Human Comforts

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It’s not necessary for the successful operation of your farm, but having useful and carefully placed furniture around your facility can certainly enhance its appearance and make life easier for both you and your clients.

IN THE BARN

Barn aisles are not a popular place for furniture given the inherent dangers of collisions with animals. Still, if there is room away from horses, a bench is a good idea. Benches provide an excellent spot for horse husbands and clients to rest or put on boots. They need not be fancy; a simple metal-framed wood bench works well. At garden stores, they range in price from $50 to $150.

Tack rooms are a better spot for furniture. “I found the perfect chair for my tack room,” says Cathy Burrell of Kingston, Ontario. Tired of fabric chairs that quickly got moldy and were hard to clean, Burrell hit upon an inexpensive solution. “I’ve got several folding chairs made of outdoor canvas material. They are great because they don’t attract mice, and my cats don’t like to lie in them.

“I also like the fact that they fold up so they can easily be taken to shows; if they get broken they are inexpensive to replace; and can be hosed if dirty. They are very comfortable, have a holder on the armrest for a bottle, and sell for just $10 to $20. They may not be the most fashionable furniture I’ve seen, but you can have the backs stenciled with the barn’s name to up the wow factor.”

ARENA FURNITURE

Viewing areas for indoor arenas should have comfortable, inviting furniture. “The biggest overriding issue for selection of furniture,” says Doug Payne of DPEquestrian Sports in Pottersville, N.J., “is the ease of cleaning. You want a protective material, not something like fabric, which is easily stained and can get disgusting over time. My preference is leather furniture; it’s easy to clean, while at the same time, is of higher quality and gives your facility a more professional look. We haven’t had any issues with humidity, although we do clean the furniture as needed with leather care products. Mold has never been an issue because we use cleaning products with mold inhibitor. It helps to have a dehumidifier, too.”

Bar stools have also found a place in Payne’s viewing room. Since the window into the arena is elevated, bar stools fit the bill. “The clients love them because they add a very casual feel to the area,” notes Payne. “Plus, they can spin around toward the chairs and talk to each other.”

Peeper Ranch in Lenexa, Kan., has a split-level floor and leather furniture in its viewing room. “Clients mention the furniture a lot,” says owner Dawn Fire. “We have leather couches and leather/fabric chairs in our viewing lounge and everyone seems to really appreciate them. However, the heating and air-conditioning are what really make it pleasant for the parents of riders.”

There seems to be a bit of a disagreement over upholstered furniture. Several people interviewed said they’d never use it, or had to destroy what they had due to stains or mildew, while others insist that if used in a climate-controlled room, upholstered furniture works well. Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Mass., has used upholstered couches in its viewing room for many years. “They are very functional,” notes Samantha Pleasant, a riding instructor at the school, “and they are quite comfortable, and the students love them. They are similar to a bench with a foam-filled fabric top, much like dorm furniture. They don’t smell or get moldy, and dust and dirt is easily vacuumed up.”

LET’S HAVE A PICNIC!

Picnic tables outside the barn are very popular. Avoid placing the table in the scorching sun; underneath a shade tree will insure that the table is used. If, however, your trees are inhabited by lots of birds or insects, you may wish to invest in a pavilion to protect guests from droppings.

When purchasing a picnic table, look for one that is sturdy and easy to clean, particularly since tables frequently double as tack-cleaning benches and mounting blocks. The common, all-wood variety found at department stores, says Jason O’Mahony of ParknPool in Lexington, Va., is normally made of a soft wood such as pine, which degrades quickly. “You need to carefully weigh the initial cost against purchasing that table over and over,” says O’Mahony, “as well as upkeep costs in terms of time and money. A soft wood table will require a yearly varnish treatment. If cost is an issue and you want an all-wood table, then you’d be better off purchasing it at a small, specialty garden shop where tables are normally made by a local carpenter. A good carpenter will use a hardwood like oak which will last much longer.

“Look carefully,” continues O’Mahony, “at the hardware used. Raw steel will rust, and galvanized steel will wear out when bolts are tightened. Look for stainless steel hardware; it signals a higher quality product.” When using a lower-quality residential picnic table at a commercial stable, any warranty will be voided and lawsuits are possible should somebody get hurt by a rotting table, he warns.

“A more suitable solution is a recycled plastic table, also known as a resin-wood table. It can look like wood, is environmentally friendly, very durable, easily cleaned, immune to water damage, can’t mold or mildew, and will often outlast your barn.

“A step down from this would be a wood table with a steel frame. It doesn’t have the long life of the recycled plastic, but is much more durable than an all-wood table,” he adds.

For a price comparison, an all-wood pine table typically runs around $150; one with a steel frame, $250; and a recycled plastic table, about $700. “Remember,” say O’Mahony, “a recycled plastic table requires zero maintenance, so your initial investment will be your only cost.”

An alternative to picnic tables is a gazebo. Payne purchased one from local Amish carpenters for about $3,000, and it has seen a lot of use. It was placed directly outside a ring and is used for a judge’s stand during shows. At other times, clients use it as Amanda Wood of Twin Ridge Farm in Warner, N.H., went one step further and found a gazebo that is completely screened in. Filled with a table and several chairs, it keeps the bugs out, and customers truly appreciate that.

Carefully placed furniture can enhance the look of your facility by adding charm and utility to each room or arena. Choose pieces that are durable, require little maintenance, and add comfort to your client’s weekly visits. Then you can focus your attention on the horses.