Cost Cutting Tips for Building Horse Barns

Editor's Note: The August issue of The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care will feature several articles containing cost-saving tips for horse owners. Here, two horse owners share their top five tips  for saving money while designing and building a farm.

Jim and Alex Amonette of Richland, Wash., are designing a "green" zero net energy horse facility in Montana where they plan to eventually move. "Part of cost-savings," Alex remarks, "is spending a little more up front to help prevent accidents and be safe down the road."

Here are their top five picks for cutting costs and staying green when building a horse barn:

1) Focus on reducing square footage, as this will be the main way to save on dollars spent.

2) Combine uses. Rather than build a separate barn, the Amonettes are connecting their garage, barn, and house with one roof. This will save on heating as well as construction costs, and because the barn will only have two exposed walls, there are two fewer walls to construct. "Try to think of multiple use spaces--other things that one space can be used for," suggests Jim.

3) Think outside the box. The Amonettes' new stalls will be hexagonal and almost 16 by 16 feet (from one flat side to the other) so there's no wasted room in the corners. Hexagonal angles mesh so cutting and fitting stall mats shouldn't be difficult, but most importantly horses won't get trapped in a corner and stalls will be plenty large enough so horses can move around and lie down safely.

4) Look at what's overhead. The combined buildings will have a green, living roof (often called a sod roof) made of live native plants. This helps reduce fire risk as well as hailstorm damage--both common occurrences in the Great Plains states. Sod roofs also add insulation that helps reduce heating costs. They help the facility blend in with the natural environment and catch rainwater, which reduces erosion and mud in paddocks. Extra rainwater that comes off the metal portion of the roof will deposit into collection systems to be used for stock water and gardening.

5) Choose your building location wisely. The Amonettes chose to orient the building east/west with Southern sun exposure to maximize solar gain during winter months. They also advise owners to avoid building near streams, rivers, or flood plains. Changing waterways can cause headaches and be expensive for you and those living down rive; shoring up a creek bank concentrates flow and sends water downstream to create more problems for the next person. "People are causing problems by not working with Mother Nature," says Alex. "People try to control rivers, and the rivers always win."

"Don't learn the hard way by cutting corners," Jim concludes. "In the long run it saves money to do things well and safely from the beginning. Plan ahead, take your time, and do it right up front."

About the Author

Alayne Blickle

Alayne Renée Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and reining competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approaches, Alayne is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise controls and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Alayne and her husband raise and train their reining horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho. She also authors the Smart Horse Keeping blog.

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