May 2018 - Favorite Functional Features
Written by CRM
Monday, 30 April 2018 19:22
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Barn planning or remodel suggestions from four who’ve been there, done that.

Not-Shady Suggestions

Matt and Lindsay Archer run a boutique-size hunter/jumper training program, Shady Lane Farm, LLC, on family property in the East Bay Area’s Alamo. Many years of horsekeeping there enabled Lindsay to offer these ideas.

Scenes from Shady Lane Farm.

1. Re-think rubber pavers.

They’re safe from the standpoint of preventing slipping, but the Archers find that many horses, especially youngsters, figure that out and use it as an OK to play while being led around the stable. Shady Lane’s walkways are concrete or concrete pavers. “If they know that if they do something silly, they are going to fall down, they are super polite and well-behaved. In Europe, it’s all concrete pavers.”

2. Think workflow, ventilation & access.

Place hay and shavings storage as close to stalls as possible to make the best use of staff time. Windows or a grilled opening on both sides of the stall facilitate good airflow. Doors on both sides of the stall are critical for an emergency evacuation. “It’s really nice if you don’t have to go back into the barn to get into a stall.”

3. Long-term & flexible configurations.

Over time, stall walls made of galvanized steel will deteriorate near the base from the ammonia that accumulates from urine, even in well-maintained stables. Powder coating the bottom three feet of the walls, or installing 2’ by 12’ planks around the base of the walls, will prevent that.

While everybody loves the idea of a horse hanging its head over the stall door or yoke, some horses will always paw at the stall front if they can. Having a top stall door for those horses is important for a peaceful, quiet barn environment.

4. Going Au Natural.

“I’m a big believer in not having synthetic footing, at least not to train on at home.” Shady Lane’s big outdoor arena is footed in locally-sourced sand that she considers ideal.  “Working on surfaces without wax or other additives is really important so the horse’s feet can move and slide like they should naturally. I think that helps to greatly reduce injuries.” It also gives them variety in the terrain they perform on because show venues typically have footing that includes synthetic material. “Training on different surfaces is good for bone density and muscle fiber patterns.”

Prioritize any chance for irrigated pasture turn-out. “If I had the choice between 10 small paddocks and three grass pastures, I’d take three grass any day,” even if it means each horse gets fewer turn-outs every week. The physical and mental benefits of time spent living as nature intended are vast. “They’re outside, moving around, chewing and having something to think about: the grass.”

5. Be A Savvy Neighbor.

Maintaining horses in the midst of ever-increasing residential development is a challenging reality for many. “Try to be invisible,” is Lindsay’s advice. An effective fly control system and “immaculate and immediate” manure removal are critical. Shady Lane uses an overhead fly spray system with Pyranha products that covers every stall, barn aisle and paddock. High hedges that shield horses from the view of neighbors who may not be so crazy about them helps with the “out of sight, out of mind” modus operandi.

Savoir Faire Top 3


Installing solar power at this San Diego County boarding and training facility was a big enough benefit to warrant its own article, page 30. Jeanne Burns-Gardner, one of the property’s owners, has three more favorite features to suggest.

1. Cover Up.

The covered arena built three years ago has been a big boon to year-round riding. “When everyone else was rained out of riding, we were holding clinics and riding every day,” notes Jeanne, a dressage trainer. That’s the #1 benefit people think of regarding covered riding spaces, but it’s also a blessing through hot summers. “It stays 15 to 20 degrees cooler under the cover,” Jeanne explains. Thanks to that, they ride all day long instead of the early morning or early evenings dictated by inland San Diego summer temperatures.

2. Doubled Fly Control.

Savoir Faire uses Fly Predators, the “beneficial bugs that control flies naturally,” and an overhead fly-spray system. The latter dispenses a natural fly spray product made from pressed flowers in 15-minute intervals throughout the barn during peak fly season. The Savoir Faire team is careful to test the product on new horses to make sure they are not allergic to it. The natural fly spray is oilier than the one the system is designed for, Jeanne explains, but the more frequent system cleaning that mandates is well worth the benefits to horses, people and the environment.

3. Big Ass = Big Asset.

Powerful overhead fans from Big Ass® Fans do more than keep air moving through the stable. “If there are any residual flies left, they go elsewhere when the fans are on,” says Jeanne.

(left to right): Daily arena grooming and watering are critical to stable maintenance at Sea Horse Ranch. Trail maintenance during the dry season is critical at Sea Horse Ranch. Barbi Breen-Gurley and friends are ready to ride at Sea Horse Ranch.

Sea Horse Suggestions


Geof Gurley and Barbi Breen-Gurley had an almost unfair advantage when they built their five-acre property in San Louis Obispo County’s Los Osos. Geof has training and background in agricultural engineering and he and Barbi, a dressage rider and trainer, are lifelong horse people and horse keepers. Geof’s tips come from 40-ish years maintaining the ranch that is currently home to 42 horses.

1. Safety is Priority #1.

“Safety of our horses and riders is our mantra,” Geof relays, and it’s a challenge with 42 horses and their people riding and training on five acres. To those starting from scratch, he advises focusing on what the priorities of the business are, be it boarding, training or breeding, and planning accordingly. “The considerations are a bit different for each.”

As a boarding and training operation, Sea Horse puts a premium on minimizing distractions for those riding in the outdoor arena. The facility’s work flow was designed so that staff with hay carts and shavings loads are not whizzing past lessons, and noisy, disruptive work is done in shops far from the ring. Dogs must be kept on a leash and be well behaved. A kennel near the tacking-up area provides a shady, safe space with access to water for dogs to stay comfortable while their owners are riding.

2. Ground Control.

The property’s lovely trails “are a big challenge because they will turn into a river when it rains if we are not careful,” Geof explains. The non-rainy season is the time to repair deterioration and make sure water control points are in good order. Sea Horse uses wood chips to help stabilize the trail soil, especially on sloping segments, and a water detention basin at a low point on the property prevents run-off onto neighbors’ property. Space constraints prevent Sea Horse from composting manure on-site, but a landscaping firm happily purchases Sea Horse’s regularly hauled-out loads.

A pre-sunrise arena watering, and sometimes another later in the day, is a daily maintenance item, along with regular grooming. The ring is footed with natural sand mixed with fiber from Premier Equestrian, with whom Sea Horse has worked for many years to maintain an ideal riding surface.

3. Get Professional Help.

Whatever the scope of the project, “read and study up before you jump in,” Geof urges. The process of building and maintaining Sea Horse Ranch was and is greatly aided by his knowledge of soil, erosion control, landscape design, water control, permitting and other topics. Those without that kind of expertise will need to call in outside resources. Time invested thinking through the many variables involved during the design process can save many mistakes, do-overs, extra costs and headaches.

(left to right): Susan Worthington gets a little help from stallion Landkonig while mowing pastures at Rainbow Equus Meadows. Pasture priority provides ample outdoor time for all Rainbow Equus horses. High ceiling barn allows for ample airflow above the stalls.

Rainbow Equus Meadows Musings

Thirty years ago, Susan Worthington purchased the large parcel that has been famous for many years as home to the Rainbow Equus Meadows sporthorse breeding endeavor. The property in the Sacramento area’s Lincoln had a few structures on it originally, but over the years she has overseen lots of new construction and repurposing of older structures to suit the breeding program’s needs.

1. “You Get What You Pay For.”

Investment in good quality materials has been key to fulfilling Susan’s priority on safe horse keeping, and to the longevity of her barn and its various functions.

2. The Great Outdoors.

“I’m a homeopathic person, and I’ve tried to have that influence throughout our horse keeping.” In keeping with that, fencing was an immediate priority so that all horses could spend as much of their lives living outdoors. Inside stabling is important, too, for foaling mares and those circumstances when a horse needs to be confined. Her smallest stalls are 16’ by 16’ and several are 20’ by 20’. 

3. Air Flow.

Ventilation and keeping things cool during the area’s sometimes extreme summer heat is another priority. Toward that end, Rainbow Equus’ main barn is a gable roof structure of about 30 feet. Stall walls extend to about 16’, leaving lots of open space for circulation above the stalls. Along with having overhead fans in every stall, that configuration allows hot air to rise and escape and keeps temperatures inside relatively cool.

4. Miscellaneous Tips.

Vet visits for ultrasounds and other procedures are made much easier by having two electrical outlets in every stall, Susan shares. Conversely, having water hook-ups in the cross-tie area was not such a good idea. “I learned you don’t want your grooming tools and equipment getting wet. It’s better to have separate grooming cross-ties and wash area.”

Hay feeders made of bars are a big no-no because foals can easily get a leg stuck in them. She prefers bucket-type feeders low to the ground – but not sitting on it – so that horses can eat with their head lowered, as they would in nature. She’s not big on automatic anything when it comes to feeders or waterers. “It’s better to have to look in so you can make sure everything is clean and safe.”