Breathtaking, without a doubt

Few equestrian building projects inspire awe even before construction is completed, but when the towers were being lifted to the roof of this horse barn in Chesapeake City, Md., it was a “hold your breath in amazement” kind of moment.

Perhaps that isn’t as surprising as it seems for a horsebarn that builder Daniel Glick says could be one of the most interesting and complex equine facilities he’s ever built.

“It’s certainly the largest we’ll ever build,” says Glick of B and D Builders in Ronks, Pa., the contractor for the facility. B & D sends experienced Amish construction teams to build custom horse barns, riding arenas and other equestrian facilities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

At a time when many people are downsizing, this particular facility  expanded to 54,000 square feet. Completed, it will include a 90- by 216- foot riding arena, a horse barn with 31 stalls and a country club building.

“We’re retrofitting the existing barn,” Glick explains, “and tying the new building to go with it.”

Among the highlights of the facility are 15 copper-roofed cupolas and three laminated-frame square towers, each measuring more than 30 feet on a side. Crowned with the cupolas, the structures rise to 55 feet in height.  Each tower also has an observation deck.

But the construction moment event to remember was the raising of the cupolas. Constructed on the ground, the towers were hoisted by giant cranes and set into place as the project’s crowning glory.

Between the roof, gutters and downspouts, Glick says the facility uses about 10 tons of copper.

From dreams to details

The stalls of the horse barn are all masonry with eight-inch walls on the dividers. The stall doors, made of oak, are three inches thick. And for the ultimate underfoot comfort, the floors are heated throughout the barn building.

The country club building boasts two stories. Offices occupy the second floor, while downstairs will be arena-viewing areas and social areas.

Framing was done with glulam timbers and the riding arena has laminated wood Tudor arches.

“This is a unique design while providing a large span,” says Joel Mackey of Rigidply Rafters, the Pennsylvania company that did the framing. “Wood gives you a lot of flexibility with what you can do with your design.”

“This is an engineered product,” Mackey says. “It has a lot of flexibility in design and is a green product, as well.”

Mackey compares the exalted look of the riding arena to a church with large wooden arches. “They are about 10 to 12 feet on center and 90 feet wide,” he explains. “Tongue-and-groove decking was put on top of it. As the riders are in the building, the wood dampens a lot of the sound and makes it a calming experience.”

Inside the arena, a rider guard keeps the riders and horses from hitting anything that could hurt them.

In the beginning

The existing barn was a traditional stick building. During the retrofit, glue laminated beams were installed beneath the existing rafters.

“When you are walking down the center of this stall barn, there is a curved barrel roof in there,” says Mackey, “but when you are outside, you can’t see any difference.”

Glick adds that most of the equestrian arenas built by his firm are framed with glulam timber.

“The architects and owners like glulam because of its rustic elegance and competitive cost,” he says.

Building, which began in August 2008, is taking place in three segments. The first segment consisted of two towers and work on two barns. The second segment was the arena, and the third phase is the country club.  Construction was completed in November 2009.

There have been a number of challenges with the construction of this equine facility, Glick says. One such challenge was tying the new horse barn with the existing structure. The new barn is wider than the old barn, and there is a tower that connects the two structures. “We had to make the peaks of the tower the same height.”

Mackey also had some challenges. “We had to do unique things with hardware,” he says. “The structural components used for the suspended observation decks on the towers are little-bit-out-of-the-ordinary tie-rods and had to be custom made. But it fits in nicely with the wood structure.”

Details make the difference

What really makes this barn unique compared to other barns Glick has worked on is the detail. “We never put crown moldings in stall fronts of other barns,” he says, as an example.

Glick adds that the woman who owns the facility has a real passion for building and has been an active participant in the whole design and build process.  Based in Colorado, she works with an architect to come up with the actual design. Glick says his office had weekly meetings with the owner to discuss the progress.

“She is very hands on,” he says. “This gives us a good handle on what she wants.” 

Glick also stays proactive on any designs changes or ideas. “We were putting up large crown molds, so we developed mock-ups of different options until she found one she finally approved.”

The cupola designs were also done as mock-ups first to give the owner a good idea of what the final results would look like.
“All in all, it’s an interesting building,” Glick says. “It’s been a very fun project.”

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