August 15, 2014

Oklahoma Tornado is No Match for Building Volunteers

Tornados can have devastating consequences. But the tornado that struck Bethel Acres, Oklahoma, in May 2013 was no match for the good deeds that followed. Just ask Maeghan Hadley.

Maeghan is founder and operator of 1 Day Ranch, an animal rescue, therapy and education center located near Bethel Acres. She had been running her organization, which is funded entirely by donations, for a mere three months when a mile-wide tornado struck the Central Oklahoma community. Thankfully, her property wasn’t at the epicenter of devastation. But the high winds mercilessly tore into the ranch’s old dairy barn being renovated for horse rescues.

“We were just a few months away from completion, and within seconds it was beyond repair,” explained Maeghan, who gave this phone interview while simultaneously bottle feeding an abandoned baby goat.

Serendipity Weighs In
Maeghan is also a first animal responder who helped during the aftermath of the 2013 storm. As such, she was invited to speak at a post-tornado panel discussion, which led to meeting Jeff Parness, director of New York Says Thank You Foundation (NYSTY), an organization started after 9/11 to help rebuild communities after disasters. Since then, NYSTY has grown into a national, hands-on platform for rebuilding and volunteer service. Each year on the 9/11 anniversary, NYSTY sends hundreds of volunteers from New York, along with disaster survivors from around the country, to a specific area or project that needs help. Maeghan’s 1 Day Ranch is the main project for 2014.

Lester Buildings Joins the Team
Jeff then called on Matt Johnson, a Lester Buildings dealer and operator of SL Construction in Archie, Missouri.  Since 2008, Lester has partnered with NYSTY, offering discounted building materials and volunteer design expertise. Matt heard Maeghan’s story and didn’t think twice.

“I wanted to continue our involvement, since my wife’s grandfather initially brought Lester Buildings into the program in 2008. It’s a great way to honor Bob’s enormous passion for the foundation.” Bob Lotspeich, founder of SL Construction, unexpectedly passed away in May 2013. With great enthusiasm, he had donated much time, energy and leadership to several of the Foundation’s building projects.

In early March, Matt made the five-hour drive to 1 Day Ranch to meet Jeff and Maeghan to draft a rough floor plan. “We asked Maeghan to think of everything she could dream of for the project. Jeff then raised the money, and I plugged details into Lester’s design software. It does a really nice job of providing complete proposal drawings and pricing.” When finished, 1 Day Ranch will have a 10-stall Lester horse barn with restrooms and community classroom, a side building with dog kennels, two run-in horse shelters, outdoor riding arena, and new fencing.

Barn Raising Set for September 2014
After months of Matt’s steady involvement – weekly conference calls, a lot of emails, an additional visit to set posts – the buildings will go up in September. Matt will make the trip again to thoroughly prepare the building site for the convergence of a few hundred volunteers, all ready to build, but with varying degrees of experience. This time, he’ll bring his family; he and his wife recently had their first child (a girl).

For Maeghan, seeing her dream come true is overwhelming – and thrilling. “This will be a massive improvement for our program and the community. It will give our animals a safe place to recover and boost our ability to provide equine therapy.” She hopes to have her staff complete equine therapy training next spring.

Another benefit? The upcoming new buildings reframe her view of winter.

“I’m actually looking forward to this winter. Last year, our pipes froze and we spent three to four hours a day hauling water from the house out to the pastures.” That’s no small feat, considering the number of feet, hooves, paws, etc. on her property (9 horses, 2 donkeys, 1 llama, 1 goat, 1 pig, and 11 dogs).

As for Matt and future projects with The New York Says Thank You Foundation, he’s committed. “By the time this project with 1 Day Ranch is completed, I’ll have donated around 100 hours of time. But the improvement we’re providing is worth it.”  

View Photos
Visit to see its full library of equine barns and related out buildings, including those in your area.

Learn more about 1 Day Ranch or make a donation at

July 14, 2014

#BarnLife Contest Winner

“We won! We won!” screamed an ecstatic Sandy Lynch repeatedly after hearing the phone message that she had just won a Lester Buildings barn valued at more than $30,000. Never in her wildest dreams did she think it could happen. Who would?

Sandy, who lives in Nicholson, Georgia, was chosen as the grand prize winner in an online contest co-sponsored this past winter by Lester Buildings. Her touching two-minute video about her animal-loving husband, Bill, and his menagerie of abandoned horses and unwanted donkeys won voters’ hearts.

“We always talked about building a barn, but we couldn’t do it financially. It was always in the future,” shared Sandy. But, she explained, the three lean-tos that sheltered their four-legged friends were causing health problems, like thrush and white line disease, especially after last summer’s storms. The couple has begun working with their local Lester dealer, Eddie Lanham of Jordan Building Construction, on the solution.

Lester Dealer Delivers Expertise

“We knew we wanted something similar to the barn in the contest photo, but with some changes,” Sandy said. The design had to accommodate Bill’s specific safety concerns. As a child, his family’s barn burned to the ground and animals were lost. He was adamant about having exits at opposite ends of the barn and minimal onsite hay and feed storage.

The couple began by listing everything they wanted and then relied on Eddie’s expertise. They met on site at a Lester horse barn Eddie’s company had recently completed, to see a finished product. Then they met at the Lynch home. Together, they choose the best functional site, size, number and types of stalls, doors and exterior features. After exchanging emailed photos and computer drawings (“with just a click of a button” according to Sandy), the couple settled on their dream barn.

The Final Design

The Lynch’s were willing to pay more than the contest’s allowance and doubled the barn size. When completed in late August, they will have 36-foot by 48-foot by 10-foot structure with a 6-foot-deep overhang porch. Sandy says they’re doing their best to think from the perspective of the horses and donkeys. “They won’t be used to being indoors, and we want them to be comfortable with the transition and not feel isolated.” 

They’ve opted for six 12-foot by 12-foot stalls, center aisle, open stall doors, and lower stall dividers so the horses can see each other. An insulated ceiling will reduce overhead noise. Other features include stylish split dutch doors, a double sliding door on each end, cupola and traditional colors.

“We were in total agreement with the final plans,” Eddie said. “Their Lester barn is going to add tremendous lasting value to their property.” He added that Sandy and Bill have been “extremely delightful” to work with.  He’s looking forward to building them a quality, customized structure that will last through generations.

Future Plans:  The More the Merrier

Since winning the contest, the Lynch’s have added two more foster donkeys (their rescues come from the Georgia Equine Rescue League). Eventually, they hope to be a revolving door, rehabilitating some of the animals and adopting them out. Until then, they’ll stay plenty busy with their existing brood, which includes two kids, two dogs, geese, chickens, a rooster and a cockatiel.

Watch for Photos!

You can see photos of the Lynch’s completed barn later this summer on Lester’s website, Until then, visit Lester’s site to see other equestrian buildings, including those in your area.

View Sandy’s winning video:

June 11, 2014

Where’s the Beef? In a Monoslope Beef Barn.

While they may resemble long garages abandoned halfway through construction, monoslope beef barns have become a done deal for many beef producers. Increasingly, these barns are replacing conventional feedlots, and for good reason. Feeding cattle in “bedded confinement buildings” is showing impressive benefits for producers and cattle, alike.

Defining the Monoslope Barn

Before we jump into the benefits, let’s define monoslope barns. They have only one slope to their roof and feature a roof truss that is higher on the front side of the barn (typically facing south for winter sun exposure), sloping down toward the back (facing north for shade in the summer). Because two walls are left open for cross ventilation, they are sometimes called “cold barns.” The goal isn’t to keep the building warm (insulation is usually added only under the roofline to control condensation), but to keep cattle – and manure – dry and protected from harsh elements, especially moisture. Cattle have no continual access to an unroofed area. Many producers add a rear curtain along the north side, to be lowered during extreme weather.

Best Monoslope Cattle Candidates

While any cow can benefit from monoslope housing, Beth Duran with Iowa State University Extension and a topic expert, says there are four types of cattle that particularly excel in monoslope barns. “It’s those that don’t tolerate heat stress well:  lightweight calves, market-ready animals, dairy steers, and black-hided cattle.”

Build for Durability

Lester Buildings has provided high quality, durable post-frame buildings for years. Al Miller, a rep with the company, has built several monoslope beef barns and only sees more on the horizon.

“The interest in monoslope barns has really picked up in the last four or five years. As the cost of feed and water increases in southern states, the Midwest is seeing a surge in beef production and these types of barns. Economically, they’re very cost effective.” Lester distinguishes its buildings with a flexible design, unique add-ons, and a long history in livestock structures. The company’s monoslope beef barns feature a long span central header to minimize interior columns, and a clean truss design that discourages birds and maximizes overhead space for maneuvering equipment.

The Many Benefits of Monoslope

  • Profitability – Monoslope barns require 44 to 50 square feet per head compared to 350 square feet per head in open lots, making the land cost per head much cheaper. Managing labor and manure is simplified, too.
  • Performance – Research is showing that cattle housed in monoslope barns have a 15 to 20 percent increase in average daily weight gain over open lots. This is especially true during summer months, when heat can make appetites wane. Cattle also don’t waste energy trudging through muddy pens and snow, and they have easy access to concrete feed bunks.
  • Cattle Comfort – Monoslope barns provide cover for cattle during weather extremes (shelter barns are 10 to 15 degrees cooler in the summer) and offer ample summer and winter ventilation. Keeping cattle under shelter decreases animal stress and improves their overall health and comfort.
  • Manure Management – More producers are building monoslope barns with manure bays within the structure. Containing the manure and keeping it protected from rain and snowmelt offers many benefits. Foremost, it reduces feedlot run-off, odor and environmental concerns. Keeping manure dry also increases its nutrient levels and value, since it’s not diluted.

Are there any downsides to a monoslope beef barn? According to Miller, no. “Sure, there’s an investment up front, but you’ll see a return on that investment faster, especially with fertilizer savings. Even lending banks see it as a win-win.” 

View Photos!

Visit to see its library of monoslope beef barns, including those in your area.

March 21, 2014

What Size Should Your Horse Barn Be?

If you’re building a new horse barn, this question might keep you counting sheep (or horses) at night. But you don’t need to lose sleep if you follow some general guidelines for sizing a barn.

Start by considering the number and breed of your horses, the type of riding you do, storage needs, climate, and, of course, budget. Then call in an expert.

Ron Foust is an experienced Lester dealer based in East Central Minnesota. Over the past three decades, he’s put up many equine buildings – from hobby barns to complex riding arenas with living quarters. In his experience, “no two equestrian projects are alike.” Here’s his advice for how to get the best-sized barn for your horses and you.

Building Size
Obviously, the number of horses – yours, those boarding or both, now and in the future – is one of the biggest sizing factors. It dictates the number of stalls. Thirty-six feet is a common building width (12’ wide alley, flanked by 12’ wide stalls on each side) and 10’ for height. Length will depend on number of stalls, stall length, and additional rooms: tack room, wash bay, bathroom, lounge/office, and storage for feed, hay and equipment.

“I really like a minimum of 12 feet for the center aisle. I’ve done a few 10-foot aisles and it gets too tight for horses passing each other, especially if they’re territorial” Ron adds. Getting too narrow, can also lead to damage around doors. “Two feet makes a big difference.”

Stall Size
The stall size debate seems to have settled on 12’ by 12’ for an average 1,000-pound horse. Ron says 90 percent of his projects have 12’ by 12’ stalls; he rarely get orders for 10’ by 10’ stall, like he did years ago. A horse should be able to turn around, lie down and get up comfortably, and be groomed in place. Movable dividers can be added and are essential for foaling.

Riding Arena
If you’re riding for pleasure, start with a standard indoor arena size of 60’ wide by 120’ long and a minimum height of 14’. If you’re doing dressage, bump up the dimensions to at least 70’ wide by 200’ long and 16’ high, to allow for speed, jumping and turn-around space.

Hay and Equipment Storage
To reduce fire hazards, Ron sees a lot of people storing just enough hay for a week or so. Having a separate wing or room for hay storage works fine for people with a few horses for personal use. Those with larger operations and staff like a separate hay building. Also, don’t forget space for tools and equipment – wheel barrows, brooms, ladders, buckets, lawn tractors, four-wheelers, trailers, etc.

Ron adds, “In my experience, equine folks seem to know what they want. Lester Buildings is here to help them achieve it, and fine tune the details.”

Still not sure what size barn you need? See a complete library of equine projects, including those in your area, at Once there, you can also enter your zip code and locate your nearest Lester representative.

March 11, 2014

Custom Stable-Arena-Home in Illinois Horse Country

It’s not an overstatement to say that a horse can change a person’s life, because that’s exactly what happened to Vicky Campbell. Her healing experience with horses inspired her to become an equine coach, horse owner – and more.

Come spring, Lester Buildings will help Vicky literally begin building her life around horses on a generous piece of land in Oswego, Illinois. That means breaking ground on a private facility for family and friends that includes a combo stall barn and riding arena, and private residence for Vicky and her family. The specs: 84-foot wide by 224-foot long arena that shares an end wall with a 40-foot wide by 120-foot long 14-stall barn, and Vicky’s home (size is being finalized) attached to the arena’s other end wall. When completed, the complex will resemble a “U” shape.

“I want my facility to be a real place of healing and be big enough that it’s comfortable for people,” said Vicky, who purchased her first horse, “Jetty,” last June. Since then, she has added another horse and donkey. Her barn will also house her brother’s two horses and five that belong to her trainer.

Taking Time to Design
Ivan Hovden, Lester’s local rep. who covers central Illinois, has spent the last year leading Vicky through a thorough and collaborative design process. When Vicky contacted Ivan, she had a budget in mind but no set design beyond suggestions from her horse trainer.

Ivan explained that Lester’s design process typically goes much faster, but they never rush a customer when so many decisions are involved. “From the start, Vicky has relied on Lester for design and direction, which I’m happy to provide. My role was, and remains, keeping everyone informed and moving forward.” For Ivan, that has included watching weather reports. The severe Illinois winter has pushed the project’s original start date of January to March, with completion of the barn and arena by early summer. The attached residence will follow shortly thereafter, once its interior design is finalized.

Finalizing the Layout
It’s common for building design to shift, especially with larger projects. Initially, Vicky only knew she wanted an 80-foot by 150-foot arena large enough to turn her horse. She envisioned two barns with 20 to 40 stalls for commercial boarding, and an unattached traditional home. That plan changed when she learned her facility’s size and purpose would require a sprinkler system and be cost prohibitive. The final design gave Vicky want she wanted, including natural ventilation (another cost savings).

“I hate details, and I’ve changed my mind a lot, but Ivan has worked extremely hard to make this work. I can’t say enough good things about him,” Vicky added.

Design Highlights
Ivan’s role has included guiding Vicky through Lester’s nearly endless list of aesthetic and functional options.

These include door, window and roof styles, and some of Vicky’s personal touches -- cupolas, wainscot, dormers, a metal ceiling liner to hide trusses in the arena, and an angled arena guard for horse and rider safety.

In keeping with her vision for “clean and crisp,” the buildings will feature white walls and roof, with black trim and wainscoting.

“She is going to have a very nice complex when we’re done,” Ivan added. “And if she ever decides to move, resale shouldn’t be a problem. She’s in a great horse community. There’s even a polo field across the road.”

Watch for Photos!
You can see photos of Vicky’s completed building later this summer on Lester’s website, Until then, visit Lester’s site to see its library of other equestrian buildings, including those in your area.

February 11, 2014

Look Before You Leap When Building a Horse Barn

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when you’re contemplating a builder for a new horse barn. In fact, it’s hard to believe that anyone would consider such an investment without first seeing standing proof of a builder’s workmanship and experience. Here’s what to look for in a builder’s equine portfolio.

Experience and Variety
A reputable building company knows that seeing is believing. Look for a builder whose portfolio shows a variety of equine projects. Each should display the same level of quality, regardless of size or function. Lester Buildings took this to heart when redesigning its website last year. The site now provides an extensive online photo library of real Lester Buildings of all types and sizes, including horse barns, riding arenas, and those with attached living quarters.

“It’s a great place to showcase our company’s experience building equine structures around the country,” said Stephanie Beste, Marketing Manager with Lester. “Horse people are passionate about their animals, and they expect the best in safety and quality whether they’re building a single-stall stable or large commercial riding arena.”

Don’t settle for a builder that’s limited to the proverbial napkin sketch. Equine owners typically want to customize their structures to the specifics of their lifestyle, climate, horse breed(s), aesthetical preferences – you name it. A good builder should have the ability to confidently design and deliver your vision on time and within budget.

“There are almost no limits to how we can customize our equine buildings. Our site provides great inspiration and design ideas for horse owners,” Beste added. Lester’s site lets viewers sort project photos by building use, geographic location (state), color and project number. Clicking on a photo reveals deeper details, such as town/state, dimensions, special features and more. If viewers want to venture into pricing, they’re just a click away from eBuildings, Lester’s online pricing tool.

Builder Longevity and Warranty
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. For starters:  How long has the building company been in business? You want a builder who will be around for the long haul if problems arise or you want to expand in the future. Does the builder offer a lifetime structural design warranty? Don’t commit to a builder who doesn’t. Also ask if the builder knows local residential and commercial codes, in case you what to attach living quarters at some point.

A good builder should have no shortage of references. Ask for contacts who can comment on recent equine projects, as well as past, where after service was needed.

To learn more about Lester Buildings and see its library of equestrian buildings, including those in your area, visit

January 22, 2014

Horse Stall Sense: Why Choosing a Single Source for Stalls and Barns is Best

For a horse, its stall is its personal sanctuary – its familiar place to rest, relax and rejuvenate. So it makes sense that horse lovers want that aspect of their barn to offer the best in safety, comfort, function and beauty. It begins with choosing a designer and supplier that are one in the same.

The Benefits of a Single-Source Supplier
“A single-source supplier is always going to be less problematic for the owner,” says Paul Boor, Vice President of Product Development/Engineering Services with Lester Buildings. Years ago, the company began seeing the problems and challenges that came with trying to fit other suppliers’ stalls into Lester Buildings. In response, Lester introduced its Signature Equine Line of safety-tested specialty stall fronts, backs, partitions and doors, including sliding and dutch doors, about a decade ago.

After 20 years on the job, Paul knows first-hand the benefits of ordering horse stalls and buildings from one company with plenty of equine experience.  His observations:

Animal and human safety should always be an owner’s first concern. That’s why it’s essential to work with an experienced equine builder. “We’ve listened to a lot of horse owners over the years and have decades of experience perfecting our stalls and barns.” He believes that a single-source supplier is more in tune with every detail, such as eliminating pinch points and sharp edges where stalls connect to the building.

Cost Savings  
A single-source supplier can design its stalls to fit the specific configuration of its horse barn (and horse barns are increasingly becoming more complex, according to Paul.) That means no surprises – or added costs – at install, fewer construction delays and greater longevity. 

Trying to marry stalls from one supplier to a different, non-related building supplier increases the chances of compatibility problems between components. A single source can offer better fit and, thus, smoother function. 

Horse lovers are, well, horse lovers, and a few horses can easily lead to more. Lester makes stall customization an integral part of its building design. Its partitions use laminated columns with a slot at the corner post and at the back wall, so partition walls can be easily removed and quickly modified for foaling.

Paul likes to point out that durability is a specific bragging point for Lester Buildings. “We use the same strict lumber grading criteria for selecting the planks for our buildings and our stalls. Each piece is visually picked for its specific purpose and placement.”

Thoughtful integration of stalls into the building leads to a nice, clean look. Lester’s line of Signature stalls match its standard Uni-Rib™ colors so that stalls are visually integrated into the exterior building design. It’s beauty that lasts.

To learn more about Lester Buildings and see a library of equestrian buildings featuring Lester’s Signature Equine Line in your area, visit