High-spec stabling: H&H explores some of the most luxurious yards *H&H Plus*

  • Beauty combines with practicality at the world’s most luxurious stable yards. Emily Bevan discovers the options – if you have a blank cheque

    If money was no object and you could build the stable yard of your dreams, what would it look like? Would it include indoor walkways, a heated tack room and memory foam flooring, or boast a clock tower and weather vane? We look into some of the world’s most luxurious yards and see what options are available.

    A traditional stable block will be easier to pass through planning but American barns are the way forward if you want everything under one roof. These days that doesn’t have to mean just your stables and tack room – indoor schools can be included in this too, like at Cian O’Connor’s Karlswood Stables.

    At the Irish showjumper’s palatial pad in Co Meath, each horse has its own shower and heat lamp, the feed room looks like a kitchen – all feed is out of sight, stored in pull-out deep drawers – while the tack room resembles a Premier League changing room. The indoor sand arena, which can be accessed via an undercover walkway from the stables, uses an underground computerised ebb-and-flow water system to regulate the surface while outside there’s an 80x100m sand arena and an immaculately manicured grass jumping field.

    Polo player Nacho Figueras laid turf on the roof of his stables near Buenos Aires, creating a grassy field for his horses to graze as well as helping the 180m-long building to blend into the landscape. The building, which houses 44 stables, comprises two blocks with freestanding walls.

    A large shallow pool for horses to drink from is one feature of Merricks Stables near Melbourne, Australia, which was designed by Seth Stein Architects and Watson Architecture+Design. The six-stable building, which is built in crescent form, boasts a curved roof and three-metre high rear wall made from rammed earth, and looks out over a semi-circular paddock and manège.

    “We wanted it to look natural, sleek and modern so we used Tasmanian oak for the structural frame, and gum tree – which turns silver with age – for the cladding,” explains Seth Stein. “The building’s only one room deep to allow for cross-ventilation, and the wall was designed to cope with the heat of the day and then radiate it back into the building at night. The crescent shape helps to promote a communal feel while protecting the site from the south-westerly wind that comes off the sea.”

    Curved ceilings

    Other extravagant stable yards include an American barn near Santiago, Chile, that features a skylight along the entire 50m length of the roof. The double-layered opal glass aperture, which widens in the centre of the building, allows natural light to bathe the laminated timber trusses that support the curved ceiling and ensure that artificial light is kept to a minimum.

    “The yard employs two or three people full-time and the majority of their work is done inside, so I wanted natural light to be perfect and create a comfortable atmosphere for them and the horses to spend the day,” says architect Matias Zegers, whose father was a professional showjumper.

    The equestrian centre – which belongs to a showjumper – comprises 14 stables, washroom, tack room, feed room, groom’s accommodation and outdoor arena. It was designed to blend into its surroundings in the foothills of the Andes, so exterior surfaces are clad in dark-stained wood while metallic tiles cover the roof, allowing it to reflect the mountains and sky and display different colours depending on the time of day.

    Jon William Stables worked on a project for an American businessman who wanted to build an American barn at his country house in the UK.

    “It was a unique project,” explains managing director Matthew Pike. “At the stables’ entrances we used powder-coated steel frames and aluminium windows to create the sliding doors, while the external doors resembled a traditional two-part door. All the doors and windows were bespoke and the windows were double glazed with lead detailing.”

    Arched windows and doors, fully rendered block work and brick detailing give an air of grandeur, as do cast-iron stables.

    Colour schemes are another factor that needs careful consideration. “We had a client who wanted the stables painted bright white as he kept black stallions and he liked the picture when they had their heads over the curved doors,” says James Scott, from Scotts of Thrapston. “Powder-coated steel paint is popular these days but if it gets scratched you’ll see the metal work underneath. One of our clients employed someone to go around with nail varnish every day and cover up the scratches!”

    “People see their stable yards as an extension of their home so they want to have the same luxurious touches,” explains Sarah Johnson, director at Equine Construction and Planning. “We’ve worked on projects with fully insulated indoor arenas, bespoke stable post lights, handmade saddle and bridle racks, low level lighting along the bottom of the stables, and hand-cut roof tiles. If money’s no object then there’s nothing you can’t have. It’s about combining beauty and practicality.”

    “The horses adore the yard”

    Hilary Westgarth created the yard of her dreams at her farm near Braintree, Essex, replacing several “ugly concrete buildings” with a courtyard stable block, indoor arena and rehabilitation centre with help from Equine Construction.

    “I adore the yard, as do my horses, and Equine Construction were brilliant,” said Hilary, who keeps dressage horses.

    Each of the 11 stables has a Victorian sweeping front and a large window at the back. Recycled plastic boards – which don’t mark if kicked by horses – sit between the frames of the interior partitions. The bottom half of the exterior walls is comprised of the same brickwork as the house, while the top half is timber cladding. The pitched roof has clay tiles and is open inside to ensure that it is light and airy.

    The composite roof of the 20x60m indoor arena is white underneath to reflect light down to the arena, while sloping grey kickboards sit on concrete plinths to prevent damage when the arena is harrowed. A state-of-the-art sound system and LED lighting have also been installed.

    As well as stables, there are also separate wash and tack rooms, and a barn houses extra stables, a Theraplate and a water treadmill.

    “I wanted a horse walker but we couldn’t get planning permission to have one near the rest of the yard, so I investigated the benefits of a water treadmill instead. I’m so pleased I made this investment as it’s been brilliant for all my horses, they have strengthened up and improved their performance and I love helping others with their horses,” added Hilary, who now runs an equine therapy centre.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 8 October 2020