Horizon Structures Presents Series: The Iconic American Barn ~ Center Aisle Style

Interior of a center aisle barn giving horses a better view of goings-on.
Interior of a center aisle barn giving horses a better view of goings-on. ILiyan

Newsdate: Wednesday, June 2, 2021 - 11:35 am
Location: ATGLEN, Pennsylvania

The iconic American barn or Center Aisle barn offers many attributes that are analogous to Americans themselves, namely friendly, openhearted, and easy going that offer a warm hug without fuss. It is little wonder that its design has been welcomed worldwide, with horse owners embracing the features it provides for practical daily use.

A Horizon Structures center aisle barn opening views of both sides to horses inside.

A Horizon Structures center aisle barn opening views of both sides to horses inside

Horses can enjoy viewing the maximum amount of activity mitigating the risk for health issues associated with boredom as they have the best of both worlds, a view on each side of their stable.
© 2020 by Horizon Structures New window.

Is ‘Center Aisle Style’ something to consider when constructing a new barn build?

Whether a Low Profile barn, a hybrid modular timber frame version that offers the look of luxury horse housing without the lavish spend, or a High Profile barn (with or without a loft space), it is apparent that the American barn is here to stay and frankly it is hard to improve upon when it comes to fulfilling a horse owner’s needs for horse housing.

Let’s Take A Walkthrough

The entrance doors slide open easily without the need to prop them open to prevent errant winds from slamming them shut and causing damage or injury. Inside an inviting walkway is revealed that tempts the visitor to take a step further and enjoy exploration of the open path.

Once ensconced inside the building the doors may be closed to deflect harsh cold winds from whipping alongside the visitor, immediately providing a sense of ‘warm embrace’ and security from poor weather outside.

In summer, the partner doors at the other end of the aisleway can be left open and the barn interior can then provide shelter from the hot rays of the sun and from pesky flies and bugs that are thankfully deterred from entry by the darkness and coolness of the space. If well sited for seasonal wind directions, summer breezes may float through the aisleway offering an additional respite from the heat.

At night or during periods of non-occupancy by humans, the barn can be shuttered off from inquisitive wildlife such as bears awakening from hibernation on the hunt for sustenance (yes, they will raid the feed room), possums and skunks invading the hay stall and unwanted human nightlife that may roam with nefarious intent.

The aisle is user friendly for the neophyte horseperson as the critters are safely stabled to each side, enabling a maximum interactive experience without risk of being inadvertently nibbled by a naughty equine whose passion for participation with humans exceeds its job description. Given of course that the front of each stall is grilled for viewing and safe confinement of the noble beasts.

Best Of Both Worlds

Horses can enjoy viewing the maximum amount of activity mitigating the risk for health issues associated with boredom as they have the best of both worlds, a view on each side of their stable. The addition of an exterior Dutch door for each stall space with the possibility for a small individual turn out paddock beyond can provide freedom of movement for the horse with the added benefit of easy clean up of the stall for the equine caregiver who can simply shut the door and leave the horse outside when completing the major daily rituals of mucking out.

The inclusion of a loft space above the center aisle, or entirely across the first level, offers valuable storage space and an opportunity for easy distribution of hay to the hungry horses below dismissing the need for frequent sweeping of the aisle of hay detritus after feeding times. The use of a loft space for hay storage reduces the need to trundle back and forth with wheelbarrow or start up the utility task vehicle {UTV} every time feeding time rolls around. Another labor and time saving benefit for the busy horse owner.

No matter the weather, all grooming and tacking up can be completed safely inside the building, with either the provision of a designated stall for the purpose or cross-ties may be utilized in the aisleway to secure the horse for the process.

The addition of an overhang on either side of the barn can provide additional storage, shade and protection to each stall from the elements.

Born Out of Need and Necessity

The pioneering American spirit is legendary and the advent of the design of the center aisle was born out of need and necessity for farmers to protect their livestock and provide storage for their grains and food supplies.

Adverse weather across the wild and varied terrain of the American nation required sincere attention to the protection of animals of all types. The temperate climate that the Americans’ European ancestors enjoyed was left over 3000 miles behind the newcomers to The New World, and changes in traditional barn designs of yore were quickly adapted to ensure the well-being of the livestock that were paramount to the success of the pioneers’ quality of life in the country.

The center aisle space was often used for threshing harvested grains, the stalls would house a mixture of cows, horses, pigs, sheep and chickens. The Monitor Barn was the forerunner of the center-aisle design and is still a popular version of the Center Aisle Barn today, and can be found from the hills of Vermont to the desserts of Arizona. The huge geography of America yields a lesson in the architectural heritage farmers continue to enjoy today.

Growing up in England as a horse crazy kid exposed me to many different riding disciplines, breeds of equines large and small, (long eared and short eared), trail worthy ‘neds’ and high performance four-legged firecrackers. Whether you rode on the roads to exercise your mount in readiness for competition or the foxhunting calendar, or were favored with an outdoor arena or riding hall, most horse housing consisted of shed row style stabling, with courtyards and fresh air everywhere.

I’m not sure when I became interested in architecture and learning about how buildings were constructed but it was certainly a fascination of mine from an early age. Perhaps it was my artist Mother, who taught me to look up as well as regard the details of life to be found at eye level or on the ground. Perhaps it was our annual vacations across The Channel to Europe as the back then, highly unusual British tourists adventuring abroad instead of taking the more common seaside holidays my schoolmates experienced. It could have been the weekend day trips with grandparents in our first ever family-owned car to trundle around British stately homes.

Among all these travels, horses were always my number one passion.  Whether it was a tiny hand built stone square box with a shed roof set in the hillside that sheltered humans, family car ‘donkey’ and chickens all at the same time at the back country of The Algarve, Portugal, or the fancy racehorse yards in royal estate domains outside Paris, France, form and function always fascinated me especially when it came to horse barns and how they were set up and utilized.

Without question the iconic American barn stands head and shoulders above the rest of barn designs when it comes to ease of use for the horse and the human. Since my arrival on these shores I began my own horse owning experiences with the construction of an affordable shed row barn in Upstate New York and after one winter I quickly realized that winters in the North East USA were not the winters of rural Buckinghamshire. Since then, like so many of my European equestrian colleagues, I have adopted center aisle barns as the mainstay horse structure on the property, appreciating its practicality and its advantages over its more basic predecessor, especially for daily use.

So Thanks America

The center aisle barn does embody the essence of American nature – it is easy-going, user friendly and gives you a warm hug when you step into its space. It truly is a ‘house for horses’, or a close as we can get without inviting our beloved equines into the kitchen to join us while we sip a cuppa.

About Horizon Structures:  One horse or twenty, there's one thing all horse owners have in common...the need to provide safe and secure shelter for their equine partners.  At Horizon Structures, we combine expert craftsmanship, top-of-the-line materials and smart "horse-friendly" design to create a full line of sheds and barns that any horse owner can feel confident is the right choice for their horses' stabling needs.

All wood. Amish Made. Most of our buildings are shipped 100% pre-built and ready for same-day use. Larger barns are a modular construction and can be ready for your horses in less than a week. All our barn packages include everything you need -

Horizon Structures also sells chicken coops, equine hay feeders, greenhouses, dog kennels, 1 and 2 car garages, storage sheds and outdoor living structures and playsets.

Headquartered in South-Central Pennsylvania, Horizon Structures, LLC is owned by Dave Zook.  Dave was raised in the Amish tradition and grew up working in the family-owned shed business.  He started Horizon Structures in 2001 in response to an ever-increasing customer demand for high quality, affordable horse barns.

For additional information about the company or their product line, please visit their website at https://www.horizonstructures.com

About Nikki Alvin-Smith

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About the Author

Nikki Alvin-Smith

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As a Brit who has called the America home for the past 34 years, Nikki brings a unique perspective to the equestrian world. Nikki is also an accomplished Grand Prix dressage trainer/competitor, competing at international Grand Prix level to scores over 72% and is a highly sought clinician offering clinics worldwide. She has been a horse breeder/importer of warmblood and Baroque breeds for more than 25 years. Together with her husband Paul who is also a Grand Prix trainer, they run a private dressage breeding operation and training yard in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York.

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