Cecily riding her horse, Spur, during the maiden voyage in the newly completed riding arena. The arena doubles as a paddock when not in use by riders.
The arena was finished last week, and I launched into installing the hotwire on the top of it right away. Then the skies opened up and it rained cats and dogs here for two days over the weekend! We finally went out into the rain to finish it up. Except for a few miscellaneouse pieces of hardware I need to pick up the next time I get to town, it’s done!
Although I did some groundwork with Saxton, The Very Handsome Gelding (ahem!) before it rained, I didn’t get a chance to do any riding until yesterday. The first ride of the year! I am always, always nervous the first time around. I really like Saxton a lot. And I respect him. His personality and attitude are very similar to mine. He likes to work, and he likes to be challenged and to learn new things. And he’s a little bit lazy. LOL! There is certainly a lazy streak in me, though most people would never tell! Probably because I get busy doing something inconsequential – like baking cookies – when I don’t want to get down to the real work on my to-do list! And occasionally he freaks out and acts like a fruitcake. I don’t know if I act like a fruitcake, but I have been known to freak out when someone opens a second jar of mayo or loaf of bread before the first one is gone! Well – mildly. I complain a lot.
So when I first got Saxton, and he was feeling, not just a little lazy, but a lot lazy, and he didn’t really like the idea of some relative stranger taking him out for a ride, he bucked me off. Twice. Oh, ow. First time I broke my finger, second time I messed up my back – a lot. So although we have reached a very amiable relationship now – he has learned to respect me as his leader, and I mean, he is very respectful. I do still have some very painful memories lingering (and a painful finger that never quite healed all the way back to normal) centered around the first ride of the year.
All that explanation, I know. But it was just to say, I was nervous. I tried to really relax and hang loose, though, because a horse feels that tenseness in your muscles, no matter how small. Then they start thinking , “Hey, if she’s scared, there must be something to be scared of. I wonder what it is! Oh, no! It might eat me!” Everything is a potential predator to a horse. There’s an adage in the horse world. Horses are afraid of only two things. Things that move, and things that don’t move. So I tried to really relax and just review some of the lessons we were learning at the end of last year. He was a little rusty on some things, fabulous on others, and he moved out a little fast for nervous ol’ me. But he did great. I didn’t get bucked off. All is well!
And the new arena is really nice! So much more room to do our stuff! Wow! And with the fence so high (54″), in spite of the hotwire on the top of the fence, it didn’t faze him a bit. He put his face right on the rails, wasn’t nervous about getting zapped. It was exactly what I was trying to achieve with the new fencing! So here are some photos during and after construction:
It took our family about one solid month of work to clear all the brush and trees out of this area for new expansion.
Then the excavators came. They hauled away several dozen loads of stumps, chitlings, and dirt. Our good neighbor, Russ, took a mountain of dirt off our hands to fill in a giant low spot on his property. We were so grateful! The excess dirt after grading the arena to slope away from the barn made a pile 8-10′ high by 90′ long and probably 25′ wide!
From the far corner of the new clearing, looking back at the lonely little barn. It seemed hard to imagine what things would be like once the fence was installed.
Can you see the two corner posts in the upper left of the photo? We went with 45-degree angle corners instead of 90-degree angles. They make it easier to work the arena with equipment when you need to groom the footing. All corner and end posts were concreted in place for good stability … especially in this super-sandy soil!
The two men who installed our fence take obvious pride in their work. I appreciated very much the pains they took to make it beautiful and long-lasting. See how level the rails are? They also packed the base of each line post with limestone to prevent them from shifting or sagging in this loose sand. I wouldn’t have known to do that! This is what things looked like at the end of the first day of rail installation.
The finished arena. Looking toward the east end. Betsy is riding Lacy.
Standing in the front paddock, looking to the west end of the arena. Cecily is riding Spur.
I tried to capture the front paddock in this photo. It’s a small pen. We can put a horse in here if they need to be separated, quarantined, or if we are using the stalls to tack up horses. We have four horses, but only three stalls. I was thinking of putting a tie-ring on one of the posts in the front paddock so someone could be tacking up a horse, or tying their horse to the “Post of Knowledge” after a lesson. But so far, since Saxton will just stand next to the door of the tack room without being tied and I can just tack him up in the paddock, I haven’t seen a pressing need to install one yet.
We have two “walk-throughs” constructed right into our fencing. This one is in the front paddock. You can’t see that the water trough is immediately to the right inside the paddock, and the water pump is immediately to the right outside the paddock. This way we can walk through easily to dump the stock tank and scrub it, or add Basic-H or anything else to the water easily. The third post, spaced between, and in front of, the other two line posts, keeps horses from getting through, but lets a person in.
This is the second walk-through. It’s in the exterior fencing, not the arena fencing. The fencing here encourages the horses to walk up past the house if they get loose somehow (okay, really to tear up, like they’re crazy-mad) and to the orchard (their favorite grazing spot!) and eat grass. It makes it so easy to catch them! The fence also keeps them from going out into the street and getting hurt, too. The board across the top keeps a horse from getting out into the road (this would not have worked when we had a mini). The blue gate to the left is one of the double-gates that goes across the driveway from our road to the horse barn. Often we have to drive down there and do something and we don’t want to open the gates all the way, so we just squirt under the top board of the walk-through.
After the hard fencing was all installed, we added one hotwire along the top of the rails (as seen behind me in the photo above). It is high enough that the horses don’t mind putting their noses on (or near) the posts or rails when we are doing certain exercises that call for it. That handsome, studly gelding is Saxton. Do I sound biased? Saxton rocks!
Our stalls are open-sided so that when no one is actually riding, the horses use it as their paddock. We rigged up this clever hotwire system to both subdivide the paddock and have temporary stall gates to keep horses in or out of stalls. Each stall gate is made of two insulated fencing handles with electro-braid tied between them. Then we bought special three-way connectors that you can hook them into. So we can have handles hooked into the connectors on each side, and/or a very long version of the stall gate strung on step-in posts from the stall divider to a post on the opposite side of the paddock. This makes a long, skinny paddock that we can completely take down when we want the full use of the arena. We keep Lacy in her own paddock since she’s so old and eats so slowly. The other horses would finish her grain and hay and she’d be even skinnier than she is now! That step-in post that is just sitting directly in front of the stall divider is there to keep the horses from getting too close to the “rail” under the overhang – a poor design flaw of mine. I didn’t consider how close our heads would be to the 2′ overhang of the barn roof. But this is a great solution. The horses stay off of it, and if they run into it they’ll just knock it over and that’ll be the extent of it.
Here is a close up of the three-way electrical connectors. We have to make sure each stall’s wire gate is hooked into active electric somewhere along the circuit if we want the gate electrified. We don’t always, though, because the horses already know they don’t want to touch it, so even when it’s not on they don’t usually test it to see! The two electro-braid strands coming off the middle subdivide the main arena into a large paddock and one smaller, 24’x95′ paddock for Lacy.
That’s all for now folks! ‘Bye from me (yellow shirt) and Saxton (blue saddle pad). I know it’s hard to tell who is who! And for you real horse people, never mind the mixed media with the western bridle – love that bling!!! – and the English Saddle. I get much better contact for training with my English Saddle. And Saxton looks even more gorgeous with all that bling on his brow!