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Building an indoor and attached barn, should I go big or go home?

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  • #21
    Speaking from 30 years experience. Both hubby and I have full time off the farm jobs. We bought this farm with the sole intention of keeping a "few" of my own horses....over time we have expanded the facility to 8 stalls, built an indoor arena and a few other nice ammenities...indoor wash stall, lounge with kitchen and indoor heated bathroom. And of course the statement "if you build it they will come" was so true. We currently have 4 adult boarders and my own 3 (about to be 4 this spring). Although we often thought about expanding this place we resisted the urge and am so thankful we did. I cannot tell you how often we have remarked to each other that the horse chores and property maintenance are relatively easy and not that time consuming allowing us to have a life outside this property. One person can easily handle all the daily chores even with having to go to work every day.

    If we ever want to cut down on horses I will simply do so without feeling like we have over improved this property and have a million dollar horse facility in my backyard not being used. That would drive me crazy.

    Oh I also ride dressage and our indoor is 72 x 140. Large enough to hold a regulation 20 x 40 metre ring and allow 3 horses to ride together comfortably. A bigger ring would have been nice but that much more money and not necessary. I put that extra money into a huge outdoor ring instead....


    • #22
      Width is your largest expense, so be sure to get the max width up front. How much do you really want a horse business. Run all of the numbers like insurance and taxes - likely your barn will be an improvement and they'll gladly increase your property taxes.

      I did the smaller indoor and no borders. While I miss the company at times, I appreciate no drama and nobody to answer to. In winter, there is no shortage of friends who are happy to trailer over to have an indoor.
      Epona Farm
      Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

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      • #23
        My friend built her personal indoor several years back (5??) and it was 145x70 I believe. She expanded it last year to 205 x 70. I didn't get the impression that it was that big of a deal to go longer. I believe she is hoping to host clinics and such. The ground was already close to ready (was built on the site of her original large outdoor). She doesn't have a true outdoor, but will mow down the hay field if she wants to practice outside (bugs are bad there though).

        It is possible to start conservatively and add on if you feel you need to. There are lots of large boarding barns in my area that have the smaller size of indoor you are talking about building and they are full. The indoors always seem empty (everyone seems to skip winter riding or ride outside in the summer). They are full because they have the right location in/next to the city. Frankly, I think that is more important than anything in boarding. Also, I've been in some suprisingly small indoors of BNTs.

        Friend's arena is not heated, but the tack room/wash stall/bathroom/two tie stall building next to it is. It is quite lovely. I would do that for sure (maybe different scale).

        My two cents is separate hay storage. Fire issue and it is soooo dusty. Just my experience boarding in barns with hay lofts.

        If I had the skills and was a pro, I would teach lessons and clinics, but only board horses in for full training. Just my conclusion made on observing many different trainers and their quality of life.
        DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


        • #24
          Depending on what kind of foundation a barn requires, it is not so easy to expand in length either, as there will be a continuous curb all along all four walls as part of the foundation in most such structures.


          • #25
            Originally posted by Bluey View Post
            Depending on what kind of foundation a barn requires, it is not so easy to expand in length either, as there will be a continuous curb all along all four walls as part of the foundation in most such structures.
            I think she is doing a pole barn (i.e. no foundation).
            DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


            • #26
              Originally posted by TrotTrotPumpkn View Post
              I think she is doing a pole barn (i.e. no foundation).
              So, where do the metal sheets rest on the bottom, on the dirt?

              Here, even covered arenas have a foundation, that if this was an enclosed barn is where the metal walls would fit, on that concrete foundation you can see there, tying in the pylons to each other:


              Of course, covered arenas need a beefier foundation, because there is so much more uplift from the wind getting in there to the roof from underneath.


              • #27
                Go big. I agree with who ever said "never heard anyone wishing the ring was smaller". Especially if you get boarders.

                I board now at a very nice private farm, owned and run by my trainer and her mother. If you offer good food, good care and nice facilities, you will always have boarders. And if you only need a few boarders, you can be choosy on who moves in. Good luck, sounds exciting!!!
                Unrepentant carb eater


                • #28
                  I am pretty happy with my set up. It is efficient to heat which can really matter in Canada.

                  We built a 70 by 200 pole shed, but with a cement pony wall that contains hot water heating. The one end is sectionned off for the barn and has 9 stalls, a tack room, washroom, utility room, feed storage and a lounge above the tack room. Very well insulated in the walls and roof.

                  Just because we have 9 stalls, doesn't mean we have to use them, but nice to have if you want to host clinics or for vet (dental) days!

                  I do sometimes wish I had a full sized dressage court, but I do in the summer, and I am happy not having had to go into debt to build! Alternatively we could have built the larger building, and held off on some of the finishing, but I really wanted a warm place to teach!

                  Discuss plans with your insurance company. Hay and vehicles/tractors stored in your barn can affect your ability to collect in the event of a fire.
                  Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                  • #29
                    Instead of hiring help, you could always have 1 or 2 boarders work off part of their board by cleaning stalls and/or helping with AM/PM feedings & turnout. Of course, you would need to figure out which is cheaper - hiring help, or taking $$ off income from boarders.
                    Originally posted by katarine
                    I don't want your prayers, tiny cow.
                    Originally posted by Pat9
                    When it's time for a horse to go to a new person, that person will appear. It's pony magic.


                    • #30
                      There is a barn close to me that has 8 stalls, very beautiful with awesome turnout and a nice heated lounge/bathroom. They do not have an indoor but it is a private barn and the owner lives on the same property. She has a few boarders; not all the stalls are filled but most are. The boarders operate as a co-op, so boarding is very reasonable and everyone helps out. The owner hand picked all of her boarders and she seems to have a great group of people and horses. The co-op situation allows her and her husband to go away if they want to, and they didn't have to hire any help.

                      Custom Painted Saddle Pads and Ornaments


                      • #31
                        I have never seen anyone do a foundation around a pole building, unless it was for a cement floor. Really. :-) I can't remember how the edges are, but I'm going to go be in one tonight (not the one I was referring to earlier though) so now I'm going to make sure I look. The kick boards hold your sand in. I *think* I would have noticed cement, but stranger things have been known to happen...

                        I would think your cost would be much higher, so I imagine that's part of it.

                        I do know some have a cement line poured just where the big double doors close so they can lock them shut (for wind).
                        DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


                        • #32
                          What I recall from pole barns here is they put treated wood down on the sides, not concrete. If you were going to build a pole barn then put concrete down all around, you might as well have built a stick frame with foundation! Unless they are actually pouring a floor, I suppose...then you might have concrete.


                          • Original Poster

                            Well, after talking to a few more builders it sounds like we will be going with a full foundation building anyways. Thanks for all the opinions everyone. At this point I am really leaning towards my original, smaller plan.


                            • #34
                              Here's MHO. Go larger on the indoor if you can. I don't know anyone who regrets having a larger indoor. You want to be sure you really have enough room to ride and train.

                              Re: the barn, don't underestimate the usefulness of having enough storage space for hay, machinery and equipment and even having a few extra stalls. HOWEVER, boarding is a loss leader for most barns, i.e. it is something they lose money or break even on, but continue to offer to have a captive group of lesson and training clients and sale horses--which is where they make their money. Expecting any additional facility costs to be paid for by boarders is not realistic. Training horses, perhaps, or even extra lesson fees would be profitable, but boarding is not.

                              Boarding horses is also an extremely time consuming and inflexible thing to take on, particularly for someone who has an outside job. Because lessons can be scheduled at your convenience and training horses can be ridden at pretty much any time of the day, those things do not have much of a negative impact on a person's life. The responsibilities of boarding horses--inflexible feeding times, demanding clients, etc. can have much more of a negative impact on your lifestyle. Hiring, training, and supervising employees is also time consuming and very difficult to do if you aren't regularly on site during their working hours. Having people work off board isn't a great solution either, you might get lucky with that, but it isn't something I would count on.

                              My advice would be to build a lovely indoor, continue to build your lesson and training business as it is comfortable for you, but avoid taking on boarders. I would be careful to limit what you build to what you can comfortably pay the mortgage on without assuming extra income from lesson clients or boarders.


                              • #35
                                Honestly, it's always been my belief that if you have the means, do all you can with it. At this point and the money involved, what's another $10,000 (or whatever it may be) on top of the $---,--- you're already spending?

                                That being said, don't feel like you need to take on boarders & more clients. If you want to build a full service equestrian centre, that's a whole 'nother ball game. Consider the board costs you would need to charge to make it worth your while, and shop around at other barns with large indoors and ask yourself "is my facility comparable? Can I afford to ask the same price as Jane Doe down the road if my arena's smaller than hers?" and so on. Lastly, don't count on boarders to keep food on your supper table. Build the complex to your desired standards based on the funds available, and advertise your services at a price that won't change in 6 months, then again in another 8 months. For example, if you factor in the supplies, your time, etc and advertise full service board at $400.00, but then your barn is full and you don't have enough time for your hubby/horses/kids/etc so you need to hire a Stable Hand, you can't rightfully raise board another $100 in order to be able to pay said stable hand. It looks far more professional to just advertise board at $500.00 to account for such situations rather than having to raise board on your paying customers later, but while keeping that in mind - never build an equestrian center expecting to fill all your stalls.


                                • #36
                                  We just built a barn and arena in a cold climate. We built a metal building. The barn and attached apartment are on a full concrete foundation. The arena has no foundation, not even on the edges. The trussses are on screw piles and the sides of the building come down onto the gravel base. There is at least 13" of gravel fill on top of a clay base under the footing of the arena. Our arena is heated which is the standard here. We did under floor heating in the barn and radiant in the arena. The underfloor is spectacular, love it.

                                  Things that we considered: You can always add length and a narrow arena is tougher for young horses (what I have mostly). So we went with a 96x160. The standard here for most indoors is 80x200 but as a private arena we were happy to go wider and shorter (also worked better on our property). Cost of footing is one thing to consider, we wanted no water footing and it was a considerable expense. I would rather have a slightly smaller arena with excellent footing. Not having to water was very important to me.

                                  The attached barn/apartment makes a L shape with the arena. I wanted that to make a working yard in the crook of the L out of the prevailing wind rather than have the stalls at one end or on one side of the arena. I like to keep the horses under a seperate roof than the arena for ventilation and warmth, I also like the stalls to all have windows which is tough when attached to end/side of arena. I built an overhang all along one side of the arena to use for hay storage. We coudn't build a hay shed due to zoning. I put in 8 stalls, a tack/utility room, feed room and wash stall. One stall is a large foaling stall. I wish I had more indoor room to store feed/wheelbarrows things like that but I was at maximum square footage for my area. That is the only thing I wish were different, I wish I had another storage room other than the tack and feed room. My alleys are 14' so I do park the utv inside the alley. I feel like 8 stalls is the perfect size. One person can manage chores. It's enough to have your own plus a few boarders but cheap enough to heat if it's just your own four. Think about what kind of bedding and how you are going to handle that when you are doing your stall design.

                                  I didn't want boarders, but the costs of utilities are signifigant to manage on my own so I allowed a few close friends. There are a lot of people who want stalls in our area so I have been inundated with requests. I could easily fill double the stalls I have. I think now we might be able to run at a net 0, meaning those boarders will cover the costs of running the facility plus the costs of my own horses. They are all people I know personally, no strangers. Not being a trainer myself, It was easier to get a trainer in to teach more than one person, so that was another reason to have a few outside horses.

                                  Despite knowing and liking everyone at the barn, issues still arise. People are funny about their horses and if you have boarders you have to deal with them. I find the people part exausting because no one will have the same standards you have for your own place or as much invested in keeping it nice. They might not have the same ideas about horse care. Sometimes I wish it was just me and my own horses, but when you have young ones it is nice to have someone to ride with from time to time. Despite your absolute best intentions with someone's horse, they might not agree about feed or turnout. It's hard to balance the owner's wants with what you think is best when the animal is technically in your care. I think a few boarders, who you know, or horses in training is the best route but it's not without it's drawbacks. I may decide not to have the boarders in the future if I get tired of managing the whole thing. Right now I spend more time managing and doing maintenance and not as much as I want on working my own horses.

                                  Good luck!!