Barn Best Practices

Here are some best practices for building a dressage barn. The list is based on years of boarding and training at different equestrian facilities.

The indoor arena, in our northern climate, is central to the equestrian community. Years past, show barns boarded a mix of riders of various disciplines. There were few dedicated dressagers and more hunter jumper riders back in the day.

Footing originally was basic. It usually started with a clay base, with local sand, wood chips and perhaps some dust control product added. Watering arenas was part of the maintenance cycle.

The arenas were often insulated and heated as an afterthought, or when it became financially viable to do so. Heat and water created a problem with footing, either exacerbating the dust or causing the clay base to rise. The worst cases of watering and indoor in our climate can cause mold issues and water damage to steel arena supports. Footing continues to evolve into a state of the art all its own.

Now purpose built arenas and barn designs take into account specific disciplines in equestrian sport. Considerable research has gone into the design phase and best practice when implementing an arena build.

Let’s take a look as some other equestrian facility best practice ideas:

  • Room for trailer and big rig turn around & parking
  • Plan for having a safety gate at the facility entrance to contain any “run away”
  • Purchase the correct vehicle and tools for stable management
  • Consider hvac needs and heat conservation methods in arena planning
  • LED lighting throughout and special lighting for farriers and veterinary considerations
  • Safety mirrors and appropriate angle of mirror set for maximum view above kick boards
  • MP3, blutooth, technology in planning music systems
  • Sound systems should be accessible both from the viewing area and from the arena floor
  • Make sure the arena can support a dressage court (20 x 60 metres) with a 5 metre perimeter
  • Have a “drive through” arena and barn isle
  • Plan a dedicated storage area for the dressage ring, cavaletti, and jumps
  • Design a viewing area for spectators that is functional (WiFi), warm (heated), and comfortable
  • Keep sufficiently large  paddocks close to the barn for ease of turnout.
  • Automatic waterers designed for negative temperatures
  • Warmblood size stalls, rubber mats, windows in barn
  • Consider using a method of non slip flooring throughout barn
  • Blanket bars and halter racks in front of every stall
  • Wash racks with hot and cold running water
  • Washer and Dryer for horse laundry
  • Washrooms in barn and viewing area
  • Generous sized tack lockers for clients
  • Organized feed room and feed cart catering to standard and customized feeding protocols
  • Dedicated area for weekly hay storage onsite, with bulk storage planned for a separate hay shed or building
  • Dedicated area for show trunks and extra blanket storage
  • Accessible and copious numbers of brooms, forks and muck buckets to encourage clients to clean up after their horses (make cleanliness user friendly)
  • Empower a dedicated staff capable of the highest level of care

Feel free to add your own ideas for best practice attributes of an equestrian facility. Together we can raise the bar.