Using horse sense to build a barn

Wayne Laramee horse barn

With 35 years of working in the horse business, Wayne Laramee of Weatherford, Tex., brings a unique perspective to his building enterprise. He began building horse barns and arenas about ten years ago, after retiring from the national horse circuit. From his own experiences, he believes he brings a greater understanding of what horse owners want in barn construction, how the barn should work, and what the most efficient building is for the situation.

Laramee uses Sentinel Building Systems. “When I started in the business, I looked around at the different manufacturers,” he says. Sentinel Building Systems and the metal buildings were the best fit for Laramee’s plans, and it has been a solid partnership over the past decade. “They are very good about getting everything done right, and they are good people to talk to when you need information on just about anything.”

The majority of his clients call Laramee because of his knowledge of horses. He tends to deal primarily with barns with at least ten stalls and many of the construction projects include an arena, either to be built new or an existing structure that will be considered in the planning of the barn. “If they are working the horses in an indoor arena, we try to set things up so the barn is convenient. We choose a location where they can go into the barn and saddle the horses and then go into the arena without having to travel a long way,” he says.

Wayne Laramee horse barn interiorSome people know what they want in a horse barn facility before sitting down with Laramee, but his background allows him to add suggestions to the discussion. “I’ll bring different scenarios on the interior into the conversation. Some want a really fancy interior, and some want something plain.”

To best accommodate his customers and their expensive horses, Laramee says most of the stalls in his barns are larger than the standard 12 x 12. His company builds the majority of stalls for the barns, using either a tongue and groove with number 1 lumber or tilt wall stalls. “Tilt wall stalls are pretty popular down here in the South,” he says. “That’s a cement stall that are built on the ground with a three-inch frame.” The wall is then installed with the jail bar on top. “I prefer the wood stalls, but that’s up to the individual customer.”

The flooring Laramee prefers to use in the stall is matting called the pillow system. “We put in a solid clay base and then install these pillow-like forms made of shredded rubber.” A rubber pad that covers the entire stall floor goes on top, and this creates a soft flooring for the horse. It’s an expensive option in the initial building, he admits, but he thinks the floor ends up paying for itself. “You can use a lot less shavings with this flooring. Since shavings are so expensive, you end up saving money over the long haul.”

In the barn alleyways, he puts down cement with a rough sweep so the surface is never slippery. Some customers want pavers, so what Laramee does is put down the cement and cut it and color it to look like bricks.

Most of the barns that Laramee builds are insulated. This gives the building a little higher eave than usual, at 12-14 feet. “Even in Texas,” he says, “where you wouldn’t think that would usually be an issue. Thing is, down here with the insulation, in the summer when it’s hot, it helps keep the temperature under control.” And seeing the unusual cold spells that have hit Texas during the winter of 2011, the insulation certainly is a blessing to help keep things warm inside!

Laramee believes in lots of natural light. “We do a lot of windows,” he says. “In most of these barns, we do good-sized windows in every stall.”

When it comes to ventilation, Laramee discovered a relatively new product that he swears by – the Big Ass Fan. “That’s the actual name,” he says. “The fan system has a blade that can be up to 24 feet. It looks like a helicopter blade. They are expensive to buy, but they are low cost to operate.” Laramee says the trick is to open all of those windows, as well as the doors, and turn on the fan. “It can drop the temperature fifteen or so degrees and keep the circulating air inside the barn. On a 95 degree day, the horses like to stand in their stalls and feel the cooler air.” The largest fans cover up to 100 feet of barn space and have made a huge difference in how Laramee approaches climate control indoors.

To install the fans, there has to be a clear span, and this is one of the reasons Laramee prefers to use metal structures for his barns. “With a steel structure, you don’t have to worry about beams or posts,” he says.

Laramee has done countless outstanding barns, but the one that stands out most to him is a 28-stall barn that he built for a friend.

“We built an arena, and then he wanted to build a nice barn,” he says. “Once we got started, the plans began to escalate.”
One of the most outstanding features of the barn is its use of cedar. The owner decided he wanted California cedar for the ceiling on the 110-foot by 120-foot structure. “We had to frame that whole ceiling in and then lay down the cedar strips.”

The walls were then framed in, plywood installed, and then on top of the plywood is ¾-inch stucco. “You don’t see any metal in that building,” Laramee says. “And for all of the woodwork, we used screws instead of nails.”

The stalls are all tilt walls, with 3 x 8 foot sliding windows, and pavers for the alley flooring. The tack room is done in cedar, and there are offices, medicine rooms, and a computer room in one area of the barn. It doesn’t connect to the arena – “we were limited in what we could do there,” Laramee says – but there is a horse walker building next to the barn, and from there, you can lead the horse directly into the arena. In all, there are five buildings that make up the horse farm facility.

Laramee admits this barn is a high-end facility where the owner spared no expense. What’s not unusual, though, is that this horse owner, like many others, looked to Laramee and his experience with handling horses and their surroundings to create a high-quality barn. RB


You may also be interested in these articles on horse barns and arenas:
2012 Guide to Horse Barn Products
Problem-solving horse barn accessories
A riding arena for champions in Sandusky, Ohio
A builder’s challenges in creating an equine paradise on Mackinac Island
Appeasing horses – and their owners
A barn for the equine athlete

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