Dare to Dream

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Ever dream of building a barn where everything was top of the line? Imagine how much easier your life would become, and how much happier your horses would be. For one lucky family, this fantasy barn is a reality. And while a barn of this caliber is beyond the means of most, we can still dream...

Freedom Farm Equestrian Center in Ravenna, Ohio, is a facility where every aspect of horsekeeping has been thought through and each decision made in the best interest of the horse. Freedom Farm prides itself on being as functional as it is beautiful.

Completed in 2003 on over 30 acres, Freedom Farm is a private facility dedicated to the training and breeding of National Champion caliber Arabian and half-Arabian horses. In addition, part of the facility is devoted to developing products such as the Freedom Holistic Saddle and the Swain sidesaddle.

Assigned with the task of developing this top class farm was Tom Croce of Thomas L. Croce Architects, Inc. in Lebanon, Ohio. The entire project took more than two years from the time Croce first got involved, with more than a year needed for construction because of the complexity of the project. The farm’s owner was also very involved in the process, as was resident trainer Bill Rogers.

Right away Croce knew this would be unlike any facility he had designed previously. The design needed to be as horse-friendly as possible in order to minimize the inherent stress of keeping horses inside. It should “make it easy for them to do their job,” as Croce puts it. Rogers concurred, saying that they wanted to “eliminate any condition that we may incur that would stop the progression of our goals.”

Built for Comfort

The barn is made up of 16 stalls—14 regular and two foaling stalls. The regular stalls are 14 feet by 14 feet, and are open to the main aisle so horses can hang their heads out. Each stall has a combination of a French door to the outside and a full mesh Dutch door for full ventilation and another place for the horses to look out. The stalls were manufactured by Lucas Equestrian Equipment and installed by Equine Housing Solutions.

Cleanliness is a top priority. The floors are concrete with one inch of seamless rubber that was poured over and bonded to the concrete. According to Croce, this rubber, which is manufactured by Equi-Turf, has twice the impact absorption of typical rubber stall mats. This same footing is used in the aisles, wash stall and grooming stall.

All stalls have custom designed feeding stations consisting of stainless steel 10-gallon waterers and stainless steel feeders, which are easy to wash out and keep clean. A reverse osmosis system removes all minerals and impurities from the water.

The area under the feeders is enclosed with a vertical hatch in the wall. Manure and shavings can be dropped onto a big conveyor that runs under the floor. Flip up the hatch, flip a switch and the conveyor pushes the waste through, brings it outside and drops it into a large manure spreader or dump truck. This idea, borrowed from the cattle industry, allows 16 stalls to be cleaned by one or two people in only one and a half hours.

While this system, manufactured by Patz, cost approximately $13,000 to install, it will easily pay for itself as it substantially reduces labor costs. To further reduce costs, the system uses a low-friction liner to decrease wear on the chain and reduce power usage.

Special Treatment for Mares

The breeding facilities are equally lavish. Beside the foaling stall is the breeding lab, which has a window into the foaling stall so that expectant mares can be watched without disturbing them.

The octagonal-shaped breeding shed is set up in such a way that mares, who are usually shipped in, have direct access from the exterior, while the stallions access the shed from the main aisle. The barn is also set up so that the stallions go one direction to breed, at one end of the main aisle, and the other way to be ridden or turned out, at the opposite end of the aisle, thus eliminating any confusion over what is expected when the stallion is removed from his stall. Both live cover or collection can be done. The footing here is the same as is found in the stalls, an abrasive surface that is very durable.

The Human Element

The barn also houses an office, conference rooms, feed room, grooming area and wash stalls. Recessed lights are located in the grooming area and wash stalls, located both up high and down low so that it is easy to see anything in the horses’ feet or lower legs.

Croce designed the entire barn with materials that can be pressure washed and that were fire safe, including heavy timbers and a fire suppression system. The whole barn, including the large exterior doors and indoor arena, is insulated. Metal liner panels on the inside protect the area from birds and are fire retardant. The whole place can be cleaned easily.

Atmospheric Controls

To battle the cold Ohio winters, the barn needed to be heated, but still maintain good air quality. This provided Croce with one of his biggest challenges. His complex solution:

The heat source is a boiler that has water pumped through pipes to a fan coil box in the ceiling. Each fan coil box covers three stalls. Dormers run along the front of the building, and dampers in the ductwork bring fresh air inside.

There are cupolas on the roof to exhaust stale air. These are connected to manual switches as well as ammonia sensors. If the ammonia level reaches a certain point, it triggers the cupola’s fan motors. “The ceiling over the stalls is 14 feet, to allow lots of air circulation, and the tall center aisle will help the natural convection currents,” Croce said.

In the winter, the inside temperature is kept at 35° F overnight and 45° F during the day. This keeps it warm enough at night to keep the water from freezing, but cool enough so that the horses’ systems aren’t shocked when they are turned out during the day. The warmer daytime temperature makes it more comfortable for employees to work.

When summer rolls around, the biggest challenge is controlling flies. Because the owners did not want to spray chemicals, Croce researched other options used by livestock businesses. Eventually, he settled on industrial-strength fly zappers. They fit flush in the wall and are located in just about every opening. Different sizes are used depending on the amount of area that needs coverage.

Other Facilities

Attached to the barn is a 100-foot by 220-foot indoor arena. The footing consists of a polymer-coated sand, Terra 2000, which has consistent impact absorption. While it is very expensive, it requires little maintenance because it does not compact or need watering. It is essentially dust-free.

The lighting in the arena is shatterproof and is color-rated as close to daylight as possible, which helps the horses with their color perception. Gas-fired radiant heaters provide warmth. Three ceiling fans measuring 12 to 16 feet in diameter move a lot of air with their specially designed blades, which are reversible and can operate at variable speeds. There is also a cupola with an exhaust fan.

Besides the main barn and indoor arena, there is a separate structure that houses the hay and bedding, trailer and saddle shop. There is also a 75-foot x 150-foot outdoor arena, as well as 16 individual 1/2- to 1-acre paddocks and other larger pastures. These turnout areas are fenced with a solid three-rail vinyl fence, manufactured by Perma Well, Inc., and contain automatic waterers.

In the end, everyone was very happy with the final product. “It’s worked out extremely well,” said Rogers. “The real method behind the madness is that we get maximum effort from our horses.”