June 2019 - A Tale of Two Barns
Written by by Kim F. Miller
Tuesday, 28 May 2019 22:02
PDF Print E-mail


Two very very different barn designs & functions have common emphasis on fresh air and easy functionality.

by Kim F. Miller

The Stables at Bailiwick House: Bright lights, big spaces, cleanliness and safety dominate design and functionality of private, eight-horse facility in the Los Angeles area.

Patty Mayer swears that her home and eight-horse stable is simply the manifestation of doodles she drew as a third-grader. If that’s true, she was a savvy third-grader.

Located in the horsey Santa Rosa Valley neighborhood just north of Los Angeles, near Westlake Village and Moorpark, Patty’s Bailiwick House is elegant aesthetically and in its design for healthy, efficient horse keeping.


After essentially scraping the existing house on the almost two-acre property, the entertainment lawyer and Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer started from scratch using plans from a pre-designed barn package. Modifying those to incorporate her own living space into the structure were not as easy as advertised. She and a few trusted friends, including builder Bill Heichberger and design maven Kiki Richert, improved on the engineering.

The end result is approximately 10,000 feet of horse and human living space. Working during the recession’s nadir, Patty found good prices on wood windows and other high-end materials and finishes. She cut costs by eschewing doors and walls and wound up with appealing, expansive open spaces. “I could fit my entire previous home into the ground floor of my ‘great room,’” she says.

The ability to “putter around in my pajamas” while tending to the horses guided design. “I wanted to have the fewest number of steps between any two tasks,” she explains. A hayloft positioned over the stable’s center aisle enables her to amble out of her own quarters to throw hay down into each stall. Patty has morning feeding and mucking help, but is otherwise a hands-on, 24/7 stable manager and care provider, along with being a competitor and trainer.

Fresh Air & Light

The Stables at Bailiwick House have five 12’ x 24’ stalls, and three 12’ x 12’ stalls. They have European stall fronts, and the top half of the dividers are made of closely-spaced bars for air flow and to allow safe interaction between horses. The open space between the tops of the stall walls and the soaring, 30’ exposed-wood ceiling bathe residents in fresh air and light.

Each stall has an overhead fan and a fly spray system with Rip Tide repellent dispensed from nozzles placed high on the barn walls. Softstall flooring provides therapeutic cushion under a sealed top cover, supporting joint health and reducing bedding needs.

LED floodlights are a favorite barn feature. “I’m lazy: I don’t like body clipping,” Patty pronounces.  Using the lights for the equivalent of 14 hours of daylight daily virtually eliminates winter coat growth, she asserts. It keeps coats show-ready and reduces pre- and post-ride grooming time.

Another fave feature is in-stall tack lockers in the five larger stalls. Patty grew up riding at Foxfield, where owner and builder Bill Postel often said, “Every horse outside of its stall is a potentially loose horse.” Along with safety, in-stall grooming and tacking helps keep the rest of the barn clean.

The tack room doubles as a lounge area. Its plush décor is highlighted by a photographic portrait by Terri Miller of Exakt, Patty’s famous Grand Prix partner through the early 2000s.

Bailiwick’s stabling amenities are topped by Patty’s fixation on safety and cleanliness. While fires have not yet threatened the property, she’s prepared. Child safety plugs in all electrical outlets prevent dust from compromising the wiring. A “squillion” fire sprinklers and smoke detectors and fire extinguishers at every doorway are additional precautions, all well above fire code requirements.

Patty happily adheres to the Ventura County Fire Department’s strictly-enforced mandates regarding brush abatement and property management.  Along with keeping the barn spic and span at all times, “I’m very careful about fire risks. More so than most people are with their stove.” For worst case scenarios, she recently purchased a six-horse trailer and is working on her Class A driver’s license. Living in a horsey community with many capable horsemen as neighbors is another safety asset.

An Ideal Arena

During the stable design phase, Patty had an economic choice between a small indoor ring and large outdoor ring. Before investigating the permitting possibilities for the indoor option, she decided on a Damann Risohorse Ebb and Flow arena. The 98’ by 203’ arena has an underground irrigation system supporting 12 inches of silica sand and a felt footing blend. Sensors instruct the pumps to add or subtract water as needed, and the water level can be adjusted manually for riding preferences and to accommodate expected rain.

The major investment has paid off in having an ideal riding surface “24/7/365,” Patty says. Her own knee pains disappear when she walks on the surface and its benefits to horses manifest in lower vet bills. Water conservation is another plus because evaporation is minimal.  And, if an earthquake disabled the normal water supply, Patty says the arena water could cover the needs of several horses for several days.

Four turn-outs for Bailiwick’s eight horses facilitate a priority on outdoor time, as does an easily accessible and extensive trail system.

Installing a slight slant to wash rack floors is one of a few things Patty would do differently in the design phase. And loft doors wide enough to use a hay “squeeze” with would making loading hay into the loft easier.

As a private barn owner, manager and resident, Patty is picky about who boards at Bailiwick. At present, three of the horses are her own and another four are owned by two friends. The final stall will be filled next month when an injured horse comes back into training.)A “no drama” policy is strictly enforced and boarders contractually agree to be polite to the neighborhood. Of her own and Bailiwick House’s five horses Patty’s Grand Prix mount, Cato, is the most prominent current dressage resident.

Experience Comes Home: Health & ease of maintenance guide two-horse property plans.

Nan Meek knows or thing or two about horse keeping. Through her lifetime of horse ownership, she has boarded at, managed and/or owned stables ranging in size from two to 200 horses.

All that experience guided her in finding the right property and developing it as a home for her two horses. Her engineer husband has been a big help every step of the way.

She loves seeing 29-year-old Spanish Warmblood, Helio, and 20-year-old Lipizzaner, Mischa, out her home office window and popping out to feed them three times a day, plus cleaning and riding.

It’s also a lot of work.

Nan realized how much she takes the amount of work for granted when a friend who’d boarded at a DIY facility still found herself overwhelmed by the lifestyle restrictions imposed when she “horse sat” for a mutual friend. “You have to be sure that this kind of time commitment will fit your lifestyle. It either really works or it really doesn’t.”

Along with finding suitable land, equine infrastructure is important. Trails and arena access, proximity of feed stores, vets and farriers are critical, as are fellow horse keeper friends who can help out during vacations and emergencies. “My neighbors and I have each other’s backs when it comes to taking care of our horses.”

Horse health and manageable maintenance were Nan’s priorities in the design phase, as they are in everyday horse care.

Fresh Air

Her three-stall shed row barn has a pitched roof, with ample ventilation space between the top of the stall walls and the rafters. Nan considers ventilation more important to horse health than cozy temperatures. Most California winter temperatures are “not Minnesota’s,” she notes, and she prefers to address colder days with warmer blankets instead of restricting air flow.

Two stalls with attached paddocks house the horses and the third stall, on the end and adjacent to the driveway for easy deliveries, stores tack and hay. Separate storage areas would have been preferable but weren’t an option due to limited space. A four-foot square open window between the horses’ stalls was originally going to be filled with a metal grate, but that turned out to be unnecessary. Helio and Mischa are good friends and their ability to interact and check on each other during vet or farrier visits helps keep them happy.

Nan is a fan of sliding doors’ space-saving attributes, yet is glad to have decided on Dutch doors and lots of them. Each stall has a Dutch door on the north and south walls, so one door opens to the front walkway and the other opens onto the attached paddock, providing many configurations. When a friend rides over to visit, one of Nan’s horses can be shut into its stall so the visiting horse can be turned out in the paddock until it’s time to ride home. An additional Dutch door between the tack/feed stall and the middle stall gives easy access to feed and care for her horses in inclement weather. The horses enjoy hanging their head out the front to see what’s going on at the house, or in the back of the barn looking onto the paddocks and a small field.

Each paddock has its own gate onto the field for easy turn-out. They are footed with rubber mats, Cedar Rest and crushed blue rock to mitigate mud. Mischa is prone to abscesses and last winter’s heavy rains made that set-up especially valuable. “Helio likes to gallop full speed from the field through his paddock and into his stall, where he comes to a square halt in one stride,”

Nan explains of her 29-coming-7-year-old. The less mud for that dramatic arrival, the less risky it is. Horses feeling frisky outdoors indicates good health, but also puts a premium on stable footing to reduce injury risk. “Talk to your local feed store or Farm Bureau office to find out what works best for your soil and weather conditions,” Nan advises for field management.

Minimizing Mud

The paddock’s rubber mats are placed to catch water run-off from the roof and direct it away from the stable, a safer alternative to ditches in horse-occupied spaces. Elsewhere on the slightly under two-acre property, ditches and swales carry the water away from the stable without posing a tripping risk.

Along with savvy property grading and drainage, scrupulous stall and stable cleaning is essential. Nan mucks at least twice a day, during morning and evening feedings. Fly Predators effectively minimize fly populations, but there’s no substitute for ship-shape maintenance. Composting manure was effective for several years, but now that management method has helped fertilize most of the property, Nan is having it hauled away. The days when people were eager to pick up manure for their own yards seem to be gone in her area—or at least to require more time and hassle than it’s worth.

Three-board wood fencing encloses the field, and her horses go easy on the lightweight metal gates that are easy to open and close. All gates are 12’ wide to accommodate the tractors and trailers that occasionally need access to the property for maintenance.

Without enough flat land to have her own ring, she’s grateful for the use of a neighbor’s arena. A 20-meter lunging area in the middle of the turn-out field supplements under-saddle exercise and is sufficient for short rides or suppling sessions. Its sand footing is maintained by pulling a small custom-made drag behind a riding lawn mower.

“It’s lovely having my horses at home,” Nan concludes. “But it takes a lot of time. The net result is that I get to enjoy a lot of time with my horses, and as my husband points out, it’s also good exercise!”