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Horse Sense



  • Armbruster Construction
  • Jack Gardner
  • Castlebrook Barns
  • John Edward Linden

Project Status




Room or Space


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Project Description

Horse Sense
Housing The Horses In Style.

Given a choice between putting a roof over their own heads or over their horses', the clients of equestrian architect Hannah Banks often choose the latter. Even if it means living in a trailer for a while, she says, “My clients want the barn up. The house can wait.” In spite of the devotion they inspire, however, horses are animals of very simple needs. “We keep horses in barns because they're easier to keep clean in there, and they're easier to catch,” says Banks. “If horses had their druthers they'd never be in a barn.” For that reason, she says, “I like to make my barns as much like the outside as possible.” That means lots of natural light and ventilation, and no heat in the stall areas. Stalls—standard size is 12 feet square—typically face each other across a 12-foot aisle. “They're herd animals,” Banks explains. “It keeps them calm.” Including a wash area, tack and feed storage, and office space, total barn area ranges from 200 to 400 square feet per horse. More important than indoor accommodations, though, is the open space horses need to stretch their legs. “I wouldn't put horses on any less than 5 acres,” says Banks. Turnout space, the outdoor area where horses spend most of their time, requires at least 1 acre per horse, she says. “And then there are riding rings. It gets eaten up pretty quickly. The more acreage, the better off you are.” Horses relish a bit of shade out in the pasture, but trees must be protected or the horses will eat them up too, Banks cautions. “They tend to chew on tree bark.”

Bale Out
Zoltan Pali is not a little-red-barn kind of guy. “I'm a city slicker,” says the Los Angeles architect, who has the contemporary portfolio to prove it. Before undertaking this project he had to ask himself, what would a Modernist barn look like? He answered the question by rethinking the mundane function of hay storage, “creating this very simple structure with the shelf around the perimeter, not just as an architectural idea, but as a functional place to store the hay.” Based on the 12-foot module of a standard stall, the steel-frame barn houses three horses (plus one Harley-Davidson), a large open bay for cleaning and grooming, and equipment storage for the lemon grove that shares the property. Outside, a steel shelf holds baled hay off the ground, while a broad, flat roof keeps the rain off. As the green hay dries, gets used up, and is replaced, the building changes its appearance. The scheme, says Pali, “came about as a big poetic gesture.” But it turns out to store hay efficiently and conveniently too. Leave it to a city slicker.

Cool Spot

Located in northwest Florida, this private equestrian facility follows the classic Bluegrass Country model. With a four-stall barn, a connected series of 2- to 3-acre paddocks, and 5 acres of pasture, says architect Les McCormick, “It's really sort of a shrunken version of what one might find on a typical Kentucky horse farm.” The Gulf Coast location, though, required some adaptations. The owners chose the property, in part, because of its plentiful and shady live oaks, and they proceeded to plant more. McCormick oriented the barn to funnel prevailing breezes down its main aisle, used louvered dormers to exhaust warm air through the roof, and specified a water-misting system to cool the horses directly. Other amenities would make sense in any climate, including a two-station bay “where the farrier can work, and the grooms can wash the horses down after riding.” Custom galvanized-steel stall gates inhibit “cribbing,” horses' natural tendency to chew on wood. Stall floors consist of a gravel-filled plastic grid. Perforated pipe in the sand base below directs wastewater to a drainage field under one of the paddocks.
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