Building a Dream Barn: The Search for the Right Property

In the second installment of her blog, dressage professional Kelly McGinn shares the highs and lows of finding the perfect piece of property for her home and dressage facility.

Hopefully you enjoyed my introductory blog about the beginning of our journey to build a dream barn and your interest is piqued enough to learn a little more about how we got to this point.

I’m going to back up to 2015. I was training out of a lovely facility near my home and had been there for 5 years. The owners decided to put it on the market so I started to search for a new location. I ended up coming back to a facility in Easton, Maryland, that I had been at years earlier and very much enjoyed it. I was grateful to have such a lovely place to call home. I had to downsize the number of horses as there was only a limited number of stalls, but this was OK, as I had a new baby and we needed to regroup. 

In this process, it did start to stir up the thoughts of What if we could have a place that would finally be ours and be a permanent home for Kelly McGinn Dressage? So this began our search. My husband, Bobby, and I started our search casually, looking for land and getting an idea of what was out there. We were also talking to some building companies and friends who are builders to get an idea of the cost of building from scratch. We were quickly disappointed when we ran the numbers. The cost of land, building a house, barn, indoor and enough storage for hay, bedding, etc., was going to be more than we could afford. We took a little time off from looking for land and did a lot of discussing about what we should do next. We were discouraged but I am pretty stubborn—my husband would say I am very stubborn—so I wasn’t giving up. 

We regrouped and started searching for properties that already at least had a house and some sort of barn that could work for what we needed or could be added onto. I can’t even tell you how many properties/houses we looked at. If I did, this would be the longest blog entry ever and you’d most likely fall asleep. All of this looking and searching was going on while we were living life, working and raising our daughter, so needless to say, a year and a half passed us by and we still weren’t any closer to our own farm.

One day, a friend of mine mentioned an old barn that I knew as I had boarded my horse there as a kid. It was a very unique and cool old barn, but it had fallen into disarray and would need a major overhaul. It had been on and off the market for several years. Contact was made with the owner and after many discussions, he agreed to sell us the 19 acres that had the barn, an apartment and paddocks. We settled on a price and my husband began the long process of contacting builders to get estimates for renovations of the barn and apartment. We also got estimates for a top-notch outdoor ring as we planned on building the indoor at a later date. Many months later, we were sitting at the settlement table, ready to sign the papers. Due to a detail that was overlooked, it was discovered that this property couldn’t be used for a business, so we had no choice but to back out. We did try to have it changed, but it just wasn’t meant to be, so we walked away. The most disappointing thing to me was the time we spent getting everything together to buy this property. All in all, we lost about 10 months. Back to square one.

Again, we took some time away from looking for property. I think Bobby and I were both just really bummed and needed to take a step back and live life for a while. Sometimes that makes things clearer.

At this point it was early summer of 2018. A friend who is a realtor knew I had been looking for a farm told me about a house that was for sale with 32 acres. I didn’t think we could afford it, so I very nicely declined. My friend was very persistent! I would see him in the gym and he kept telling me just to go look at the property. He said the seller was eager and ready to sell. Finally after he mentioned it to me about 10 times (did I tell you I’m kinda stubborn?), we made an appointment to see it. Of course we loved it and as an added bonus, there was a very large garage/building that had a hay loft, as there had been horses kept there in the past. This also meant there was water that was already run out to the pastures. So we would only need to build the barn and indoor as this large garage would be excellent for storage of hay and bedding.

This is a picture taken from the back corner of the property looking at the back of the house and existing garage/storage building. It has a hay loft above.

Bobby and I talked a lot about this property. Every time we talked about it, we had only positive feelings. This was one of the only properties we looked at that didn’t have covenants and restrictions on it, so that was even better for what we wanted to do. We looked at it a second time and finally made an offer. We made the offer of what we could afford and really had no idea if the seller would take it. At this point, we had had so many disappointments, we were reluctant to get excited.

The seller accepted our offer! We were surprised and excited—and to be honest, scared! But what do they say? If you’re not scared, it’s not worth it? I am really bad at getting sayings right. I’m always screwing them up!

Fast forward to November 6, 2018. We went to settlement and immediately came to the house and had pizza and champagne. It was the best meal ever! We took a few months to paint and get the house ready to move in and we decided to stay in our old house to get through the holidays without upsetting our daughter Lu. She was worried that Santa wouldn’t know how to get to the new house. 

We finally moved in on January 5, 2019 with the help of friends and family. As we were moving in, a rainbow appeared over the property and right then and there I knew we were where we were meant to be. It just took a long time to get here.

This is the rainbow that appeared on moving in day. A rainbow in January is pretty unusual, but for us, it was a sign that we were right where we needed to be and that some special people up above are watching over us.

And this marks the beginning of the permit process, which was another hurdle that we were sure we would overcome. I will talk a little about that in my next blog entry and by then, we will hopefully—as long as weather cooperates—have started building. Stay tuned.

This picture was taken in the opposite corner of the last picture. You can see the garage/storage building on the left. The barn will sit right in the middle of this picture.

Kelly McGinn is an FEI rider, trainer and coach. She has brought many horses and riders up through the levels and has enjoyed success in regional and national championships as well as year end awards. Kelly was also chosen to ride the Friesian stallion Lolke 372 in the opening ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games in 2010 in the famed 10 horse Friesian train. Kelly has trained with Scott Hassler since 1991 and she credits Scott for her teaching and training style as he has been a big influence in her education. Kelly has also had the opportunity to ride with many well known clinicians including Steffen Peters, Michael Klimke and Debbie McDonald. Kelly also participated in the Young Dressage Trainers Symposium for 9 years where she developed a love for the process of training young horses. She runs a small teaching and training business in Easton, Maryland, where she has a variety of different horses in training and believes that every horse can benefit from good dressage training regardless of the breed.






The Many Talents of Matt McLaughlin
Unlock Your Riding Potential with Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement®
Keeping Up with Steffen Peters
Sensitive Horse
Managing a Sensitive Horse


Are lumps or swellings under the jaw reason for concern?
In-Hand Work with Arthur Kottas Heldenberg
An Overview of the Inferior Check Ligament in Horses
Dressage Basics: The 20-by-60-Meter Dressage Arena and 20-Meter Circles