What are you going to use this building for?”  This translates to “What are you going to use this aisleway for?”  The answer will tell you what width you will need to design for.  First, the horses.  How many are you going to have?  Are you going to rent out stalls, or is this just a personal barn with a few stalls and tack room?  If you will have a lot of horses – figure a wider aisleway, as you can’t bank on the temperament of every horse, especially if it’s passing another horse tied up in the aisle.  Is the farrier going to have his pickup blocking the aisle for several hours, or just one?  How about the vet?  Does he need room to drive in with a trailer and easily load up a horse, or have plenty of room to work on it in the aisleway?

Even if you have miniature horses, but have a lot of them, and “show” these horses, you will want a 12’ aisleway.  Why?  If the farrier is going to easily drive his pickup in and park it in the horse aisleway, you will need to be able to get around his truck while he is working.  Let’s not forget being able to drive a tractor with a trailer or “hay hauler” down the aisle as well.  How many feed pails, tack trunks or wheelbarrows do you need to hit before you do a mental slap, “Why didn’t I make the aisleway 2’ wider?”!

Larger horses cross tied in the aisleway while you are working on them, whether brushing them down, or just saddling them – again if anyone else is going to walk by you with another horse, you will still need a good 12’.  This has been my standard “minimum” for comfort – of horses and owners.  I once again consulted with my daughter, Bailey, who trains Tennessee Walkers in Oregon.  She said she liked 14’ and even 16’ width aisleways, which I had not considered.  In a new horse barn the aisles looks so…WIDE.  But in a very short time, it starts to accumulate…clutter.  Even the best-designed horse aisleway becomes dangerous when feed cans, horse trunks, wheelbarrows and the like form an obstacle course. It’s easy to see 5 to 6’ can quickly be taken up and blocked by “stuff”.

If you are debating between choosing 10’ over 12’ aisleway width,  or between 12’ and 14’, check out the price difference before you decide.  Another option is to stick with the narrower aisleway size, but be sure you have figured in enough tack room space to hold all the clutter.  For more versatility, you may decide to stick with a narrower aisle, put in enough length for two more stalls at the end, and then use one for more tack room space, and gain another stall.

This is another one of those, “when in doubt – if you can at all afford it – go wider”.  You won’t be sorry you did, especially if it means risking suffering a kick from a passing horse.