If your existing barn needs refurbishing or you're dreaming of building a deluxe boarding facility, consider using alternative construction materials that are good for your horses, your bank account and the planet.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION The mantra in home real estate is perhaps even more critical for stables. The building site for a potential stable must be level and well drained to avoid deep, sticky mud in areas where horses spend most of their time. Consider having a soil evaluation performed by your county extension agent to determine the percolation rate of your soil; the agent should also be able to provide you with information about where the run-off from your land is likely to flow.
Pasture and paddock control and manure handling should be managed differently if the property?s watershed area feeds directly into major rivers or lakes. Pastures should be fertilized only with limited phosphate free fertilizers that are safe for the surrounding waterways. If you plan to accommodate a large number of horses on low acreage, holding ponds or trenches might be the answer to run-off problems. Ponds or trenches reduce erosion and encourage rainwater that flows across the land to stop long enough for sediments and pollutants to neutralize or settle out.
Fencing material manufactured of recycled plastic jugs is strong, safe, and resilient. Due to the increased demand for the product, it is more affordable than ever. Manufacturers of these products use by products that would otherwise fill the country's landfills. It is more energy efficient to create a recycled plastic board than it is to forest, ship, plane, dry and treat a board made of wood. Because the plastic fencing material is also impervious to weather, warping, fading, cracking and rotting, it will not need to be replaced or refinished with petroleum-based products such as stain and paint every few years.
The pristine look of a white board fence is a clearly discernible visual barrier to horses, making it a safe alternative to hot wire fencing. Unlike wood fencing, a plastic board fence will very often "bounce" a horse back off the structure rather than breaking and splintering in the event of a collision. Animal insurance companies report far fewer claims for horses who have escaped their confines or suffered injuries due to fencing accidents from stables that use recycled plastic materials to construct their fencing.
Insulating concrete form (ICF) walls are used for animal housing in addition to residential buildings and are perfect for stables because they are nearly indestructible. The "R" value (resistance to thermal transfer) of an ICF wall leaves standard construction out in the cold by outperforming other building materials at a rate of 3 inches to one. A structure with ICF walls is very quiet, virtually impervious to mold, rotting and warping, and rarely needs to be heated or cooled for a horse?s comfort.
Consider fiber cement siding to update the exterior of an existing structure while adding to the "R" value. Fiber cement siding is a solid material so it won?t crush or crease and it doesn't have the dangerous, sharp edges of steel siding. The factory applied paint is resistant to fading, peeling or chipping so you won't be painting or replacing the siding every few years.
In the event that you need to heat or cool an energy saving stable, consider alternative fuel sources like a geothermal or ground source heat pump. As much as 75% of the heat that the sun produces is stored within planet Earth and a geothermal system absorbs that heat by using a system of coils placed below the ground. The system circulates water throughout the coils to absorb the heat and a heat pump collects that heat and transforms it into energy for the barn. Because no combustion is involved there is no ammonia release, no carbon monoxide hazard and limited refrigerant charge, making the system safe as well as quiet and efficient.
Take advantage of passive solar energy by using colors that attract or deflect the rays of the sun and landscaping to provide shade or a wind block. Integrate low pressure plumbing systems to conserve ground water and select water heaters, light fixtures, fans and appliances for the barn that are energy efficient.
It is important to provide a healthy planet and a bright future for generations of people and horses to come. For that to happen, integrating new ideas in stable construction and management techniques should start now.
A frequent contributor to Holistic Horse, Brenda Thoma is a freelance writer with publishing credits in a variety of areas. Horse health assignments are her most rewarding. Brenda competes in dressage with Cricket, her horse partner of 15 years, and supports her daughter with her 3-Day Event horse Citi Lights. Always interested in what lies beneath the exterior of horses and people, Brenda is interested in alternative health therapies and psychology, and enjoys yoga and distance running. Brenda and her husband David live in Minnesota with their son Grant and daughter Lauren.