Horse Barn Builder: Bringing the outside in

Horse lovers Charles Longo and his wife dreamed up a plan that grew far beyond their expectations. When the couple acquired 47 acres, they planned to build a stable. Then they realized they could expand it to a boarding facility.
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“We could kill two birds with one stone,” he says. “We could take care of our horses and get paid to take care of other horses.”

As they researched buildings, Longo came up with bigger and better ideas. He wanted an indoor arena, he decided, and he wanted to have the arena and stable combined in one building.

Longo drew a design of the building he wanted. “Indoor riding arena, 50 stalls,” he says. “We wanted something that would span 130 feet. I looked at the buildings and how they were manufactured. If I went to wood, I couldn’t have that continuous span. So I had to go to a metal building.”

When you build a metal building, he continues, you need to add skylights. That was fine with him. But, he adds, most arenas he was familiar with had roofs to offer some protection against rain and sun, but no protection from wind or temperature.

“So, I said, why can’t I make a convertible building, where I have these doors that will open up?” Longo asks. “It would allow it to be a covered arena when I wanted it to be or an enclosed arena when I wanted it to be. I thought it was a great idea.”
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In other words, the horse barn Longo wanted was comparable to a sports arena with a retractable roof. The difference is that Longo wanted a permanent roof and retractable walls.

Where there’s a will…
The next order of business was figuring out how he could get the effect he was looking for. He called a door manufacturer and explained what he wanted. That company couldn’t provide what Longo needed, but recommended Schweiss Bi-Fold Doors.

“What I needed was essentially an aircraft hangar door,” says Longo. “The space I wanted to open up was a 200-foot span plus a 130-foot span.” The building is designed with 25 feet between each exterior column. Longo then needed four 50-foot doors for the length and two 50-foot doors and one 30-foot door for the width. The bi-fold doors are on three sides of the building.

Constructing the doors became a three-way project among Longo, who was coordinating the efforts, Schweiss Bi-Fold and the building manufacturer, who needed to design the building to fit the doors.

“The building arrived to fit the doors, as promised,” says Longo. “Erectors came to put up the building, but they didn’t have any experience with bi-fold doors.” Luckily, the representatives from Schweiss were able to talk the erectors through the installation process. When they were done, Longo had the most unique and largest horse barn and arena in the Annapolis, Md., area.

“The whole end of the building opens up,” he explains. “You have a clear view right through the building. It brings the outside in. If you are on the inside, instead of being in a big box, you have a view and protection from the sun and rain. In the winter, we close the doors, so you are protected from the wind and the weather. You can use this building year round.”

HBB-Schweiss horse arena3.jpgAll the amenities
Hidden Springs Stables is a 40,000-square-foot facility, with a 130- by 200-foot arena. The building also includes showers for the riders, extra-large stalls and a wash area for the horses, a lounge and offices. “It’s a full-care boarding facility,” he says.

Part of the attraction of the building is the doors. Longo says visitors want to know how the doors work.

“Each door has an individual motor,” he explains. “That motor operates a belt system. Depending on the size of the door, there are four spools of very strong web belting. It’s stronger than cable. You have a switch like an elevator switch with directions ‘up,’ ‘down,’ and ‘stop.’ At any time you want to stop the doors from going up or down, you hit stop.” This allows the doors to be at virtually any height. “The spools take the webbing from the bottom, so it lifts the bottom of the door. The center of the door goes outward, like an apron. We adjust the door heights to any configuration we want, so we can adjust it to the wind or weather.” Because the doors are operated individually, they are able to protect from the sunlight on the east side in the morning and the west side later in the day, while still keeping the building open.

Let the sun shine in
The doors fold toward the outside of the building, giving the perimeter of the building some shelter. When the doors are open, they provide an umbrella-like effect for spectators watching events on the arena floor. The overhang also protects riders and horses as they are waiting their turn to go into the arena.

Knowing that he wanted to use the facility year-round – and Maryland winters can be very cold and snowy – Longo had the doors insulated. The doors don’t usually come insulated, he explains, but they are designed to allow insulation to be added for better temperature control.

“The building draws a lot of attraction because it is unique, thanks to the doors,” Longo says. “People come around from all over to see it. It actually increased our business because our riders can ride year round.”

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