- The User-Friendly Farm -

By Ron Petracek

Horse people spend countless hours managing their horse facilities. Who doesn't dream of living on the perfect user-friendly farm? It would certainly give all of us a lot more time to enjoy riding! Think it's impossible? It's not! We are going to help you take the steps to create a farm you, and your horses, can really live with.

But don't reach for the hammer and nails quite yet. The most important part of planning the perfect facility is considering a few important factors first. These factors are:

' Budget. Determine a price range before you start building.

' Needs. Are you a large-scale breeder or do you run a small hunter-jumper barn? Obviously one's priorities are going to be different from the other's. Make three lists: what you can't live without, what it would be nice to have if you've got a few pennies left over, and what you would have if you won the lottery.

When coming up with your plan, you'll want to consider your barn, your pastures, and your fencing. If you plan on having extras like an arena you'll want to think about them during the planning phase as well.

The Barn

There are as many barns as there are horse people! What will your barn be like? Well, it goes without saying that it will be warm, dry, well-ventilated, well-lit, and well-drained. Where you go from there depends upon how many horses you need to stable, the purpose of the stable, and how you like your stable run.

You will need at least as many 12 x 12 stalls as you have horses. If you have a breeding facility and want to accommodate mares and foals, you'll want your stalls to be larger. If you are a show horse barn a wash stall where you can wash, groom, and clip your horse might rank quite high on your list. A facility that specializes in instruction might benefit from a heated tack room with viewing area. If you have staff an office, kitchen, and bathrooms might be necessary. At any rate, you get the picture! Plan you barn with the way you intend to use it in mind.

How you lay out your barn will depend upon your lifestyle, as well as your philosophies on horsekeeping. If you are not home during the day, you may want your barn's stalls to open up to individual paddocks. If you have a large facility you may find that automatic waterers and feeders really cut down on your time. If you have a lot of traffic to your farm in the form of vets, feed trucks, and farriers, you will want them to be able to access your barn, and horses, as easily as possible.

Pastures

How much pasture do you need? The answer to that questions depends upon how many horses you have, as well as how often you turn them out. Horses who live outside 24/7 will need more pasture area that horses who receive a limited amount of turnout per day.

How should you set your pasture up? Again, that depends upon what your facility is used for. If you own only mares and geldings, one or two pastures may suffice. If you have stallions you will obviously need one pasture per stallion, and those with mares and foals will also need special enclosures. Your turnout areas should always be equipped with shelter and a fresh water supply. Depending upon your circumstances and geographical location, you may determine that automatic waterers and heating elements are priorities.

Fencing

Rule number one: fencing must be safe! Once you've gotten used to that idea, the fencing you choose will be dependent upon your budget, personal preference, and how much time you are willing to spend on its upkeep. Wire electric fencing is the least expensive but also the least aesthetically pleasing. It requires moderate upkeep. Wooden fencing is beautiful, but is more expensive than wire and requires significant upkeep. PVC fencing has the beauty of wood and little or no upkeep, but it costs significantly more than wood.

Now that you've determined your budget and needs, you are ready to really start planning a user-friendly farm. Our final piece of advice? Get out there and look at facilities with needs and interests similar to yours, and not what you like and don't like about them. Good luck building your user-friend facility!

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