Say so long to one-size-fits-all trailers and basic barns. Today's equestrian set is looking for luxe lodgings — both at home and on the road.
Wide-open spaces have never been more appealing. The events of the last few years have given people permission to move away from densely populated cities, focus more on family, and realize their dreams of becoming horse owners. According to the American Horse Council's latest stats, there are more than 7,246,835 horses (both recreational and commercial) in the United States. That means there's also a bigger need for horse transportation and housing. While in the past those were considered practical matters, today, that's not the case. More and more owners are demanding top-notch technology, unusual upgrades, and high-end finishes in their trailers and barns. These are a few of the innovators who are making that happen.
Inspired by the barns of the West, the Barn Yard's Homestead kit features a gambrel design, which maximizes upstairs living space as well as a practical first floor with double lean-tos.
Wheels of Fortune
Not all horse trailers are created equal, and that's in large part due to the efforts of Randy Bloomer. As the owner and founder of Bloomer Trailer Manufacturing, he has spent almost 25 years leading that charge for custom equine transportation. It all started after a particularly tough weekend of travel.
"I showed horses all day at the Fort Worth Summer Spectacular, and then I went to Barton Rouge," he says. "It was late, it was hot, and we didn't have rotations in the old days. We had to wait it out." Eventually, Bloomer competed and then made his way back to Texas. "By 2 a.m., we stopped to get a drink, and I noticed one of the smaller horses in the manger was bleeding. I couldn't figure out why," he explains. "It turned out his manger was too tall, so he couldn't get his head down to drain and relax — he was grinding his nose and part of his gum."
Outback Customs upgrades horse trailers with luxurious living spaces via leather furnishings, customs cabinetry, and an abundance of fine finishes. Texas-based Bloomer Trailer Manufacturing creates one-of-a-kind trailers designed to deliver horses safely and in style.
That's when Bloomer realized it was high time for a design change. "For a while, horses were changing discipline size-wise every eight or 10 years," he says. "For example, Western-discipline horses may want a smaller stall, while English-discipline horses may require a larger stall, and so on. The standard was no longer working." As a dealer, he figured he'd meet with a manufacturer and pitch his "four or five" ideas. Unfortunately, the company was less than interested. "They were very nice, and they very politely told me that's the way they've always done things," he says. "I was distraught — I was only 33 at the time — and I really looked up to them as businesspeople."
If Bloomer was down, he was most definitely not out. An hour later he called his wife though he doesn't like swearing much, he told her, "I'm going to do it on my own and kick their asses." He leased a building in La Marque, Texas, next to the Union Carbide plant ("Those breezes were something else," he says with a laugh.) and set up shop. He began sketching plans on everything he could find, including a Denny's napkin or two, and hired people who shared his vision. "I wanted to build big trailers with living quarters, and I figured out that the most ignored segment of the population was the high-end buyer," he says. "I wanted everyone to feel like they got a one-off. That was about 7,000 trailers ago."
While the size of the team has grown over time — Bloomer's son, Jake, has even come on board — and manufacturing has since moved west to a better location in Salado, Texas, the company's core values remain unchanged. "If I look someone in the eye and say this is the best money can buy, I sincerely want to mean it," Bloomer says.
The spirit of innovation also continues. One-of-a-kind wraps, extrusions, and wheels are available for the exteriors. Inside, his company can carve out quarters for up to 12 horses with a tack room on the side. "We make it all as custom as a client wants, and as a long as we feel it is safe. Someone may ask for 12 saddles in their tack room, and we'll have saddles and bridle hooks that we space out. Maybe we'll realize we need another 6 inches there, so we change it right there on the specs," he says. "We do a lot of medical fridges, hot and cold water, fans, and even spa trailers with water treadmills that a horse can use to exercise and get well at the same time."
Despite the thousands of trailers he's built in the past, Bloomer is anything but bored. In fact, he remains just as excited about his new ideas as those first four or five he had back in the day. "I love thinking of ways we can improve. Fifty percent of my ideas never work; there's a pile of mock-ups that fail that the guys call 'Randy's Gut Pile,'" he says. "But it's immediately copied when something does work. That keeps us all pretty snappy."
One task Bloomer Trailers doesn't take on is twirling up extra luxe living quarters. For that, clients typically hire an interior designer or partner with a specialty firm like Outback Customs. Located in Oklahoma City, Outback works with a number of high-end trailer makers, dealers, and clients to create totally custom interior design schemes featuring luxurious finishes like leather, quartz, and hardwoods and appliances such as washers and dryers and dishwashers. "We welcome people to come here in person because it makes the process much easier, but we're also happy to work with clients over the phone and emails," says interior designer and sales manager Lisa Peliti. "I'll put together mood boards and samples. I've got stained, glazed, and painted cabinets, as well as flooring options, tile backsplashes, sinks, and so on."
Aaron Weimer started the company back in 2012 and immediately found a demand from clients who wanted a "glamping" experience up top that was more befitting folk who own and train the million-dollar horses housed down below. Business only grew during the pandemic: "Our buyers were wanting to get trailers and get away from people. We had lots of new clients buying for the first time and repeat customers who wanted to upgrade to larger ones," says Peliti.
As business boomed, so, too, did the fun requests. The designer says they're open to any and all ideas, as long as they can safely fit within the confines of a trailer. "We've been asked to do all kinds of doggy doors, wine-barrel sinks in the bathrooms, backlit crown molding. We even did a liquor dispenser with bottles stored in a bay down below!"
Raising the Bar(n)
Providing proper equine shelter has always been a top priority to horse owners, but these days, stables are anything but staid. Designers and craftsmen are stepping in with barn upgrades ranging from sculptural stalls and Dutch doors to automated watering systems, chandeliers, and well-appointed tack rooms. In fact, barns are becoming so fancy that more and more people are looking to move in.
Back Forty offers customizable plans for steel buildings ranging from two bedrooms to six, featuring plentiful windows and covered outdoor space. The Barn Yard's Carriage Barn is built using old-school post-and-beam construction, combined with the latest in structural technology.
Case in point: "barndominiums," the housing of choice for folks who have a little land and a lot of imagination. After converting a shop into a family-friendly home a few years ago, Liv Berg was so sold on the possibilities that she launched Montana-based Back Forty Buildings in 2019. Today, her team designs metal, stick-built, and post-frame barndos. "There's basically two avenues. You can find and click on a plan on our website, or you might see it on Pinterest, Tik Tok, or Instagram. Then we make tweaks based on a client's needs or budget," Berg says. "But we also love working with people who come to us with their own drawings and doodles." Whether the plan is stock or totally custom, Back Forty has a network of manufacturers who work together to facilitate the exact design, and then the home kits are shipped across the nation."
The second level of the Barn Yard's Carriage Barn kit is ready-made for an open living, kitchen, and dinging area, along with sleep-a-crowd quarters. As with all the Barn Yard kits, the Saratoga is crafted with precise joinery — all of it numbered — that allows their team to raise the barn quickly and efficiently.
Business is booming; the company's designs went up in 37 states last year. And while every clients wants something a little different in their steel structure, Berg notes there are some things that remain nonnegotiable, no matter the region. "People want lots of windows, big covered porches, and the more modern, single slope rooflines," she says.
For buyers looking for something a little less heavy metal, The Barn Yard builds 17 classically inspired models perfectly suited for modern uses like garages, event venues, commercial projects, and yes, barns that ship all over the country. "Everything is done the old-fashioned way, with pegs, no nails," says Everett Skinner, who runs the Connecticut-based family business along with brother Chris. "We obviously take advantage of modern technology and use CNC to cut pieces. That helps make our barns more affordable with a quicker lead time."
Everything from design to manufacturing and shipping is done under one roof. "Many of our barns are designed to replicate structures built in the 1800s," explains Skinner. "So they come with all the joinery, details, and configurations you would have seen back then." Once customers select their barn of choice, the Barn Yard team gets to work precutting the entire project, ships it, and once it arrives onsite three or four months later, they can send a team to actually raise it. "Because everything is precut and numbered, we can build an entire barn without having to take out a saw," he says. "It usually goes up in two days. It's actually a really fun experience. People invite friends and family and people from the community."
When it comes to putting together the interiors, Skinner says that people's approaches are changing. "Barns have become an extension of the home," he says. That means the materials, finishes, along with the design budgets are mimicking what's going on in the "main house." The same goes for creature comforts. "People are looking for a setup with a great television and a pool table. They want something that's really special for family gatherings," he says.
From our October 2022 issue.