Newly elected Mayor of NYC Bill de Blasio has plans to rid the city’s streets of horse drawn carriages, putting an end to a time honored tradition. Arguments pro and con the move make a powerful debate.
Mayor de Blasio and many animal rights groups argue that carriages are inhumane using statistics about recent accidents to support their claims. Groups such as NYCLASS and ASPCA are backing the mayor. Those opposed believe the NYC horse drawn carriage trade is rooted in tradition, with antique cars or any other proposed replacement unable to replicate its fundamental appeal. Customers argue the horses are what attract costumers to this business, which earns the city nearly $19 million a year. Marriage operators, who fear the loss of jobs, are backed by the Teamsters Union and dismiss claims of inhumane treatment. They say each horse is given five weeks’ vacation time each year.
I have noted the debate, reading several articles on the subject. After reading The Daily Beast‘s “Mayor De Blasio’s Horse Policy Is a Pile of Manure” and perusing the predominately political comments, I found the space became a soapbox for libertarian issues, conservative and liberal politics, socialism and every other political persuasion. Readers showed very little concern for the horses or the focus of the article. After 30 years designing equine facilities that promote the health and safety of horses, and as illustrated in my book, Healthy Stables by Design, I am clearly an advocate for equine welfare.
Though I do not live in NYC, I know it well having visited many times. I own a timeshare two blocks from where the horse drawn carriages stand and wait (for what seems to be an endless amount of time). I spend about 3-4 weeks there annually, and periodically find myself running through Central Park for exercise when the weather allows. Neither resident nor tourist, I find New York the most interesting city and would love to live there full time. The only time I have had any “business” with horse drawn carriages was as a child and tourist with my parents. The only feelings I recall having at the time are a fascination with horses in the city and with the carriages in general, as I imagine any child would. I remember finding the whole experience odd in such a busy city, even as a child. That was over 50 years ago and it has only gotten busier.
My thoughts on the current situation are not based on the economics, jobs, tourism or historic context but concern for the horses’ wellbeing. Let me point out the act of having a horse pull a carriage is not inhumane in my opinion. During my visits I am always saddened watching these animals standing amongst polluting vehicles in traffic or waiting on the curb for patrons without the option of lying down to rest if tired. I have never seen the stables in which these horses are housed but have heard horror stories for years about the conditions that exist there. I imagine if people visited these terrible conditions they might think twice about their supportive stance on the issue of horse drawn carriages in the city. I certainly would welcome that opportunity if ever given the chance. I find it difficult to understand how people find an excursion at the expense of an animal condemned to these conditions inviting. I guess it is the history of horse drawn carriages that attracts riders and they are perhaps unaware that these animals are sentient beings who suffer the same way we do. Humans have domesticated horses for centuries and though they have been used as a so-called beast of burden, there is a difference between what “burden” is acceptable and when “burden” becomes abuse.
Part 2 of this article will be published on Wednesday, January 15, 2013 here.
The Lucky Jack Farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California has certainly held on to its namesake in the past year. The site played host to multiple charity events over the course of 2013 and the barn was selected for the cover of John Blackburn’s book, “Healthy Stables by Design.” The cover photo, depicted below, was taken by David Hartig.
On May 11, 2013, the owner’s Patricia and Marc Brutten of Lucky Jack Farm hosted “Wine, Women & Shoes.” The event, operating for the second year, featured “fashion, fine wine, and good cheer,” and produced over $187,000 in donations and proceeds for Voices for Children. The nonprofit recruits, trains, and oversees San Diego County’s court appointed special advocates (CASAs). These volunteers advocate for the over 5000 abused and neglected youth who pass through the San Diego County’s foster system each year. The Voices for Children organization is the only agency of its kind designated by the Juvenile Dependency Court to provide CASA volunteers. Click here to view pictures from the event.
Blackburn Architects is proud of our design for Lucky Jack Farm and thrilled that the owner’s are using the farm for such worthwhile and charitable purposes. We wish them well and another successful event in 2014.
Having designed well over a hundred barns and arenas over the past thirty years we have seen our designs provide the setting for numerous parties, receptions, fund raisers, weddings and settings for fashion magazine spreads such as the one at Lucky Jack Farm in 2013 and at Devine Ranch in Aptos, CA in the 2007 (see the photos from the April/May issue of Genlux Magazine below).
Though barns are designed for horses, they make great spaces for other events that can extend the benefits for more than just the horse and rider. Think about it for your barn or arena.
“I had one owner complain about how cold her barn was in winter. She said the grooms complained endlessly. My answer was to issue the grooms long underwear because the barn is designed primarily for the health of the animal, not the comfort of the human.” – John Blackburn
If there was ever an understatement made, it was in the first line of “Heated Barns and Horses: Special Considerations Needed.” The article written by Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension equine specialist, Dave Freeman, PhD and published by TheHorse.com in 2011 begins, “Horse owners who use heated barns to keep water from freezing and to protect horses from frigid temperatures during winter should remember supplement heat can cause problems if used incorrectly.”
For me, the most important considerationis the unhealthy and potentially hazardous effect of added heat on the “naturalness” of a barn’s environment. Even in the winter, when temperatures may be below freezing, the barn should duplicate the choices a horse would make if it were living in the wild. For example, in winter if a horse wants to warm up it may choose to move into the sun. If it wants to get away from the cold it will run behind a hill or some natural obstruction. The options a horse has to control its environment are eliminated in a heated barn yielding a less natural experience and potentially creating an unhealthy and high-risk environment. One of those risks is the restriction on natural ventilation and the need to rid the barn of humidity that can cause harmful bacteria. An owner may attempt to close up the barn to “save” on the cost of the heat but at the same time restrict natural ventilation. I am not opposed to heating human spaces, but I am concerned when heat is introduced to the stable area. In my projects, we have provided heat to the floor of the aisle in extremely cold climates but we do not close off the natural vertical flow of natural ventilation through the stable area.
Ventilation is important regardless of the temperature outside or inside the barn. As an equestrian designer who’s primary focus is healthy stables, I completely agree with Dr. Freeman on this point. I feel every barn should ventilate all winter no matter where it is located or what the temperature is outside might be. As always, as much natural light as possible should be brought into the barn as possible. We install continuous ridge skylights whenever possible in our designs that provide a totally naturally light interior all day long, which is, also most close to what the horse encounters in nature. Our renovation of the thoroughbred broodmare barns at Sagamore illustrates my point. See photos below.
I don’t want to imply that a healthy stable design will solve all your winter heat or equine health concerns but that it is a very important part.
Barns without ventilation are more prone to high humidity, which creates ideal incubating conditions for disease causing pathogens. Dr. Freeman suggest turning down the heat to get rid of excess humidity but I would take that suggestion further by not introducing heat into stalls area at all. The stall area should stay within 8 to 10 degrees of the exterior temperatures. This allows horses to adapt more easily when moving from stalls to paddocks in the winter months. Horse blankets and proper adjustments of feed for winter conditioning are other important considerations for helping your horse adjust to cold weather. Also heat lamps in a stall for a young or feeble horse should also be considered before enclosing and heating the entire barn for this purpose.
I hope you read the article, Heated Barns and Horses: Special Considerations Needed. It provides some great advice. Also, if I may, read my new book, Healthy Stables by Design. My focus of the book is you illustrate how one can create a healthy and safe environment for the horse hat doesn’t have to be expensive (though many are and that it primarily due to human or owner desires) and it can be accomplished in almost any environment with good design principles. A successful equestrian design is one that incorporates and balances three essential needs; the needs of the owners, demands of the site and the health and safety of the horse without sacrificing the health of the horse. That remains paramount.
Over the weekend, John Blackburn attended the 2013 Lisbon Christmas Horse Parade. The event first occurred in 2011, making Saturday’s holding the 3rd annual occurrence. The parade benefits local Howard and Carroll County Food Banks and the Lisbon Volunteer Fire Department. The 2013 Lisbon Christmas Horse Parade was expected to be the most successful event since its inception with almost 120 entries, more than 600 horses, and over 70 sponsors. However, due to less than favorable weather conditions the parade had to be cancelled.
The weather did not completely end the festivities. Each year The Equiery puts on a Holiday Open House and 2013 was no different. During the open house non-perishable food items were collected for local food banks, patrons purchased wreaths for the Lisbon Fire Departments fundraiser, and a Vendor Gift Mart was held.
John was one of many who braved the cold and wet conditions to bring his book “Healthy Stables by Design” to patrons of the parade and open house. Despite a decrease in attendance John was still pleased to sell 6 copies of his book, raising $360, half of which will be donated to the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International’s Wounded Warrior Project. “WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs” (1). John also donated one of his books to the Howard and Carroll County Food Bank raffle.
During the event The Maryland Horse Industry Board presented its December Touch of Class Award (2). Ross Peddicord, the board’s executive director, was on hand to present the award. He took some time to stop by John’s table. The two are photographed above.
This event was John’s final book singing event of 2013. While his book tour has, at times, been “long and tiring,” John has found the entire process “rewarding.” He raised over $7,000 for equine charities across the country.
The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Care is a print and online publication that provides indispensable articles for horse owners and caretakers. On October 20th, 2013, The Horse published an article entitled, “Lots of Elbow Grease for Disinfection Project,” commentating on the process for choosing which disinfectant is best for your barn and horses, navigating the risk of contagious. John Blackburn found the article to be a great conversation starting point and has offered the following additional suggestions to make disinfecting your barn a less daunting task.
Having an isolation stall on the farm or at least in the barn, where horses can be kept when returning from off site conditions can protect your barn and the animals that dwell there. This may not be a luxury that everyone can afford but it is a useful means to limiting the spread of disease causing pathogens and reducing veterinary bills. John recommends at least one isolation stall be finished like a foaling stall if possible, with protective, non-porous surfaces that are easier to disinfect than standard stalls.
John also recommends isolated your tack room or area, thorough cleaning when in contact with an infected horse or one you believe could be, proper disinfecting of any tools used in the isolation stall and when returning from horse shows are critical to the containment of bacterial infections in the barn. We also recommend all barns consider installing foot disinfectant mats at the entrance of your barn. Bio-security is becoming a much greater concern these days and preventive measures should be taken whenever possible to disinfect your barn.
Keep your horse healthy and happy:
Middleburg Life, “The voice of Loudoun’s Hunt Country for more than 30 years,” is a monthly publication distributed in print to over 15 thousand homes across Loudoun and Fauquier counties, and available online as well. The December 2013 issue features an excerpt from John Blackburn’s book, Healthy Stables by Design. Check it out here.
On November 18, John’s interview for South Carolina’s ETV Radio was featured as part of the station’s “Your Day” segment. John sat down with Anna Simon to discuss his book Healthy Stables by Design, his history designing equine architecture, and his design philosophy. Listen to the interview here.
In today’s blog, our summer intern, Alexa Asakiewicz, shares her summer experiences here at Blackburn. Alexa is an equestrian (former captain of the Villanova Equestrian Team) and currently a graduate student at Rhode Island School of Design. This year she will be completing her Masters of Architecture degree. Alexa joined us from late May to August as an architectural summer intern. Her skills are exceptional; you can check out some of her work at www.alexaasakiewicz.com. She has been helping me put together the promotional campaign for my book, Healthy Stables By Design; updating our social media presence; and assisting with architectural projects. At this point, I’ll hand it over to her.
As a life-long equestrian and an architectural student, I have been following Blackburn Architects and their projects for many years. This summer, I was fortunate to work in the office and learn more about the practice and John’s new book. Immediately upon my arrival, John showed me his book and videos. From those, I began to further understand his natural principles of design (many of which have been shared on this blog).
I not only saw these principles in design projects I assisted with, but also learned how to share them with a public audience. I realized that in addition to design work, architects are tasked with marketing themselves. While helping John update and maintain the Stable Minded blog, website, and social media, I was fortunate to learn even more about the everyday life of an architecture office. I hope you all have enjoyed looking at some of the past and present Blackburn projects on facebook, pinterest, and Houzz, as well as learning more about John’s design strategies through the blog. I have and will continue to work on the blog and facebook throughout the school year, so check back often to explore our projects and happenings.
In assisting John with publicity for Healthy Stables by Design, I gained experience working in concert with Washington International Horse Show, Phelps Media Group, and John’s co-writer, Beth Herman. I was also fortunate to be able to attend the event at WIHS. It was a great opportunity to see some of my work come to fruition, watch some great riding, chat with my co-workers again, and meet up with all the people I have spoken with and never met. Check out the tour list to find your opportunity to meet John.
The most exciting part of my summer was helping with the architectural projects in the office. I really enjoyed assisting the architectural staff with the Westchester Condominium project, the Valley Vista Project, and a private farm. One treasured experience was the chance to make a few conceptual site plans of my own. Not only did John teach me about the many considerations when designing a site, but he allowed me to put the concepts into practice. Fortunately, I also got the chance to check out the River Bank Barn and River farm. It was nice to see all John’s principles come to life as we explored both structures.
Being an equestrian myself, I have spent a good deal of time in barns. I have always been partial to the beautiful simplicity of these structures. As John told me more about his rationale behind every detail, I was fascinated. It was always interesting to hear the reasons for things that I had always before taken for granted. It also made me look at barns in a different way. I continue to contemplate the benefits of ventilation and Dutch Doors. In every barn I have been in since, I have made at least one comment on the ventilation properties (much to my mother’s chagrin).
I really enjoyed my time at Blackburn Architects and want to thank the staff for having me. I feel very lucky that I had such a great opportunity to learn from John and everyone in the office.
In the recent publication of Equestrian Quarterly, John Blackburn and Great Roads Farm is featured. Take some time to look at Barn Design Masterclass: How to Get the Best Barn While Working Within a Budget. John shares some tips for designing within budget without sacrificing the essential elements of a well-designed barn.
The article “Safe Stabling: Protect the People” by Nancy Loving DVM shares a few tips and suggestions on how people can keep themselves safe around horses and in barns. Her fun photo challenge first caught my attention, as we have done similar challenges (as seen here). My career in designing horse farms has continuously focused on how to design for the safety of both horse and handler. I wanted to add some additional tips on how stable design can help keep both people and animals safe. One could write a book on the subject, and I have in fact. My book Healthy Stables by Design (www.healthystablesbydesign.com) has been released. But for now, I’ll name eight areas of concern: Circulation, Fire Separation, Ventilation, Finishes, Layout, Materials, Orientation, and Natural Light (see diagram below). I have shared one example under each, but in truth the list is virtually limitless. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions. Let’s build a list together and see how far we can take it.
Circulation: In planning the farm and the location of the barn relative to paddocks, roadways, service lanes, and lead paths, always try to bring people, vehicles, and horses as close together as possible without crossing paths. They should be separate, but still efficient (as all circulation routes are costs in terms of installation, maintenance and operation).
Fire Separation: It goes without saying that fire safety is a major concern around horse barns. Both how you design to prevent and contain a fire once it happens is important. I always suggest isolating hay, bedding, and flammable products (such as fuel and machinery) from the barn by placing them in a separate structure. Whenever you can, consider fire separations. For example, I frequently design a fire separation that isolates the stall area from the service areas of the barn by using pocket doors to close off the aisle. They serve to isolate the “human areas,” such as tack room, laundry, lounge, or office, from the “horse areas.” By doing so, they separate the areas of high risk from the horses. If there is a fire, the fire separation works to contain the smoke and slow the spread of the fire in order to give you more time to get the horses out.
Ventilation: The most important health concern for your horses. Natural ventilation, including vertical ventilation, is the most important design consideration. Design the barn to be a natural machine, not just a static structure. Use the Bernoulli principle and the chimney effect to create that. Place the barn perpendicular to the summer prevailing breeze in order to take the most advantage of the site.
Finishes: Avoid finishes that will collect dirt, moisture, bacteria, etc. For that reason, we do not advise using finishes that are not easily washable or do not drain well.
Layout (site and building): Consider the natural slope and drainage of the land. Place the barn on a pad that is at least 18″ to 2 ft above finish grade. Ideally, one wants the ground to slope away from the finish floor of the barn, as this will aid with drainage.
Materials: Never use exposed concrete if you can help it, unless adequately protected (rubber mats, etc). The use of concrete is especially bad in stalls and wash/grooming areas, where horse may be standing for long periods of time.
Orientation: Orientation is important for natural ventilation, but it’s also important to consider the angles of the sun during different times of the year for natural light. Protection from the sun might also be a concern, so consider the design of openings, overhangs, view corridors, security, etc.
Natural light: When designing a barn for health and safety, natural light is probably only second to natural ventilation in importance. The horse was meant to live in nature. Natural light is key to the natural cycling of broodmares in a thoroughbred-breeding farm, but it also helps promote the health of any horse. Lighting is also a safety and cost concern. The more you can use natural light to light your barn, the less you need to depend on man-made light, which is an operational cost but also a fire hazard.
These are 8 of my favorite health and safety design principles. Read the article by Nancy Loving, look at your own farm and try to add to the list I have started above. We can all have a little fun with it and maybe learn a few pointers while we are at it.
Good luck and I look forward to your responses.