Last week marked Straight Forward Dressage’s one year anniversary at 9 Lyons Run Rd. Slowly but surely, with each item we check off of the to-do list, we have turned this farm into our home.
|The indoor has 10 attached stalls, so boarders don't need to worry about leading horses to the indoor in the dark or in the rain. Perfect.|
When I looked at the place last year, I liked the basic framework of the farm. It had abundant pasture space, two separate barns, a big hill to get stifles stronger, a quiet indoor for the youngsters and the loonies, a busy roadside outdoor so the horses can get used to distractions before we spend big bucks on a show, and a small house so I could again live with my horses.
But it had some problems.
The pastures were big, but overgrazed and lush with buttercups instead of grass. The fence had many, many suspicious posts. The lower barn was ideal for my boarders, with its large tack room and attached indoor, but the aisle flooded whenever it rained heavily--thankfully the stalls stayed dry (I joked that SFD horses had waterfront property). The outdoor didn’t just flood, it held water like a pond. Both wash stalls had drainage issues, and the lower barn had very little airflow. Plus it all looked a bit tired, like it had been rode hard and put away wet. Then there was the house, where it seemed everything we touched broke.
The landlord invested in getting the buttercups under control, and I contracted a local landscaper to keep the fields mowed, fertilized, seeded, and herbicided. The landlord also spent a fortune getting the house up to snuff—fixing the water in the basement, replacing the heater, paying for a new water tank that Doug installed, and getting rid of the mold problem to name a few. Even with all this help, Doug spent every weekend trying to stay ahead of the constant flow of broken stuff.
|I love all of the turnout. Our fields extend all the way to the tree line.|
The flow of breakage kept coming, and coming, aided of course by every horse’s natural tendency to destroy stuff. Doug was drowning.
Additionally, Kelsey’s year as SFD’s working student was ending, leaving me with a gaping hole in weekend stable management. I really didn’t want to burden Abigail, the summer intern, with the stress of running the barn while I was 4 hours away at a show—it seems to me a summer intern should get to enjoy a bit of the summer before going back to school.
So we ran the numbers, made a few lifestyle changes, SFD bought a tractor, a lawn mower, and a few other toys, and Doug resigned his day job.
That was 6 weeks ago, and wow, is my man impressive.
In 6 weeks, he has motivated the landlord to fix the drainage problem in the wash stalls, he dug a new ditch on the side of the driveway so the lower barn doesn’t flood, removed soil along one side of the outdoor so it drains better (technically, he started that before he came on board full time, but who’s being technical), built two biting-fly traps, built a sky-bridge over the aisle way in the lower barn, caught up on most of the repair list, installed an exhaust fan in the upper barn, planted tons of flowers, cleared the wild rose off of huge sections of fence line, and has plans to improve the airflow in the lower barn. All while he has kept up on the spring mowing.
|This is Doug's copy of a biting fly trap Doug found online. I think it looks a bit like Dr. Who's Daleks, but when I mentioned this on our Facebook page, I was disappointed that so few SFDers were geeky enough to know what I meant...|
Then there’s the weekends. Having Doug to worry and obsess about the horses at home freed me up to worry and obsess about the horses at the show with me. Which works well, since the show season has been rolling right along. We have 2 horses going to a schooling show Tuesday, 1 going to a recognized show the following Wednesday, 2 going to a schooling show on the 17th, and a whopping 7 horses going to Ride For Life. Knowing the horses at home are in good hands takes a huge weight off of my shoulders.
Now that Doug has most of the safety and stable management under control, Abigail has been freed up to work on some of the dress-up details on the farm. With her busy paintbrush, all of the gates have a protective, matching layer of rustoleum, the cavaletti have a fresh coat of paint, and the fields have been getting their regular mucking (yes, I’m just anal enough to pick the poo out of the pastures – worms can’t breed inside of the horse, so eliminating the bugs bedchamber meant our fecal counts were impressively low this spring). Next she gets to tackle the doors. We’ll have this place looking as pretty as it is safe by the end of summer.
Of course, with all this, the horses are thriving. We added some recycled fiber to the indoor in the fall, and combining that with the additional turnout, all of the horses’ backs, stomachs, and joints are stronger than they have ever been. I actually have a new problem--obesity. I just ordered more grazing muzzles.
Happy Anniversary SFD, here’s to many happy years at this address.