I am very, very excited to share my brand new barn plans! WOOOOOO!! My mother came out to take some measurements of the existing barn, and based on my vague description of what I would like, has come up with a plan that brings everything together.
The overall layout:
One outside view:
Another outside view:
Not only is my mom an awesome mother, but she’s also an architect and business owner of JSW Residental Design. She’s pretty awesome, so I’m happy to refer anyone looking for a building plan to her. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m so excited about my new barn, and I can’t wait to get started!! But, right now the timeline is looking like this:
Finish clearing smaller paddock
Level space for shed to be installed
Install electric band fencing
The priority is basically making sure that the babies have a place to live over the winter. I don’t know how long this barn will take to build and I don’t want to risk them not having a home.
When we are confident the babies will have a place to live we will start on putting in posts for this extension. I’m just hoping we manage to start on this before the ground freezes!
I took a talent assessment test a few months ago through my work. It was to identify my skills so I could best leverage them at work. My strongest skill was “Futuristic.” I’m a planner. I think ahead. I can’t just think of what the next step is, I need to think of what the next 5 steps are.
It translates into my non-work life. Most recently, it was expressed through the purchase of Stu. I’m sure I confused many people as to why I wanted yet another horse as I’ve got a few already. But I’m not thinking of the now. I’m thinking that in 10 years, I want an ultra competitive horse to take to big shows up and down the east coast. Will that happen? I’m not quite sure, but I know I can stack the odds in my favor.
I didn’t end at just buying the horse. For starters, I started looking for a new trainer. I did a test lesson. Although that one did not work out for reasons I’ll put in another post, I’ve talked to multiple trainers in this area, getting a feel for their training programs. I talked to big name trainers who show all over the country, and I talked to “boutique” trainers, up and comers who only take very select people into their programs. After my trailer broke down I slowed down my looking (and had to cancel several test lessons), but soon I’ll have my new trailer and I’ll be back in full swing.
I’m upgrading the property. In addition to allthe clearing we have been doing, we’ll be extending the barn soon, making for a much more efficient riding experience. Right now, it’s demotivating to ride at my property because it’s hard to tack up, there’s no real protection for tack I leave at the barn, and I have to navigate a pony every time I exit the barn with a horse. It’s inefficient and frustrating, but I’m going to change it.
I’m extending my arena. The arena has ended up being The Project That Will Never End and I have to force myself out there. But I need it to be wider to fit more jumps, and different jump set ups. If I can’t practice efficiently, I’m not going to progress.
I neither enjoy nor hate doing these things, but they are just things that need to happen for me to reach the end goal. I know that an end goal of 10 years feels extremely far, but I’m being realistic. It’s going to take lots of lessons and practice to get that good, and doing the set-up is just step 1. Maybe it will take less than 10 years, I really don’t know. I’m basically throwing out an arbitrary number, accounting for the fact that I also have a job, and I have other goals life I need to fulfill.
It is the base goal, but there are supporting pillars to this goal. If it was really just about big shows, I could board out at a barn, get several lessons a week, buy an expensive horse. But my other life goals shape and share this. I wanted to live on a farm and gave up the thought of boarding with that mortgage check. I have to have money, therefore, a job. I need to do well at my job, I need to advance in my career to make my life as pleasant and easy as possible. I dream of having a complete teleworking job, and staying at home, maybe sitting on my deck, looking out over my pasture with my laptop on my knees, spending every evening riding.
I have a husband, I want a family. Maybe one day I’ll be driving Pony to a club rally, a little girl sitting in the backseat of the truck. It takes time out of riding to raise a child, but I’m accounting for missed riding time and to still come back and be able to compete.
And I have myself to take care of – I need to be healthy so I can do all of this. I won’t be able to support myself and reach my own goals if I can’t function. To me, that means putting a focus on eating well, and working out. I’ve been getting more and more into this, and I truly have never felt better.
I have other goals too, ones that have nothing to do with horses. I want to travel. I want to renovate my house. I want to have a picture perfect house to live in. These things all take time, too. I’m accounting for this in my estimate.
So yes, I am thinking of the very long term. But time goes by quicker every single year, and I want to be prepared. I’m plugging away at it, content in the knowledge that in 10 years from now, when I’m entering a international hunter derby ring on Stu, my life will be set up the way I want it to be. Not perfect, perhaps a bit messy, but the major building blocks will be in place.
How far out do you plan the future? How do you envision your life in 10 years? Share below, or if you have a lot to say, make a post, and link it! Let’s make it a blog hop!
Another successful weekend of clearing! Progress is becoming more and more apparent, and it is looking like a turn out space, instead of a mess of scrubby trees. We (the amazing team that I can’t believe is actually showing up to do this) cleared out a huge dead tree that had fallen, three scrubby hell bushes, a giant branch limb that’s been bugging me for ages, and the tree that’s been trying to take up residence on the barn roof. I feel like that doesn’t sound like a lot, but they were such big trees it made a huge difference.
I have become fairly competant with the chainsaw. Not only am I now a wiz at replacing the chain when it makes one of it’s frequent bids for freedom, I’m also better at tightening the chain so it stops trying to fly off for freedom. I also know the chainsaw so well I can hear the change in noise that it makes when it needs to be oiled. It makes a tiny plea towards me, and I know. My baby needs more oil.
Also, not to sound cocky, but I did cut down the massive barn dwelling tree so that it fell the proper direction. It was very intimidating though, and a bit of a process. We did some group think and the first thing we did is climb up on the roof and cut down some massive limbs that I was afraid would rip off the barn roof as the tree came down.
I cut down one limb, but for some reason, there was a quite a demand to get on the roof, so I stood on the ground and clutched pearls as I watched the others cut down some limbs, reminding them every minute or so that the roof was weak due to water damage and please be careful. It seems I told them enough times as no one plummeted through the roof.
I don’t know if the picture shows it well, but this tree was one of the biggest we had to cut down, at least 35 feet tall, and it was growing out of the barn at a weird angle, leaving very little room for maneuvering. And despite me shaking like a leaf while making the proper cuts, wondering if these were my final moments, it fell over like a dream. (Assuming you dream of trees falling over. I do now, sometimes. It’s very satisfying.)
It was only about 6 hours of work, and it was one of the nicest summer days for it. It was warm, but there was a cool breeze blowing through, keeping us comfortable. I did feel like death afterward though, and had to suspend all movement for the next 12 hours.
Once again, we had a burn pile going to dispose of all the wood.
It was an It was an exhausting day. The team did great, and I’m so happy that they were willing to come help with such an exhausting activity. Not everyone is willing to give up their Saturdays to spend them doing manual labor. Thank you so much!!
On Sunday, I threw out grass seed. It’s not really the season for it, but I’ll give it a shot. Right now much of the area is weed and poison ivy, and I’d like to change that as fast as possible. There will be a lot of mowing back there for the next few months to hopefully kill out those horrible weeds.
I’m feeling confident about our progress overall. We’ve cleared the main part, everything else is bonus now. Other than the clearing I’m going to do on my own (I told you, I dream of cutting down trees now!), I need to level out a spot for our new hay shed, my mom (architect) needs to finalize the plan for the barn extension, we need to rip down the part of the barn with the damaged roof, and then we began building the new barn. How hard could all that be? (Don’t answer that.)
We will plug along through it, and one day, as we enjoy our new grooming stall, it will all be a distant horrible memory. Just kidding, probably won’t be that horrible. It is rewarding work, just labor intensive, and time consuming. Hopefully we can get it all done before December!
Yet another “In Memory of” post… my trailer has died. It is now in the trailer graveyard at the repair shop.
Technically, I could perform CPR on it, and revive it. But the cost of doing so is the same as the price I initially paid for it… so I’m not feeling an overwhelming urge to bring it back to life.
Also, turns out I don’t have a lot of photos of my trailer. Basically that random one of it sinking into a mud pit (not sure why I made that??) and the one below.
The mighty beast was a 1980 2 horse shoop. It’s ancient in the world of horse trailers, but I did not care as long as it gets from point A to point B. Unfortunately, it can no longer manage that.
I brought it in for the normal safety inspection and to take a look at the lights, and they found some other things – the tires were dry rotting (ok, fine, that happens), and the floor was rotting (this is bad). Turns out that the shavings that I left in the trailer (that seemed completely dry to me!) kept in moisture and caused it to rot out. Whoopsies…
We had 5 long years together, simple trailer. You were one of the best purchases I have ever made. And now, thanks to your self destructing nature, I’m forced to figure out alternate transportation methods. Thanks a lot, trailer!
With the cost of repair so high, we are thinking we should just get a new trailer. This is not an expense I had counted on this year, and certainly not one I wanted to make, but I need a trailer to do all my horsing activities, so I’m not sure what else to do. We’ll start investigating and figuring out the best option. I’m not really in a rush.. I mean I did have a lesson scheduled for this weekend, but whatever, I guess I’m just going to have to cancel!
Sunday was a big day for cleaning out more woods. We cut down more trees, and disposed of the trees we cut down. D’Arcy had recruited some family members and we became a well oiled machine, cutting down, and dragging out to the fire her brother had built.
The fire was huge! It had been built by an eagle scout who knew his stuff. It was sweltering hot when close to it, but just stepping back from it by just a few few felt like stepping into AC…humid, warm Virginia AC.
It took 30 minutes for me to douse it after we will all finished…and it was so hot that dumping water on it caused a huge rock to shatter. I can honestly say I have never seen that before.
We pulled out a lot of brush though. It’s started to have hints of being a pasture!
I will have to get some updated photos of the lot. I always forget to carry my phone so these are all from a much more reliable source of photos.
We did have one instance of a tree falling the wrong direction and taking down part of my fence. Luckily just the top board of the three board, and luckily that oak board is so strong that it’s still completely in one piece, nails and all, just not attached anymore. I went to cut up the tree to get it off the fence, and at that moment realized how incredible tired I was. We had been out there for 6 hours, and we don’t do this on a regular basis. I didn’t have the energy to start up the chainsaw, so I decided that was the end for me. Side note: How has technology advanced so far and yet chainsaws still need a pull cord to get started!?
So, the tree will remain, unless I have recovered enough for more cutting. I’m pretty sore, so it might be a few days. But I’m very happy with our progress, and hopefully the rest will come down just as quickly and easily.
Now that I’ve picked the horse, I need to have room for it and D’Arcy’s foal. It’s finally time to clear our some more acreage on my farm. (Really, it was time ages ago, but this is good motivation to get moving.)
Dave ripped something in his arm, so he was unable to cut down trees. That meant it was up to us ladies to cut down the trees and make the pasture, which felt extremely daunting.
I’ve never chainsawed anything. Chainsaws are terrifying. So much can go wrong, and so quickly. They seem hard to use and there’s so much activity right in front of my face. But, it wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t man up and do it, and luckily D’Arcy was able to inspire some confidence in trying it, despite never doing it herself either.
We started them up, and hesitantly practiced on a random fence post. It turned out it was incredibly easy. It was kind of like jumping in a pool – just need to jump in and get the first step over with, and it’s easy to keep going.
Virginia has weird, horrible bush tree things that grow like a weed and have tons of branches coming out from the bottom. No idea what they are called, but they should be called Hell Bushes, because they are impossible to deal with. Another one of these bush/trees grew through my fence and knocked the whole thing out. So, on the first day, we knocked out two of these asshole plants.
The next day, Dave and I went out to tackle some actual trees. We took out some scrubby pine trees lining the fence (visible in above photo), and a 35 ft tree that was near the barn. It was a little bit terrifying to think the trees might come down on top of us, so it took some careful maneuvering and setting up of the cuts.
It seems that we followed all the correct stems, as we still exist, so hurray! I would have keep going but the chainsaw decided to turn off and not back on again. I lack the technical knowledge and mechanical whispering of why this keeps happening, but I’m sure with some YouTube videos I’ll sort it all out. It’s now raining here, but once it dries out a bit, it will be back to chainsawing! It’s surprisingly addictive!
Only downside is now I am now covered in poison ivy. Maybe next time I’ll try wearing a hazmat suit.
Guys. GUYS! I am so excited because I got new arena footing! This is the best day ever! I didn’t even have to pay for it! D’Arcy traveled to an exotic beach, and since she didn’t ask me what she should bring me back, I offered to her that she should bring back some sand for me… and she DID! Two varieties!
I put it in my arena so my horses could benefit from the wondrous beach sand.
This sand is going to change our lives. It will be amazing to ride on!
This last weekend was as action packed as any horse-obsessed person could want. It had all the excitement of a lesson, baby horses, moving hay, and a horse show! I need an extra day off to recover from this madness.
Today’s topics – Lesson and hay.
I was half-heartedly looking at new trainers. I say half-heartedly because I really like my trainer, both in personality, character, and overall horse knowledge. But, something just seemed off. I was looking for something next level. I was wondering if I was to throw my all into lessons and training, how fast could I improve? Having a good trainer is essential to improvement, and I want one that really pushes me and takes me to the next level.
I happened to see an ad for a trainer just outside of Middleburg, and I did some research. He had a student compete in the Upperville Internation Hunter Derby, and that is literally exactly the level I want to get to. I want to do hunter derbies, and handy hunter, and perhaps International Hunter Derby is a bit far-fetched and expensive to contemplate, but seriously, shoot for the maximum possible. TO THE EXTREME! Why just settle for, “eh, maybe something fun?” Why do I have a job, a farm, several horses, putting my blood sweat and tears into horses if I’m not shooting for the best I can be?
I jazzed myself up just writing that. Kind of makes me feel absurd for when I recap my TEENY TINY jumper show in a few days, but gotta start somewhere!
So, back to the trainer – He was offering a free day of lessons so people could try him out. That is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard, and I was very interested. Risk free* trial!
*Did end up with physical ailment, but wouldn’t say that was anyone’s fault.
It was for trailer-ins only, but luckily that’s all I do anyway, so that was fine. I also figured, I have a pony, D’Arcy is a person, she can take a free lesson, too. So we both met there early Saturday morning, full of anticipation for our free lesson.
The farm is gorgeous! It has all the charm of the style of Middleburg farms, and it’s a huge plot of land, perfect for conditioning. They have a big outdoor, and a graded grass Grand Prix field. Unfortunately no indoor, but they do have an agreement to use someone else’s indoor, so that’s almost the same thing to me (actually, literally the same thing, trailering to one place is as easy as trailering to another.)
I pulled up to a nice easy turnaround for trailers (the little things are important to me!) and noticed a pretty little appaloosa in the barn. Everyone who appreciates the wonders of appaloosas is good in my book, so that was a definitely plus.
We met with the trainer, talked for a bit, and then headed up to the ring. He made us do lots of flatwork, and made me concentrate on getting Berry to use her hindquarters. Berry is built downhill so she doesn’t like to use herself naturally, it’s definitely a struggle. He used analogies that made sense to me (Your horse is like an accordion, and right now, she’s at full extension. You push the ends together more) and I found that this kind of visualization really works for me.
We did flatwork for half the lesson, which I appreciate. Flat work is the basis of everything, after all. Then, we began the jumping.
He emphasized pace and footfalls over counting strides. He told us not to count strides, and to instead feel the rhythm of the canter, and let the horse figure out the distance. No searching for distances for us! This suits me perfectly, because I have never counted strides, and just “ride out of hand” so to speak. And I don’t mean that in a classy, top end rider way, I mean that in a I’m too distacted and forget to count way. I have made half-hearted attempts to count my strides, but I guess in the end, I don’t really care enough. I guess I see a distance, and I know when to hold back and ask for another stride at this point, but I basically just go with the flow. So, this is quite interesting to me.
We did a few simple verticals, and then he had me jump one of the verticals from the opposite direction. This of course greatly upset Berry because there was a coop laying in the grass outside the ring, and she could see it from that angle. She refused the jump! I can’t remember the last time she refused. I was pretty shocked, but I turned around and did it again. Another refusal! He ended up dropping the top rail, which was fine with me, because I want a trainer that’s not afraid to take a step back and make sure everything is great at a lower level before raising it.
He added in a 2’9″ panel oxer. This would have been the biggest jump Berry and I have jumped. We’ve done 2’9″ verticals, but never an oxer, and never a panel, and it looked HUGE. So yeah, would have been. She refused that. She did it in a new way too… when she usually refuses, I can feel it before the jump. She gets squirrelly, and I know she’s not feeling confident. With this one, she made it all the way to the base, solid distance, and then realized she didn’t feel confident and slammed on the breaks. I guess my legs must be getting stronger because I didn’t come off, I just slid forward and took the entire impact in my chin.
This has never happened to me, and immediately aftward, I wondered why riders don’t have helmets that protect their chins. It hurt so bad, I thought I broke my jaw, and I was sure I got a concussion. I was in a daze for a few moments while I felt my jaw line, but the pain faded pretty quickly, and I didn’t want to look like a baby in front of two people, so it was time to go at it again. (My jaw now has moments where it hurts, and other times when it feels fine. I think it might have dislocated, but I pushed it around a bit and my teeth mostly line up now. It’ll probably be fine!)
Trainer dropped the back rail of the oxer, and I went at it again. One small thing I am proud of is that I have finally learned to not hold a grudge against things like this. I think a year or two ago I would have been scared to do the jump again. But now I’m either numb to it, or I’m managing to control my mind enough not to let it be an issue. I went at the now just a panel, and it was great. No issues, no hesitation at all. It really felt like a lovely jump.
The trainer kept adding more pieces until it ended up as a tiny course of jumps. I focused on my pace, and he noticed that I softened way too much right before the jump, and I need to stop doing that. I think it was really productive, and it felt like such a good ride.
Pony was a good boy as well. It seemed like he and D’Arcy were having a good ride, and she jumped him as well. Towards the end, he started getting tired, and he reverted to “little kid pony mode.” He was literally acting like a stubborn little pony deciding he’d had enough of his small child rider, and he could just ignore her. Unfortunately for him, D’Arcy is a full sized adult, so she spanked his behind. This made him quite indignant, which is something I haven’t seen before.
She was asking for him to go down the line one more time, and he was refusing to walk another step. She whapped him with the crop, and his little temper flared, and apparently decided the best thing to do was hand gallop down the line, flicking his tail in indignation the entire time.
Since he is just a pony, the effect was comical instead of intimidating. It was essentially what D’Arcy wanted, so perfectly fine. He was allowed to end after that, being a perfect little pony.
We cleaned up the horses, and with promises of another lesson once the two big shows in my area are over, we headed out.
We went to visit baby horses after that, but when we returned, I had 6 round bales in my front yard that needed to be moved to the barn.
The delivered hay had been dropped in my front yard due to the uneven hill that goes down to my barn. It just wouldn’t be safe for a giant flatbed to make it’s way down there. That meant we had to push the hay down the hill manually. It sounded way easier than it was.
First, we used the tractor to push the bales. This resulted in the binding of the bales ripping, and we ended up with a lovely snail trail all the way down the hills.
This happened with two of the bales. One exploded near the top of the hill, and the other exploded right by the barn. But to stay positive, four bales did survive the entire journey! Hurray!
It took an hour and a half to move these six bales, and all of us were sweaty and covered with hay, and scratches from hay. But at least… my horses have hay for the next six months…? Hurray….?….!
A while back, I had baby chicks born. They were adorable, fuzzy little black things. But now they have grown up. The ones Dave picked up from the store have been given to my neighbor, and the fuzzy little black ones were put outside. Unfortunately, one of them did wander away and disappear forever. Rest in peace little guy. But the rest of them are now thriving. Their fuzz fell out and was replaced by colorful feathers. Only one of them stayed black, but now she has stylish white trim on her wings.
It took a while for them to adjust. At first, they cried a lot and kept to themselves. When we’d come visit, they would run to us, and we would pick them up and give them a cuddle. But sadly, they are chickens, and we are not, and they must live with their own kind.
But then, in a shocking turn of events, one of the adult hens literally adopted these little babies. At first, we thought it was a weird fluke. We went out to close the coop at night, and one of the silkie hens had these half grown, half chicks, half adult chickens nesting under her wings.
When we began letting them into the yard more, it was obvious. They moved together as a little group, the hen and her three little babies. She called to them to stay close to her. They followed her obediently around the yard.
It is both one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen, and also shocking. I had no idea hen would adopt little half grown adolescent chicks. I knew you could sneak in babies into their nest and they might adopt it, but she met these chickens when they were much older (8 weeks, maybe?). That seems pretty old to adopt babies – they are self-sufficient chickens at that point.
All I can imagine is that this little silkie hen heard these poor chicks crying for love, and she took them literally under her wing. Chickens have compassion for other chickens… who would have guessed?
As to why the chicks were still crying at such an old age…well… I guess I raised spoiled little millennial chicks kept in my house, who were cuddled every night and could do no wrong. I failed as a parent to give them the skills needed to succeed in the world. I’m sorry little chicks – at least there was some other parent out there to pick up the slack for me!
If anything could inspire me to have a breeding farm, it would definitely be going to a breeding farm. They are so incredibly cute, I want to be surrounded by foals all the time. I want to lay in the middle of the field and have lots of foals leaning up against me, like a foal pile.
When I was a teenager, my family raised sheep, and it was generally agreed upon by the sheep community that the primary reason to raise sheep is for lamb season. Watching them bounce around, call to their mother, stand on their mothers, play with each other, and just lounge around so cutely was the highlight of the sheep year. I imagine that is how some horse breeders feel, too. I mean, sure, the foals will become magnificent horses, but in the meantime, SQUEEE, look at the babies!!
I found this breeder a year ago. It was actually recommended on Chronicle of the Horse forums, and I checked it out, and thought, I’ll keep an eye on that one. I followed it on Facebook, and left it at that. As I researched more and more about what I wanted, this breeder just really caught my eye, and one day I realized that the farm is not too far from me. I truly do not know how I missed this detail, but for some reason, I thought they were out west somewhere. Once I realized I could easily visit in person, they became a viable option.
I made my way southward and found this landmark right near the farm.
The farm was huge! 150 acres and there were so many horses! I live in horse country, but I have never seen so many horses on one farm. It was the kind of place where they aren’t totally sure how many horses they have because there are so freaking many. But the farm was beautiful. All the horses were out on well-maintained grass, and it was clear they take very good care of all their horses. It truly is a great place for foals to grow up.
The first mare we saw was a thoroughbred mare named Berry. She definitely deserves a shout-out for having the same name as my horse, and also for being a thoroughbred. Both excellent qualities.
Berry’s baby was only about 3 days old. So tiny and cute! He was too young even to be out with the other mares and foals, so they were hanging out in the arena. After checking them out for a few minutes, they were relocated so we could see one of the big men on the farm, their stallion. (One of their stallions, I think they have four total).
He is in training at a dressage barn, but he’s back at home to bred to the mares that have already given birth. As soon as they brought him in, I was in awe. He is a very impressive guy!
He stood for us for a few minutes while we checked him out, and then he was released to strut his stuff. He determined that the immediate course of action was to sniff poop, so he did that for several minutes first.
I’m planning to edit the video I got of him, but for now, pictures will have to do.
After viewing him, it was time to look at the foals. It was a field full of foals. Sadly, my picture of them en mass came out really blurry, but there were 10 foals out there, looking so adorable.
The ones we looked at were all daughters of the stallion above. They were all so adorable, and their moms were lovely – I wish I could take them all home!
After viewing our favorite foals, they showed us some of the yearlings to get a sense of how the foals will develop. Keep in mind – these are yearlings, and yearlings are awkward. No one wants to be judged by their awkward adolescence!
They were such puppy dogs! They just love people! (which was actually true of every horse on this farm. I asked them about it, and they said they only keep/breed horses with personalities that they like.)
We moved on from the yearlings to the older mares’ field. It was a mix of 3 year olds and older mares, I assume to babysit and put those young whippersnappers in their place. Once again, super, super friendly.
We were introduced to the stallion’s full sister. It’s interesting how they are related, yet they look so different. As the breeder put it, same frame, but very different finish. (granted, not super easy to tell when in an uneven field and not square).
Our final stop was the field of mares who were giving birth soon. It was a field of adorably chubby mares. They got a bit excited when we showed up, and galloped as fast as their fat pregnant bodies could carry them.
That’s when I met my unicorn mare, and fell in love.
I do want to point out that while I was very impressed by this mare in person, I didn’t make the final decision until much later. I purposely didn’t want to rush into any choice. I went home and researched her and her lines before coming to my final decision.
I was really happy with my experience so far at this farm. The owners were very knowledgeable and informative and didn’t try to sway the decision one way or another. They answered everything we asked and admitted they weren’t sure for things they couldn’t remember (mainly relating to a specific horse’s lines…they told us they’d have to look them up to be sure, there’s a lot of horses to keep track of.) They were up front with how the registrations they could assist with, and which horses are only eligible for half registration. They spent three and a half hours with us, showing us horses.
Fingers crossed that everything goes according to plan!