December 16, 2013

Avoid Stuffy Stables with Proper Ventilation

Just like humans, horses need fresh, clean air to breathe. Yet inadequate ventilation is the most common mistake made in construction and management of modern horse stables.

That’s according to Eileen Fabian Wheeler, Ph.D., a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Penn State. Although it’s been a decade since first published, her article, “Horse Stable Ventilation”* is still relevant today. Many barn builders, including Lester Buildings, practice her basic principles. Al Miller, a Lester sales manager and horse owner, is a fan.

“Most horses are standing 15 hours a day in a stall. If your barn isn’t providing enough fresh air and you’re not removing heat in summer and moisture in winter, your horses are much more susceptible to health problems,” he explains. Al has helped numerous Lester clients build horse barns, from simple stables to elaborate riding arenas.

Ventilation Factors to Consider

First, hire a designer/builder who knows barn ventilation basics, which are different than residential or commercial needs. Per Dr. Wheeler, ventilation should:

  • Bring fresh air into the building through planned inlets
  • Thoroughly mix outside and inside air; remove heat, moisture, pathogens; lower temperature, humidity and contamination levels
  • Exhaust moist, contaminated air (and odors) from the building. 
Other considerations will include the building site and landscaping (for example, drainage), size and design of building, number of horses, and weather. In Al’s experience, with the right design, it’s possible to vent naturally, rather than mechanically.

“Lester uses a vented ridge cap and overhang system that suits most barns really well. I’ll also often suggest dutch doors and a grilled stall bottom to help move air around horses’ feet.” He adds that a very large horse complex -- or an owner who prefers a completely insulated barn -- will probably need power ventilation. He cautions to not lose sight of what’s best for the horse or horses. “Some people put their own comfort above what a horse needs. But they’re two very different things.”

The Goal

Aim for a comfortably (by horse standards) dry stable with no condensation. And hire a builder who is committed to preventing a stuffy stable with good ventilation. To learn more about Lester Buildings and see a library of equestrian buildings in your area, visit

December 4, 2013

Considering a New Horse Barn? Chew on This.

Building a new horse barn is an exciting opportunity to get the type of stable you want and the type of shelter your horses need and deserve. But like any new construction, it’s no small task. It requires forethought, decision making and financial planning. It begins with choosing an experienced builder who listens well and can guide you through the process of customization.

Al Miller and Ivan Hovden, both with Lester Buildings, have extensive experience building horse barns of all sizes (from just a few stalls to enormous riding arenas with full amenities) in Illinois. Ranking the biggest considerations is tough. “Horse people are A to Z. They really vary in what they want,” says Al. Regardless, both men agree on those issues that top the list.

Proper ventilation is the leader. “One of the biggest mistakes I see is putting ‘people comfort’ above horse comfort. Getting ventilation right is critical for keeping horses healthy,” Ivan adds. Lester dealers work with owners to discuss ventilation options, as well as other factors that can reduce moisture build-up, such as roof style, pitch and porches.

Barn size and configuration – also in relation to horse health, safety and comfort – are other list leaders. Ivan adds, “Every customer wants something a little different. Lester dealers sit down with each owner, using real-time computer design to customize the layout and track cost.” Those discussions will include reviewing framing and rafter systems, and the number, size and design/style of stalls, alleyways and gates. Lester prides itself on creating intuitive designs that combine the practical, aesthetic and emotional nuances of the equestrian lifestyle.

Al has been a horse owner for a dozen years and his father was a vet. Al insists that stall design is a particular science. “An experienced builder will ask what type of horses a customer has or plans on having, if stalls should accommodate foaling, if horse contact between stalls is desired, and if horses have any behaviors that might be a concern, like cribbing or escaping.” Lester offers its own line of safety-tested specialty stalls, stall doors, dutch doors and sliding doors.

Al also stresses the importance of a builder who has flexibility in column layout, to maximize space without compromising durability, and a builder who is conscious of keeping the building site clean and tidy. “There shouldn’t be any nails or fasteners left behind that could cause injury down the road. You want a crew who’s very careful.”

Of course, there will be many secondary, but equally important, decisions:  feed storage, watering systems, lighting, monitoring systems (cameras), etc. Lester dealers will also help owners decide on interior and exterior aesthetic details (Lester has endless options) that pull the design together and leave an owner feeling proud.

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