Pardon Our Dust

Aug 29, 2013 - 12:47 AM

My farm is actually three parcels of land that all came up for sale at the same time—35 acres in the back with nothing on it, 50 acres on which we built the main house, and 50 acres on which there stood a 12-stall barn, with a few big paddocks and a tiny, rock-hard outdoor arena.

The outdoor expanded, and we put in lovely sand and an excellent automatic watering system. Three or four paddocks, over the course of the six years we’ve been here, have become 21 grass and four all-weather. We added an exerciser a few years ago, which we love, and keep hay and bedding in sheds we’ve added outside. And the indoor, of course, with its fabulous dust-free footing, giant mirrors and tremendous sliding windows, is one of the giant jewels in the crown of Clearwater Farm.

But very little in the barn has changed. My 12 stalls are 12×14, with a fly spray system and lovely, cushy stall mats and automatic waterers; we have two tack rooms, one large for clients and one small for me and my staff; we have a laundry room and lots of storage; and a one-bedroom apartment above the garage, which was where I lived until I recently moved into town. Now it plays home to Allison, and Molly and Jennifer live in a two-bedroom attached to the main house.

Come on a tour of the farm as it is today:

But I need more. I need more stalls, more storage, more staff, more ventilation… more space. We toyed with the idea of adding a second building, but between the costs of flattening out enough room (every flat square foot of space on the property is currently occupied by a building, I swear)/running new water and electric lines/etc, and the PITA factor of having to have all our equipment spread out over two barns, we vetoed those plans in favor of expanding the current barn.

And here’s what we have in mind.

Equine capacity: We’re going from 12 stalls to 19, and several of those new stalls will have dutch doors that run out into all weather paddocks. They’ll be great for rehabbing horses, horses who can’t tolerate turnout, or horses who need more room to move (as it is now, our horses get about 12 hours of turnout a day). We’ll continue to use our Centaur brand fencing, which we have everywhere else on the property and has proven exceptionally difficult to destroy (and not for lack of trying, Midgey!).

Storage capacity: We’re consolidating down to one tack room, but it’ll be double the size of the existing client tackroom, with a second story to store the stuff we don’t use often (blankets in summer, horse show goodies in winter, etc.) in the barn but out of the way. Hooray! We’ll lose the two sheds outside, so we’re adding an even bigger hay shed (as I prefer to keep hay outside the barn, from a fire-hazard perspective) further down the driveway.

Working space: We currently have just one wash stall, and groom and tack horses in the aisle, which makes for quite a bit of commotion and lots of time moving horses around. We’re adding a second wash stall, as well as two grooming stalls. And those grooming stalls will back up to the parking lot and have big sliding back doors for easy vet and farrier access. We joke around the farm that “a happy wife is a happy life,” but truly, happy vets and farriers are crucial.

Staff housing: We’re expanding the on-farm accommodations from one bedroom to five, with two full kitchens. It’ll let me hire more people and keep them all in one space. And I get my own office, so I have somewhere to putter when I have my (rare) breaks in the day. 

Improvements all around: We’re taking advantage of having an empty barn to tweak a bunch of stuff from the original construction that we didn’t love. The center aisle lights take forEVER to warm up, and Heaven forbid anyone should accidentally turn them off, because they really take forever to cool down enough to turn back on, so those bad boys are outta there. More drainage, more ventilation, MANY more outlets (only six in the aisle of the original barn – seriously!) We’re putting in a super super SUPER nifty flooring called Polylast, made from recycled rubber and sturdy as all get-out. 

We changed very little about the barn when we first moved in, and there are a lot of current features to it we’ll be keeping that I love.

In general, I aim to keep clutter out of the aisle. In the current barn, we converted the enormous garage (previous owner’s husband raced pickup trucks) into storagepalooza, with big shelving units of which each client was assigned a section. It kept trunks and other stuff out of the way of horse traffic. This new arrangement will do the same.

I also love ventilation. It is HOT in Virginia in the summertime, and while I don’t love fans on the front of stalls (too many sneaky ways a clever horse can destroy himself and/or the fan, and since I own clever horses…), I do put them up above the horses. Yes, it means we’re blowing hot air down on horses, but it’s moving air, and that’s the best we can do. But big windows, big open aisle doors and new exhaust fans in the roof make a big difference.

We have a Pyrhana fly spray system, which we’ll continue; it works brilliantly to control the wee beasties. We also will continue with the Nelson waterers that the original stalls came with; while I don’t love them, as they’re prone to minor mechanical failures and leaks, they’re far superior to buckets as far as labor, and we have the kind that are basically water bowls that refill themselves,  which even the uncleverest horse figures out very quickly.

There’s so much about this place I love – some things that were thought out carefully, stolen from other farms I’ve liked; and some where I just got lucky. I’m so excited for it all to be done!


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