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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.

Owners consider many site conditions whether adding an arena or designing a new horse barn. First, how do people, vehicles and horses get from here to there? How many buildings and what are they for? How many paddocks, pastures or fields? Where will utilities go?

Along with the improvements, look at the conditions of the site itself. Is the land flat or sloping? What kind of soils are there? What direction do winds come from? Where is the sun in the afternoon? Where are the existing trees? Are ponds and streams on the property? Where are the existing buildings, wells, utilities and roadways?

The reason for looking at both of these aspects is simple – the parts of a stable or farm should work well together and be easy to keep up. Good design and placement of buildings, fences and pavement protect water quality, prevent runoff, provide shade, prevent soil erosion and increase safety for humans and horses.

It is important to understand the shape, slope and condition of the land before building. Understanding how the natural elements of the property fit together with proposed improvements leads to better, more cost-effective design.

The type and quality of soil also influences the placement of buildings, pastures and paved areas.  Soil testing is available for less than $10 per sample from local extension offices.

Consideration of where water flows on the property is imperative to designing a safe and sustaining facility. Plan where your runoff will flow. Consider both above and below ground water flows and presence when siting buildings.

Locate buildings and paved surfaces in well-drained areas. Plan to take advantage of shade, sheltering hills and natural breeze flows. Be sure that parking areas and roadways are made of materials that allow water to flow through it.

Put fences along the top of a hill or ridge, not at the bottom or toe of the slope. This prevents erosion of the hillside and soil around fence posts. Fence around wet areas or stream buffer zones to keep horses out.

Place waterers on flat areas with gravel or other stabilizing materials to protect the soils there. Split waterers between two paddocks along the fenceline. Put them at the center of the fenceline and avoid low spots.

For detailed information about planning a farm in your area, visit your Extension Office here or here.