A barn for the equine athlete

By Sue Marquette Poremba

horse barnLike any hard-working athlete, performance horses need to be well conditioned. For that reason, the Williams family in Daingerfield, Tex., built a therapy barn and conditioning center.

“Megan Williams is a barrel racer, and that’s what led the family to want to make the horses better conditioned,” explains Glen Calvert, General Manager, Structural Engineer, of Priefert Complex Designs based in Mount Pleasant, Tex.

When designing the barn, the number one goal was to make sure the building system – a pre-engineered metal building manufactured by Star Building Systems, was as safe as possible for the horses.

“To do that, we did things like put steel covers over the columns so there were no exposed or sharp edges,” Calvert says. “We had no sharp edges on the metal sheeting. And at the bottom of the building, it is wrapped in a split-face masonry wainscot.”

What makes this facility different from the typical horse barn is its aqua treadmill and sauna.

Texas horse barn“There is a treadmill underwater that horses walk on,” Calvert says. “As they walk, they are constantly being massaged – think of a Jacuzzi-type system.” The water can be regulated to provide optimum comfort for the horses (i.e., cooler water in the summer; heated water in the winter).

There is also a salt-water sauna for the horses. “This massages and conditions the horses’ muscles and joints.” Calvert describes the sauna as looking like a space module. “The horse walks into it, and then it is flooded so the water is just below the brisket.”

There are also hot water bays to wet down the horses before they go into the aqua tread. Rubber pavers are on the floor to improve the footing and traction in the wet environment.

So each horse can have its own workout regiment, there is a Priefert panel walker onsite, which has a programmable panel board. “You can train each horse on its own schedule, time, and speed,” says Calvert. This allows older horses to use the same equipment as younger and more active horses.

There are eight stalls in the therapy barn (there are also a dozen stalls under the arena). They are surrounded by masonry with custom Priefert-manufactured Diamond Series Stalls in the front and dividers. How these stalls are designed, Calvert says, is individual owners like the Williamses will give Priefert a general idea of what they want in stall fronts. “Once they tell us what they want, we do some renderings. After they look at the renderings and make changes – perhaps they wanted the stalls taller or wanted wood – we make the changes to the renderings. From there, we take it into shop drawings and do all the fabrication and installation here.”

Each stall has digital watering systems that let the trainers know how much water the horses are drinking. “If a horse has a typical automated water system and the horse doesn’t drink because it’s sick, you’d never know if the horse has a problem. With the digital readout, you can tell if the horse is drinking or not.”

Texas horse barnThe owners selected custom front doors to the building. “They took a silhouette type drawing and gave it to us. We put it into autoCAD, and we have a laser cutter here that cut out the design. Behind the silhouette that is now in steel, we put in frosted glass.” The doors are 10 foot x 9 foot. “All based on a drawing they gave us, we were able to create some beautiful doors.”

The ceiling of the building has a liner that makes the construction look cleaner. An added benefit is that light reflects off the metal ceiling, improving the overall light into the facility. Because it can get very warm in Texas, the facility has three Big Ass fans for air movement.

Also part of the barn is office space and sleeping quarters on the second floor for anyone who has to spend the night with the horse.

Priefert designed the therapy barn to attach to an existing arena. “We designed the gutter system to drain the new system as well as the existing structure,” says Calvert. “The water is collected to go underground and drain into a stream.”  In fact, this was one of the challenges Calvert faced – joining the barn and the arena and whether or not the existing structure would be able to take the load of the new barn. “We tied the lean-to the roof of the barn into the arena. This specially designed gutter had to carry water from both buildings.”

Connecting the barn and the arena inside are five-feet wide, nine-feet tall Dutch doors. “The owners wanted to make sure the animals don’t hit themselves as they go in or out of the doors,” Calvert says. “Again, that’s a custom design for this particular facility.”

The overall facility is approximately 10,000 square feet, with a 150 foot x 200 foot covered arena. There is also a smaller outdoor arena. The structure was completed in June 2010.

Calvert’s group is particularly focused on equestrian and livestock facilities. “Our primary emphasis on everything we build is animal safety,” he says. “We gave a lot of attention to protecting the horses from the structure – from columns, the way the doors operate, the footing in the stalls, sharp edges. We wanted to make sure the horses’ hooves weren’t in contact with the concrete in the areas where they go in and out of the building.”

Installation of the aqua treadmill was coordinated with closely with the manufacturer. The bulk of the concrete was poured and the site was ready when the truck arrived with the equipment. “We had to leave out a portion of the slab until the aqua tread until it was put in,” says Calvert. “All the plumbing is under the concrete slab. Another small room is adjacent to the room where all the equipment for the aqua tread is held.”

Calvert believes this is an exceptional facility because of the care of both the owner and the builders. He’s apparently not the only one who thinks so. In mid-March, Star Builder awarded the Williams’ barn with three awards:
• Best Building in the district (Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana)
• Best Ag Building in the district
• Best Ag Building in the Nation

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