“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.
River Farm is located in Loudoun County along the banks of the Potomac River. The property includes a 24-stall barn, an office, indoor and outdoor arenas, and observation area, a service barn, and outdoor paddocks. Since its competition in 2006, the award winning facility has played host to various equestrian events and family gatherings, serves as a training hub for the owner’s daughter, a nationally ranked hunter-jumper competitor and other riders of all ages and skill levels, and was the site for John Blackburn’s final stop on his book tour on November 21, 2013.
John presented Healthy Stables by Design, to an audience of about 25 equestrian enthusiasts. He sold and signed about 19 books raising $570 for The Equine Rescue League, a non-profit organization in Lovettsville, Virginia. Founded in 1990 by Pat Rogers, the ERL cared for over 100 neglected and abused equine. They continue to promote the responsible use of equines for working, sport and pleasure.
Scroll down to see pictures of River Farm.
On November 10th, 2013, John Blackburn, once again, shared his book, Healthy Stables by Design with another group of horse enthusiasts at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center in Pebble Beach, California. The facility offers over 30 miles of trials for hiking and horseback riding along the beach and through forests with guided tours, private and group rides, and lessons. Before the book signing, John toured the PBEC grounds with director, Margaret Leighton, and the executive vice president of real estate, Mark Stilwell.
Margaret is also the president of the benefiting equine organization, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, located in Lockwood, California. The group works to educate communities on equine suffering, puts together outreach programs, rescues horses that have suffered neglect and abuse, and eventually finds homes for the rehabilitated animals. Margaret joined the organization in 1991, has served on the Board of Directors since 2004, and was responsible for organizing and facilitating this event. After kicking off the presentation, Margaret introduced Linda Plumb, the Executive Director of Redwings, to speak about the group and some of the current programs.
John Blackburn followed Linda with an in depth look at the design philosophy outlined in his book. John was thrilled to raise approximately $540 for Redwings with the event’s sales of Healthy Stables by Design. The event saw attendance numbers between 40 and 50 people.
Scroll down to see photos from the event:
On November 9th, John Blackburn presented his book, Healthy Stables by Design, at the Steinbeck Country Equine Clinic, which sits between Monterey and Salinas, California. The clinic, owned by Dr. Tim Steinbeck, is a 24-hour full service referral veterinary hospital for horses.
Blackburn architect, Dan Blair, also attended the event with John, took the pictures below, and received a tour of the clinic. Blair was impressed by the facility and found it interesting that it is the only equine surgical facility in a 3-hour radius. Two of Dan’s photos below depict equine stones. These obstructions develop in the gastrointestinal tracts of horses overtime when minerals build up around a foreign object the horse has consumed. These enteroliths are made up of magnesium, phosphate, and ammonium and can be fatal if not removed. Of the stones shown below, one proved fatal and doctors at the Steinbeck Country Equine Clinic successfully removed the other.
The book signing followed a similar format to the previous stops on John’s tour. He presented many of the design concepts in the book in a power point presentation and took questions from the over 20 attendees of the event. John sold approximately 18 books raising $540 for the future Monterey Horse Park.
Last night, John Blackburn attended The National Press Club’s 36th Annual Book Fair & Authors’ Night. The event was sponsored in partnership with Politics & Prose and benefited the non-profit NPC Journalism Institute, who provides scholarships for the next generation of aspiring journalists, and The SEED Foundation, which helps to groom underserved students across the District and Maryland for collegiate achievement.
The event kicked off with a reception for more than 90 authors and their guests in The Fourth Estate Restaurant in the NPC building. After an introduction by NPC and a brief presentation by Politics & Prose, the authors were escorted to the ballroom where the book signing commenced.
John had the opportunity to speak with many members and patrons of the NPC who had some interest in horses or knew a friend or family member with horses, farms, and barns. It was surprising how many in the Press community are connected to the equestrian community. It is also a pleasure to be in an environment where there was such enthusiasm for the printed word and books in particular. Many of the patrons who stopped at the “Healthy Stables” table commented on the incredible photography in the book, much of which was captured by Blackburn architect Cesar Lujan. John sold and signed between 15 to 20 copies of his book, Healthy Stables by Design.
Scroll down to see more photos from the event:
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.