An Insider’s Look at Modular Barn Building with Horizon Structures
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
As you drive around the bucolic farmland surrounding Lancaster, Pennsylvania the presence of the Amish is front and center. Well, if you are driving you will probably find their distinctive horse and buggies on the side of the road rather than in the center but you get the idea. It is no surprise then, that with the world-renowned high quality carpentry and craftsmanship of the Amish very present in this region, it would be the perfect place to discover a modular horse barn building operation such as Horizon Structures. The Senior Project Manager of Horizon Structures, the very affable Mike Rinier, had offered to lead the way. So off we went.
As I followed Mike driving through the back roads there were many right angled turns designed to maximize the rectangular design of the fields, I passed tiny farm stands here and everywhere. Some just the size of a small cupboard, filled with fresh produce. The stands were sometimes very distant to any house or other structure, and they operated on the honor system. You just picked the produce you wanted and dropped your money in a pot. There used to be a farm stand that operated this way on my own road here in the Catskills, sadly the farmer had to close it because people stole the cash. Certainly, a visit to Lancaster County takes you back in time. But there was no time for me to stop and shop, I had an appointment for an inside tour of the Horizon Structures horse barn building operation and I was keen to learn more about how their run-in sheds and modular horse barns were built.
I admit to not being tremendously educated in the traditions of the Amish religion and my British politeness does not allow for making ‘gaffs’ or causing upset, so I was a little hesitant as to how comfortable the Amish workforce would be with a lady nosing around their factory. I need not have worried. The Amish gentleman that greeted Mike and myself offered me a friendly handshake, big grin and gave me a warm welcome.
I had read that Amish refer to anyone of any other religion as ‘English.’ On hearing my accent I answered the inquiry as to my country of birth as England.
“ I am true English English,” I said and my tour guide laughed. We were off to a good start.
The facility boasted a massive parking lot outside that had recently been refinished, so many of the run-in sheds and modular barns awaiting delivery were set up on the side of the property. Mike took me around each one so that I could see for myself the wide variety of sizes, styles, and designs including a great selection of stain and paint, wood and wood composite siding options that Horizon Structures offers. Many of the buildings I saw were set for delivery within a few days and I was very impressed with the quality of the build and the features that were offered.
Mike explained that when selecting a run-in shed it was better to buy wider as opposed to deeper to make it safer for the horses to gain entry and to avoid one horse being blocked by a dominant buddy. For the same reason it is also better to buy several smaller sheds than one large one so you can spread them throughout your pastures. Of course as a horse passionate person I immediately wanted to take a few structures home to set in my own fields! It is so easy. Horizon Structures just delivers whatever customized barn you want and places it for you. Tempting for sure.
But I was not here to shop so off to the inside of the factory we went. It is a huge building as you might expect. Several barns were evidently in the process of being built.
My husband and I have built many horse barns over the years. And when I say built, I mean yes, we did that on our own. Four in total, each one becoming more elaborate with the final one a center aisle barn. There I was up ladders, holding up 2 x 12 pressure treated lumber for the center ridge beam while hubbie bolted them in. Exhausting! I even learned to wield a nail gun and shingled the entire roof of a 48 x 36 foot barn! We started out with hammer and nails and progressed to compressors and nail guns, which was what I found here. Each gun hung on its hose from the rafters ready for use. I am a little OCD about straightness, level, plumb etc. so I keenly examined the structures for these factors. Evenness of spacing of the hardware and nails, use of pressure treated materials on the base, quality of the lumber used were all carefully inspected by my expert eye. The builds I saw were excellent and passed with flying colors.
The addition of the copper cupolas and weather vanes, the quality of the hardware all made up to a super finished product. I thoroughly enjoyed perusing the racks and asking what this and that was for when I was stumped.
The smell of cut wood and sawdust was sweet and brought back many memories of happy times building (hubbie and I also built our own house with our own fair hands). It also reminded me what hard work building is and how long it takes on site. All that ordering of materials, receiving the wrong order, missing items, bad weather days, cold fingers and toes. Humm. I remarked how I loved that smell of cut wood and Mike said he did too. He said while he missed working ‘hands on’ these days, as his job as Senior Project Manager encompasses office time working with engineers and customers on indoor arena and barn designs, he thoroughly enjoys the work and folks he gets to help at Horizon Structures.
To the side of the large open spaces on the level concrete floor were well stocked racks of building supplies. Everything from vents to weather vanes, siding materials and in a separate space a myriad of ‘jigs’ all set up and ready to go as needed for the detail work and finish on the barns.
All Horizon Structures barns and run-in sheds come with kickboards and their quality was solid and would stand up to any horse abuse. There were options for chewguards, electric, grills, windows, gable vents, ridge vents, hay racks, drop vents and much more.
Mike explained that the barn styles offered varied from low to high profile modular barns with or without hay lofts, shed row barns with overhangs to monitor barns and small barns suitable for miniature horses, goats or other pets. The ones in production today were varied, and the way the larger builds are designed for transport was amazing. The roof folded down for transport and then would be raised on site and secured.
This building was an ideal a building environment. Level, dry, all materials dry and ready to go. Tools handy and clean. There were massive doors to the parking area where the finished structures were simply pulled out on their giant sled bases and loaded onto delivery equipment.
My overall impression of my tour was that everyone on the workforce seemed to know exactly what their colleague was doing and all worked in unison. The standard of work was as high as I expected and the diligence and attention to detail was apparent. Everyone was friendly and the atmosphere was one of quiet harmony. Apart from the noise of the nail guns and saws when they kicked up!
If you are planning a barn build and can’t get down to visit Horizon Structures in Lancaster County, don’t worry. They have a fantastic ‘barn builder map’ where you can zoom about the country and see some of the thousands of barns they have built and enjoy a good view of the finished product options. Everything from fully customized elaborate horse barns to smaller run-in sheds. You can contact the owners of these structures directly, set up and appointment and go visit those close by to your property. You can learn first hand what the entire experience was like from start to finish from a fellow horse person and not be ‘sold’ by a salesman.
On the Horizon Structures site they have also recently added 360 degree virtual tours of some of the many structures they offer which include not just horse barns but kennels, coops and sheds too. More are in the works. It is a fun way to visit with them! And then of course there is the team that Mike heads up. Don’t be shy to give him a call. He is extremely knowledgeable.