Ron and Jessica Share Knowledge From Building Their Stunning Horse Barn and Arena

March 16, 2022

Ron and Jessica Calvert, located in Barrington, Illinois, designed and constructed a stunning 18,336 square-foot equine facility that featured a competition-sized 72'W x 16'H x 208'L arena and a 40'W x 12'H x 84'L stall barn. Additional building components included:

  • Morton's Hi-Rib Steel
  • Morton Foundation System
  • Cupolas
  • Porches
  • Eyebrow Overhang
  • Skylights
  • Diamond 'M' Sliding Doors
  • Dutch Doors
  • Brick & Steel Wainscot
  • Windows w/ Shutters

When describing the need for this project, Ron said, “Jessica was the horse person. When I met Jessica, she had a home and a barn and 10 acres and five horses at the time. I moved into the environment and we were living in a town south of here, so my commute was very long and we came to the realization that it was time to move. Jessica was very familiar with this area—she had spent of bunch of time here, she had friends here, so this was a good area to move to—it was a closer to my office and it was horse-friendly.”

Jessica added, “We knew we wanted at least 10 acres. We wanted to have an arena and most ordinances need at least 10 acres and then up here there were even more restrictions. I happened to find this place—had the right acreage, had an existing facility, but it was pretty outdated. It was being used for racehorses who were begin rehabbed or bred. Just a different structure than what was going to be something necessary for sport horses and training. But we had already done barn building in the past, so we had an idea of how long it takes and some of the things we’d do differently this time around.”

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It was a pretty easy decision for Jessica to select Morton for this important project. She said, “We contacted Morton because they’re the premier barn builder. We knew it was going to be a large investment and a big project. This is our first Morton we built. At our previous residence though, there was an old Morton barn from the 60s or 70s there. It was old but the frame of it was still excellent.”

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Even before meeting with their Morton sales consultant, the Calvert’s had spent a substantial amount of time on pre-planning activities to ensure they knew what the final project outcome would be like.

“We had done a ton of research on what we wanted, features in the barn we wanted, sizes, a competition-sized arena, stalls for horses, and we kind of had an idea for the layout,” Jessica said. “My number one priority here was good drainage and good air flow, you know, all the things that make life with horses a lot easier.”

Ron added, “We knew the little things we wanted that make all the difference – ceiling height, vaulted ceilings to make it more airy, larger aisle-widths, automatic watering systems with individual lines. As much as they seem like a luxury, they’re actually a necessity, especially since we have winter, and we can’t run hoses all winter. Paddocks—the ins and outs—it’s the tiny things that make it extremely manageable versus cumbersome. The size of the doors—from the tack room into the main barn—when you have to haul saddles in and out. It was like you had to do a Cirque de Soleil move to get the saddles out the standard-sized door. So, we put in two four-foot doors, which are wider. And then you put the wants in there, like the brick pavers. We needed air flow from all of the doors and it’s like having air conditioning when the doors are open. We put cupola fans in, the big fans we had put in and the air pulls through very quickly. It’s amazing.”

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“The key thing, though, is the customer’s got to know what they want,” said Jessica. “We spent a year planning it ahead of time. I think the most important thing is to know how your barn works in the most efficient way. I wanted paddocks that open straight to the pasture because a lot of times I’m here by myself and my horses are big—ranging from 15 hands to 18.2 hands, and so trying to wrangle some mares to go outside to eat is a little more than I want to take on. Right now, we’ve got our 28-year-old, retired horse, who I have him open to the pasture pretty much all day long and he can come in and out when wants so it gives me a lot of different options. That’s what works for us. Plus, we don’t have to keep so much water out in the pasture, since the horses are able to come in and out during the day. At the end of the day, it can be the most beautiful barn in the world, but if it’s not efficient for use, it doesn’t really matter.”

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A laundry area in the barn was important too for the Calvert’s, especially when washing and drying large horse blankets year-round. In addition, the viewing area to the arena has brought unexpected benefits for the couple.

Ron said, “We put the viewing room in as Jessica will ride at night a lot and I’ll come home from work and I’ll just sit out here and it’s all heated now and I’ll do some work and she’ll ride and we’ll spend time together at night in the barn. It’s really a whole entertainment facility for us. You can come out here and there’s a fridge, microwave, TV and Wi-Fi. It’s an all-encompassing, enjoyable thing without having to run back and forth from the house.”

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The beautiful finishing touches to the barn came from all the way from Europe.

“We were in Germany at the Aachen horse festival and there was a company there that made products from a foundry—saddle stands, bridle holders, and the plaques with their names, even the signs for the rooms, and ordered from them,” Ron said. “Lights on the barn too. Everything is cast-iron and it will last forever. I thought it added a real nice touch. Europe’s kind of the Dressage capital of the world and so you find a lot more things that are orientated to it there.”

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The Calvert’s wanted Morton to provide turnkey services for this project.

Ron said, “We went start to finish with Morton, from demolition of the old buildings to the complete excavation here. We had to bring in almost 600 trucks of dirt just to get the place level because of the way the lands falls off. We had to put in two septic systems—one for the horses and one for us. It was very extensive. We had to run well lines, run new electrical mains all the way from the main system to power everything. We did the in-ground heating to help in the winter to keep the lines from freezing. It was a collaborative process. And if you have an issue, Morton will stand by its product and is on top of it.”

“In my experience, I’d always heard that Morton was top of the line,” added Jessica. “With Morton, you’re going to get the quality of the craftsmanship, and they’re going to run that project well, so you’re not going to have to do all the work or do the excavation and they come in afterwards. It was turnkey top to bottom.”

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How was their experience working with Morton?

“The Morton crews are so experienced, and we just thought the world of the crews that were out here—they were awesome,” said Jessica.

“Between the knowledge they had and the craftsmanship that they had, if there was an issue, they were able to see it far ahead of it actually coming up,” added Ron. “All the beams you see that we did—the covered beams—that was really important to us. Morton had a crew that did the beams that was different than the crew that did the structure. One of the crew leaders said, we’re about to put the skylights in, but you’re having finished beams in there so we need to move your skylights over or else they’re going to be right in line with the beams. He came up with a suggestion and an hour later they were putting them in and didn’t miss a beat. It was a good process. Generally, I’ll build something and then later I’ll say I think I spent too much. But in this case, we got what we paid for. It turned out even better than we could have envisioned it.”

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After the facility was completed, they continued to work with Morton to renovate other buildings on the property to match the barn, as well as constructing another new storage building to house their mechanical equipment.

View more photos and video of this beautiful project!

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