Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Mid-day Sun
By Nikki Alvin-Smith

Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Mid-day Sun By Nikki Alvin-Smith

As the Noel Coward song goes, Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Mid-day Sun. I guess you can count me among them. Like many horse trainers/clinicians I’ve spent a fair amount of time walking the arena with the sun beating down relentlessly, grains of sand and dust in my eyes, mouth and hair. I’ve also suffered skin cancer to a mild degree. So the expression for this English gal regarding the nonsensical things true English people do is very real.

There are many options today to help alleviate the dangers of over exposure to the sun’s rays. SPF protective riding shirts are one. Hats are obviously another. Various creams and gels and all manner of goop is supposed to protect us from the damaging ultra-violet rays. Let’s face it, who doesn’t look good giving a dressage clinic in an elegant wide brimmed hat or enjoy the sweat pouring off the thick leather brim of a cowboy hat? Well, me for one.

So while I may opt to train students under the shelter of an indoor roof during summer heat and request plenty of water both sprinkled on the arena and in bottles for me to consume, the best solutions are sometimes the most obvious.

Not everyone has an indoor of course. The outdoor arena can offer a breeze as a respite from the heat. The rider has little option as to where to shelter from the sun but the trainer could be happily ensconced under the shade of a judge’s booth or in a gazebo placed with a good view of the arena. Hopefully the gazebo will have bug screens and a chair.


Other options are pergolas and pavilions, which also offer wonderful options to shelter from the rain as well as the sun. Sliding roof covers, electrical add on options so you can watch a big screen video version of the horse and rider in front of you. How perfect for clinic auditors! They can then see some of the up close details at the far end of the arena.


I was amazed by the choices out there in the ‘outdoor structure’ land. I chatted with Jill Siragusa of Horizon Structures, in Atglen, PA, to find out what the trends in the gazebo buying horse lover are today and any advice as to placement. Here’s what she had to say:-

CH: Obviously Horizon Structures offers lots of different styles of gazebos. What should the buyers look for when shopping for a gazebo?

Jill: For customers doing their homework and shopping around, the style of a gazebo should always be secondary to solid, top-quality raw materials, building specs that meet or exceed your local codes and a good manufacturer’s warranty.  A manufacturer that offers the option of prebuilt or kit delivery (with or without set-up) is good too, as it gives you options.  If you buy from a company that only ships kits and you’re not a DIYer – you’ve got a problem.  However, if you, or someone you know, has reasonable building skills, you may save some money if a kit option you can put together yourself is available.  If you’ve got a fenced in back yard, a company that only ships pre-built gazebos won’t work for you.  After you’ve chosen a company to buy from, I think the single most important factor is making sure you can get the size that’s right for you and for the intended use of the gazebo. Don’t skimp or compromise on size. 

At Horizon Structures we offer some fun options to help customers make a smart choice for their individual needs with our quizzes, online pavilion builder and online pagola builder. We have had very positive feedback from our customers that tell us they have enjoyed using these options and that it helped them make the best decision for them.

CH: Aren’t all the options a bit confusing? How do I obtain an accurate quote and how long will I have to wait for the building to be delivered?

Jill: You can obtain a quote on our website, or give us a call at 1-888-447-4337 and chat with one of our friendly team. Gazebos are typically ordered as pre-built units – just like all our other structures.  Set up takes, literally, just a few minutes.  The driver unloads it from the trailer and sets it on the customer’s prepared site and that’s it.  Pergolas (and pavilions), due to the nature of their design, need to be built on-site.  (Gazebos can be built on-site as well if the chosen location is not accessible for delivery of a pre-built unit.)  The average size unit purchased by the majority of our customers (home owners) would be up and ready to use within a day.  If you purchase your gazebo as a kit or elect to build your pergola/pavilion yourself, then set-up time is up to you.  Our kits are easy to assemble so it all depends on your available time and resources.  Are you doing it alone or do you have a friend or two to help?

I was recently at Boyd and Silva Martin’s Windurra Farm where I noted they also had a gazebo that was cleverly positioned between the dressage arena and the forthcoming outdoor jumping arena space. Check out what Olympic Eventer Boyd Martin had to say about the use of a gazebo on his horse farm

Inside ViewI was also surprised to see during my visit to the manufacturing center at Horizon Structures corporate office, an abundance of ‘sheds’ that did not match my idea of the mundane garden shed at all. Rather these buildings were like mini houses. Finished inside to perfection with proper windows, trim and woodwork and decorated with soft furnishings, tables and chairs and all manner of useful options for multi-purpose use.

Inside ViewHumm. What a neat idea for the side of the outdoor arena. A place for the kids to safely play, Mom and Dad to visit and watch in comfort, a place to pause and refresh between rides and catch up on a bit of office work. Once again the options were seemingly endless.

When you are planning your horse farm it is always smart to think about that sunshine. We are all happy to see and feel the sun on our shoulders and we do need to be conscious about the cancer and overheating/sunburn and dehydration risks. We also need to address the real damage our horses suffer in hot conditions. If your horses are at pasture or in a turn out it is imperative they have a run-in shed or shelter of some sort from the sun. Melanoma is real in equines too. Horses especially youngsters and elderly statesman of ‘Equus’ are particularly vulnerable to high heat.

Barn and Run-In

A prefabricated run-in shed (that can even move farm when you do) and is delivered on site with a minimum of fuss is a great safety net for your horses health. I am sure you know that while horses appreciate the shelter of a run-in shed from a winter storm, they will use the shelter far more frequently in summer than in winter as a solace from heat and bugs.

If you like to have your horses free to come in and go out of the barn as they wish and do not want to have them completely at pasture, then the Dutch door style modular barn with doors that open from the stall to an outside paddock, with an overhang providing additional shade, is a great way to go.

We asked Jill Siragusa for more insight on the options available.

Barn With Overhang

CH: Could you tell us briefly what the advantages of a prefabricated structure over a pole building are and why is a prefabricated structure a little more expensive?

Jill: There are several advantages of prefab/modular over pole building. Prefab is often considered a “temporary” structure, which can result in lower taxes and less cost to insure.  Also consider “Fit and Finish.”  A wooden, prefabricated barn is definitely more attractive than a stark, metal pole building as well as what people want and expect to see in a horse barn.  A huge advantage is the quicker set-up time.  Even our largest modular barns are ready for horses within three to five days of delivery.  A pole barn of comparable size takes longer to build.  Plus a spell of bad weather can significantly delay the process. 

Prefabricated barns are more expensive because the materials used are more expensive.  Our prefabricated barns are all one-of-a-kind… highly customized and handcrafted using top-quality, premium materials.  While pole barns can be customized, I feel it’s more of a “cookie cutter” approach when talking about a basic pole barn.  By that I mean more of a “kit” type assembled from a more limited stock/choice of materials – metal siding, metal roof.  Also, our prebuilt barns INCLUDE everything you need to move your horses right in as Standard Features.  Folks considering pole barns need to factor in the cost of everything outside the basic four walls:  stall partitions, doors, windows, etc.  Additionally transportation costs of a prebuilt, modular structure versus a pole built structure certainly play a role.  Site prep may be a cost contributing factor.  There’s probably a little more involved in properly preparing a site for a prebuilt, modular barn.  Pole barn site prep is pretty basic.  Finally, prefab barn builders likely have more direct overhead expenses.  They need to maintain a large, fully outfitted shop, carpenters, etc. required to build and store the units prior to shipping, etc.  Pole barn builders simply pull raw materials from a warehouse and send out the crew.

The other critter you probably have roaming around the farm in hot weather is man’s best friend, the dog. If you provide your dog with a cool, shady and safe environment then he’ll be a happy beastie and not a ‘mad dog’. Horizon Structures provide kennels of every size and need, from one dog to twenty or more. Residential and commercial needs all covered ‘under one roof’ with the myriad of options that Horizon Structures provides. With 41 years of experience, you can count on a good product and one that properly addresses your particular needs and desires.

Dog Kennels

The ability to complement your property in siding and roof color and materials, design and style, with these outside structures is an added bonus. And shopping for them, as I’ve learned, is great fun.

So as the summer toils on and the temperatures rise, make sure yours doesn’t. Keep yourself and your horses and dogs as cool as possible. As horse folks we all love to be outside and making it a safe and happy experience for all is more than a great idea. It is a necessity.

If you need any help in making choices on any structure, obtaining quotes or just needing some advocacy in general while shopping for ‘the sun protection factor’ please reach out to the team at Horizon Structures. They truly are a professional bunch and their knowledge in this industry is outstanding, as is the handmade Amish craftsmanship their structures define.

From this English born gal who has done many mad things in her life, don’t fall prey to the well-earned expression by my compatriots,
“Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun.”

Happy Riding.