From vision to reality

‘‘If engineers can design it, we can build it,” says Northland Buildings sales consultant Steve Schwebke, his voice sounding a note of Northland pride.

The post-frame construction company has developed a reputation throughout the Midwest for its high quality buildings and attention to detail.  It was this reputation that led to a horse barn and riding arena that Northland employees point out as being among the most outstanding projects in the company’s history.

Schwebke is truly pleased with a project belonging to Bob Stromberg, a southern Minnesota horse owner. Stromberg was boarding his horses in a barn belonging to another of Schwebke’s clients. Stromberg, Schwebke says, was impressed with the facility.

“He decided he wanted his own barn, but something a little different,” Schwebke says.  “He wanted a facility that was custom-made. He had certain ideas of what he wanted, and we made his ideas work.”

Working through Northland Buildings’ Mankato, Minn., location, Stromberg soon had the horse facility of his dreams.

The showcase of the project is the riding arena. Measuring 60 by 117 feet, it can be used for pleasure riding or horse training, Schwebke says. 

Next to the arena is a 40- by 60-foot tie-on building, designed to have a multitude of uses.  The building has a viewing window that looks out onto the arena floor.  It also boasts a small kitchen and laundry facilities. The quarters easily could be converted into a small apartment.

It’s all about the horses

But horses are the most important occupants of a barn, and hay storage has also been incorporated into the design.

The horse stalls are located in this building. Currently, the area is set up for four horses, but it can accommodate up to eight animals.  Each stall has its own outside door.

Custom-built stalls and other special features are among the finishing touches the client selected to complete his vision of what the facility should contain.

A leg saver is installed around the entire arena.  That’s essentially a plywood board that allows horses to be ridden without fear of injury to their legs.

“You aren’t running into posts or hurting the horse’s legs,” says Kyle Massey, manager for the Mankato office of Northland Buildings.

Along the outside of the smaller building, there is an overhang to provide some additional social space.

“It’s an immaculate building,” Massey says.
Schwebke says the true beauty of this building lies not so much with its luxury features, but its versatility.  And that’s the way it was designed, Schwebke says.  “The stall area can be changed into an apartment or maybe a workshop.”

“A lot of thought went into this barn,” says Massey. “We shot plans back and forth and did a lot of consulting for them.

“One of the biggest things they wanted was the ability to make changes in the future,” Massey adds. “Because our line is custom, it gives us the ability to allow them that freedom.”

Striving for excellence

However, top-of-the-line really has become status quo for Northland Buildings.

The company was started in 1994 and immediately set about creating its identity and reputation for upholding high standards.

Building horse barns, Massey points out, is a niche of any post-frame builder, but at Northland, the barns are totally customized.

“Whatever you have in your head is where it begins,” he says. “Then we ask things like what do you need to store, how much clearance, the number of horses, how much room for hay or saddles, etc., and we go from there to design your building to your specifications.”

The sales consultant also plays a key role in the barn’s design, as Schwebke did in the Stromberg barn.

“We draw from the experience our sales (people) have to create the building that will suit the client’s needs,” says Massey.

Horse barns are becoming a more popular segment of Northland Buildings, as the number of projects  designed each year continues to increase. In addition, people are looking for more than a barn.  They want the specialized stall for washing the horse and places to entertain and for social events.

“And horse people are looking for good quality,” Massey says. “They don’t want a run-of-the-mill building and they want builders with experience.” 

Experience where it counts

In fact, one advantage that Northland Buildings brings to the design table is a staff that has several years of experience in the horse barn field. Their expertise is valuable in helping a client figure out exactly what will work best.

Massey had the opportunity to work on a horse barn that shares similarities to the Stromberg barn, but on a smaller scale.

“It’s a lot like Bob’s but not as finished off,” Massey says, explaining this barn has a 40- by 30-foot building that runs perpendicular to the arena, with a big door for horses or machinery.

“Where you have posts, you always have ability to finish it off with sheet rock or insulated with steel lining,” Massey says.  “You can always do something else to change the building, and we plan our buildings to be changed down the road” if the owner wants to alter the original plan someday.

And that ability to plan for the future and to build on or reconfigure the building to suit current needs is what makes the Stromberg riding facility special.

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