The Barn Building Process

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The planning and
shopping process to build a barn on Heidi Melocco’s 2-acre place….

Installment 1: 

Do you keep your horses at home or are they boarded? Do tell! Hey all, it’s Julie’s TV show producer, Heidi.
I’m starting a new post series here that I hope you’ll like– detailing my
experiences as my husband and I (mostly him) build a barn on our new 2-acre
place. It’s exciting! My Paint horse, “Q” finally gets to come home!
We have been boarding for almost three years. There have been some amazing
places and new friends to be had as we tromped and trailered from place to
place, but there’s no place like home. I know it will be more work, but
something in my soul says I’ll be more relaxed knowing that all of my family
and critters are together. No one can take care of that four-hooved guy like I
can. And without 40 minutes a day on the road to see him, I hope to add that
time to his workout schedule! So, here we go! There are holes in what used to
be a BIG back yard. We have broken ground and the building time has
arrived! 

Join me as I learn about the building process and you can bet I’ll want your opinions along the way! This is the place to learn about how to plan a barn and how to shop for all the details
and goodies that go along with the process. The journalist in me has collected tons of research and it’s my job to sort through all the research and opinion
to find what’s best for our place. I will also take photos from the same locations so we can see the full process in photos at the end! 

 

Installment 2:

Hi all, it’s Heidi (Julie’s TV show producer) again for another installment of barn progress! Today I wanted
to fill you in on how we decided on our layout and what it took just to get to
the point to break ground. Our place isn’t huge and the barn will be modest,
but I hope to employ as many safety and easy horse-keeping tips as possible. I
hope you’ll follow along and add in your ideas for larger places, too. This
size is perfect for us right now! 

We moved to a place with 2 acres last year. It was listed as horse property but we quickly learned that not all
real estate agents know everything about selling ag land. While two of our
neighbors had horses, we learned AFTER the sale that we needed to apply to the
town council to get permission for hooved animals. Panic attack! We chose this
home because we could have my horse at home and one day get a pony for my
daughter, Savannah. The home is in a neighborhood of 2-acre ranchettes and is
near a pond, dirt roads and trails for riding space. It turns out that the
permit wasn’t hard to get, but it was a lengthy process. Because we are in the
town limits, we need to remove manure from the land. We had to send letters to
every neighbor within 500 yards of our home, show our plan for keeping the
place clean, show that we would have shelter for the animals, and go before the
town council in case there were questions. No neighbors objected and the
council approved it with compliments that I had done all of my homework –but
my blood pressure lowered once all was finished. Lesson to others– make sure
you know the town as well as the county regulations for horse ownership. Learn
from my panic attack! 

Once we had full approval, we started through tons of barn-planning books and websites. Cherry Hill’s Horse
Keeping on Small Acreage was a great resource.  We
downloaded a photo of our place from Google Earth and drew our ideal places for
the barn, “sacrifice paddock” (room to move around without having
access to the limited grass), and pastures. I want my horses to have ample turn
out time and as much grazing time as possible. I know that we have small
acreage for full turnout, but Q will get grazing time and I am shopping for a
slow hay feeder to help keep him busy and eating the rest of the time. 

I am thrilled to get to know my two horsey neighbors, too. Kim and Tara live on either side of us and both have
two horses. Kim has a round pen and is willing to share and we’re planning a
small dressage arena. It will be fun to share our resources (anyone know what
kind of legal arrangements we should make), have riding buddies and have more
than 2 acres when we all work together.
 

The barn we selected is a custom design. We decided to work with a barn consulting company. With my husband’s
job in the lumber industry, he can get the lumber easily and has an interest in
building. American Classic Barns’ founder, John, sat down with us to layout our
24×32′ barn. I want the horses to be out whenever possible, so the barn will
have a lean-to on the paddock side (I call it the “hangover”). We’ll
have two stalls, but I don’t want the horses stalled unless necessary or if
they need to be separated at feeding time. Inside, we’ll have a concrete aisle
way and a prepping/ hitching post area. I’ll have a small tack area (I know I
can fill this up, so I’ll need organization ideas soon!). There will be lots of
light with a window and doors on three sides. We will run electric and water
out for electric, heated waterers. 

I’ll talk more about the grounds and fencing plans soon. For now, it’s all about the barn. Jared (hubby) and John
from ACB barns dug the holes for the poles and we will get those inspected by
the town. (Did I mention that the building permit was $800?) It doesn’t look
like much now, but it’s great to see the shape. It helps me to understand the
size and layout by seeing where the posts will be. 

Installment 3:

It’s Heidi, Julie’s TV producer with another installment of my small-acreage barn building. Today there is
vertical progress! The town inspector approved the depth of our holes and Jared
and I mixed and poured concrete in the bottom of each of the 24 holes. It was
awesome to feel like I could help–me who had the lowest grade of her life in
8th grade shop class. We almost cemented in a toad, but we saw him down in the
hole just in time and were able to get him out with a shovel (and I was able to
wash him off with the hose before he hid in the grass). 

Then John (the barn building pro) arrived after that base cement set and he and Jared set each of the posts down
into our prepared holes. The pair had to prop each post with 1x4s so that the
cement truck can finalize their work tomorrow. I was on site for this, too– I
was the board fetcher. I made sure there were three support boards laid out at
each post. Jared was in charge of moving the post in the direction needed to
make it line up accurately. John has a painted stick named “Bertha”
to put down in the holes and help move the posts. Once the posts and boards
were found to be level and plumb (this will have to be checked one more time
before the cement truck arrives), John placed guide wires around the bases of the
boards to keep them supported. I made pretty little red Christmas bows and tied
them between each opening so that we’d see them and remember the wire was
there. I am Safety Girl! 

The yard looks a bit like a wooden Stone Henge at the moment, but it is fun to see the size and shape of
the barn in place. My daughter Savannah keeps saying “Daddy build a barn.
Q-bert come home.” She’s ready to help. I’m so excited for her to have
horses at home and learn the meaning of taking care of another and having responsibility
from the start. This barn is so much better than any video game that would
otherwise be in her future. 

Tips and Thanks: Thanks to all of you who have shared tips and ideas. I love the tip of imagining the order of
how I’ll do chores to make sure that the ground is prepared in that walking
path and to make sure that there will be gates planned in all the right places.
Gates and footing for the paddock are next on my to-do list. 

I also appreciate the ground prep and leveling ideas. Our water table is not close to the ground and it has
helped to watch my neighbors barn run off when we do have rain (to see how the
ground will handle all). If you are in a more boggy environment or will keep horses
inside, I think it is important to build up the ground and do layers of gravel,
etc. We set the grade and thankfully our land is already graded to drain toward
our little orchard. We will have a concrete pad in the aisle way so that will
raise the ground some and we will have road base under the stalls (then mats)
so that should be built up a bit, too. Our horses won’t be in stalls for long
periods, so the barn builder didn’t think it necessary with our soil type to do
more prep. It all depends on your ground! 

Installment 4:

 It was cement truck day! My amazing husband, Jared (did I mention he’s skilled and pretty awesome
to be helping so much with the barn?) literally jumped for joy when he saw the
type of truck that was sent for the cement pouring. The company we called works
on barns often and was savvy to send a truck with a front pouring mechanism so
that the truck could easily align with the post holes that needed the cement.
It was fun to watch the process. I was only the photographer today, but fun to
see the process. We had put Quickcrete in the bottom of the post holes, but
this was the time to pour in the cement and make sure the posts for the barn
stay perfectly straight as it pours!

I am eager to leave our mark in some of the concrete, but I will save that artsy task until the pad is poured
for the barn aisle. Right now, this cement (lesson learned: to sound smart make
sure you know that cement is wet and concrete is the dried and finished
product) will dry then be covered with dirt–so no cute hand prints yet. Have
you put your hands or initials in your barn’s concrete? Please do show
pics! 

Also in the meantime, I am busy planning for the fencing and shopping for horse stalls. More about all of that
soon! Keep up with all the steps in this small barn project right here!

Installment 5:

The posts have been set and it’s time to turn this structure into something with a roof! Jared, my
amazingly skilled hubby, has taken vacation days (did I mention that we aren’t
going anywhere and have halted most travel plans to build this barn?) to help
the barn consultant with the construction. It is working out great to have the
guidance of someone who has built 100s of pole barns but to help save money on
the budget by working along side him. John, the contractor, and Jared have hit
it off and are working well together. They sound like a humorous old married
couple out there! 

John brings his equipment to the site so the Bobcat was put to work. Jared prepared the beams (layers of wood
have to be nailed together in 6″ increments–this was done by nailing
through one side at one-foot measurements, then turning the board and nailing
through again so that there are nails spread throughout). Also the poles had to
be sawed off evenly so that they were even and ready for the beams. This meant
looking out the window to see Jared in the bucket of the Bobcat. Kids, don’t do
this at home! 

Then it was time to hoist the beams with the Bobcat and align them on top of the poles. This was a balancing
act! Jared had to catch the beam then help guide it into place. 

The kind of wood used was important. I had to document the details of the wood so that we can show the
inspector that the right type was used. 2.0E is the digit to know. 

It is starting to look more and more like a building! 

 

Installment 6:

With long, hot work days already checked off, I see the effort of this project and am thankful for my husband’s
work and efforts. I had to take a moment to reflect on WHY we are doing this.
Of course I love the fact that my horse will be home, I’ll get to take care of
him and lay eyes on him everyday. But what is the long-term effect of having
horses and a family–all in one place? Of course this barn is for me, but it’s
also for Savannah–I hope. 

I am hoping my baby girl gets the horse bug. It’s not something I want to push on her, but I do want her to grow
up learning the order and process–and responsibility– that comes from being
around horses. I am so glad that I had horses in my life from a young age. My
mom was adamant that I be around a farm even though we lived in the suburbs.
She found a pony farm where I started taking lead line lessons at age 5. I
learned so much from my adoptive Grandpa who owned the barn and from his
daughter Janet who I still count as one of my best friends today. It was their
guidance and teachings that helped shape my life and there are factors of what
they taught me that I want for my own daughter. 

 

I want my daughter to spend her spare time outside. I want her to know what it is like to care for an animal–
to put others’ needs before her own. I want her to learn that if a gate is
open, it’s open for a reason. If a gate is shut, it’s shut for a reason, too. I
want her to double check her work and know that she shut a gate or latched a
stall door. I want her to think ahead and check the water in the buckets as she
walks by. I want her to know that horses are wonderful, but also to be treated
with respect. I want her to understand where to be and where to stay away from.
I want her to know that there’s an order to the grooming process and a way to
keep all organized and clean. And that organizing and cleaning tack and
supplies ahead of time helps you find what you need when you need it. I want
her to have confidence and sit tall in the saddle. I know she’ll be tall and
there’s no better way to learn to sit up straight than to feel the effects of
your posture from atop a horse. 

 

It’s not that I want her just to know how to do mundane farm tasks. I have a deeper belief that learning to care for animals and knowing the order and reason for related tasks overflows to the
rest of life. Is that a big leap? Maybe, I admit to being a newbie mom, but I
know that these same lessons helped me grow up with responsibility and focus….
I hope that my daughter knows how to be firm but kind with a horse, she’ll
learn to kindly yet firmly stand for her beliefs later. I hope that the rhythm
and order of the barn’s procedures provides some respite on a day when nothing
else seems to go right. I hope that if she understands the consequences of
leaving a door open to the feed room, she’ll later understand the concept of
consequences when we hit the teenage years. 

 

There will be a day when I can’t be with her to guide her every step– a day when I can’t just pick her up and
save her from her troubles or danger. If I can help prepare her by teaching her
the whys and the consequences in small things, I pray that will carry over to
help her think through the larger decisions of life. Maybe that’s grandiose but
it’s a core part of how I hope to teach her to think and relate to others. I
know she won’t learn all of this just from me. I hope she has a Grandpa and a
Janet (and later a Julie Goodnight) in her life to help her along on her
journey with horses. But if I can help build the barn, here’s praying the rest
will fall into place. 
What do you think? How has growing up with horses helped your kiddos? 

Installment 7:

It is starting to look like a real structure and that is so exciting! It was fun to walk through the barn with the
sides and top beams in place and really get the feel of what will be where. I
know that I’ve looked at the plans and seen the poles in place to mark the
size, but it feels different with a sense of where the walls and doors will be.
Someone here on Facebook mentioned walking through the barn to map out how
you’ll do chores and how you’ll move horses and tack. Julie stopped by on her
way back from a conference at Colorado State University and I got to do that
with her! What a treat to have Julie see the progress and give advice about
what should go where, where she’d stack saddles, where to make sure there’s a
counter top for food prep, where and how to stack hay. We walked around the
property a bit, too, and she gave me ideas about where she would recommend
gates of different sizes and even how far out the paddock should go. It was
really helpful to walk the property with her and visualize how the horses will
be turned out, how I’ll ride through to the trails, how to get to the arena,
etc. I’m blessed to have her as a friend as well as someone I’ve worked with
for almost 10 years! 

 

My project of the day is to print out another Google maps view of our property and draw out the plans for the
paddocks, fencing and gates. I also need to call around and get prices for
excavating the paddock (did I mention that the previous owners stole rocks from
the mountains every time they went skiing and put them in a random–and
huge–pile in the back yard?) and for the materials that I need under the
stalls (road base under mats) and pea gravel and sand for the turnout paddock
and arena. Julie suggested having the turnout paddock open into the arena so
that the arena could be used for a bigger turnout (and reducing the amount of
pea gravel I’d need). I’m going to draw up plans with a few options and then go
out and walk it off again to see which I think will work best.  

Installment 8:

Build A Barn: Have you ever seen a roof go up?
Lots of progress since we last checked in. The trusses are up
and it has a real barn-like shape. It was fascinating to watch how this
happened. Our barn building consultant had a friend he had worked with before
and asked that we hire him in for the day to help. This was a big help. Jared
helped, too, but it was great to have guys that had done it before climbing
high on the ladder to line up what will hold the snow and rain off of the
horses! I think Jared has enjoyed being part of the process and learning more
about structure building. Jared guided each truss into place then the team
helped secure each one. It was fun to see even the first one go up– the barn
suddenly looked like a barn! 

 

Installment 9:

Raise the roof! The roof is up on our small-acreage barn building project. Hi all, it’s Julie’s
producer, Heidi, and here’s the status! 

The roof materials were delivered
right onto the roof so that there was no need to move them later. What a great
help! The delivery truck drove right up to the barn and used a lift to place
there materials on top. 

 

We hired a contractor to help with the roof shingles and he was so fast and fun to watch. He could have been
a gymnast the way he crawled and nearly jumped on and off the roof. We decided
there are parts of the process that are better to pay someone to do–someone
who does the task regularly can be quick and, in the end, less expensive than
taking time off work. 

 

We were able to get a great deal on roof shingles and with a long warranty. This makes me feel good since our
plan is to put solar panels on top of the roof. The barn will help us to go
“off the grid” with our electric bills someday soon. The barn gets
the Southern exposure needed for solar panels and the panels will look much
better on the barn than on the house. I’m glad to build in a little
environmental planning where we can. Do you do anything around your barn to
“go green?” Do tell!

Installment 10: 

Do you know the difference between cement and concrete? I’m learning the lingo and to sound
like you know what you’re doing, you better know, too! Cement is wet and
concrete after it’s dry is the short answer. Cement makes up concrete. Now that
you know, you’ll hear people mix up the terms! 

 

The cement truck came early one morning (best to do it while it’s cool out so that it doesn’t dry too fast) and
we have a barn aisle! Thankfully, our neighbor is a superintendent for large
bridge building projects and he is a pro at laying cement. He and his son as
well as one of his crewmen came to help us. What a gift! It was great to see
the process– the truck backed up and angled the chute just where it was needed
then the process of smoothing, leveling and creating the surface texture began.
It’s important to make sure that there’s a brushed finish so that horses don’t
slip on an ice-rink-smooth floor! That brush pattern is an art to see.

At the end, our neighbor, Bowdy, smoothed off a patch for Savannah to place her hands. I placed one of my horse,
Q’s, shoes in the concrete on either side of her hand prints then my husband
wrote the date of the installation.  

When the truck driver was finished with the barn’s delivery, he had a bit left over. Jared was ready for
this! Jared prepped a few boards to help form a ramp to our shed and also had
the driver fill in a portion of our driveway that always gets muddy. If you
have cement delivered, think of the other places you may have that could use a
little reinforcement or help! 

 

P.S. I’ve bulked up the Pinterest barn building page with more resources and links to the books that we’ve found
helpful. Check it out! http://www.pinterest.com/juliegoodnight/barn-planning/

Installment 10:

Today Julie herself chimes in to help give some tips about setting up a wash stall! Do your
horses like or hate baths? Here are some tips to keep them safe in the perfect
set up. 

Wash stalls: drainage is most
important; don’t get cheap here. A good French drain is best. For size, I prefer
a full size 12×12, broomed concrete slab with center drain. Drainage is most
important; don’t get cheap here. A good French drain, professionally installed
is best.

Mine has a heavy steel tie-rail around three sides and no walls. That gives you tons of room with one horse and
you can easily tie two horses. Keep the wash rack as open and airy as possible.
If it is walled in, you may still need a sturdy tie rail.

For mats, you need some texture to the rubber, to keep the horse from slipping; so put the slick side down. I
like a smaller texture; too much groove in the mats is harder to keep clean,
although can help with drainage. Half inch is plenty of cushion, since horses
will not spend much time there.

An over-head swinging arm, like in a carwash, is a must-have (be aware of cheap renditions), as is hot water
(at least for us—the tap water is VERY cold).  I’d prefer to plumb
in a water heater or an in-line heater if possible. I like infared heat lamps
over the wash rack; again, it helps a lot for washing in the cooler months and
helps the horses enjoy their baths. 

  

Installment 10.5 (Heidi’s Post of the Day): 

My husband travels to all of the Home Depots in Colorado for his job with a lumber distributor. What is awesome
about that is that he sees what’s on sale in every clearance area of every
store! Have I mentioned that I’m a bargain hour? I want good stuff, but if the
good stuff is on sale– heaven! He found us an extra window to put in the barn
for only about $40. We had planned on the window in the tack room, but now we
will have another on the East side of the barn– to allow morning light
in. 

 

And when he went to buy the people door that will go into the tack room he found a door that had a slight
scratch on it– and asked the sales rep if they could help with a discount
because of the mark. $50 off on our door and that scratch won’t affect it at
all– plus, it’s the kind of door that we can paint so it will barely show when
all is done. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount! 

 

I helped install the door. While the door comes on its frame, it is tricky to get it set and level in the
opening. It didn’t take us long. The barn has a door and two windows! 

 

Plus, seeing that it’s this far along means that I have some big time shopping to do. It will soon be time to
ask you all for help with stalls, mats, fencing, waterers, and all of the
little details that still need to be done and decided before Q gets home. The
fact that it snowed here last night means that we are feeling the push to
finish up, too. Isn’t it still summer? Share your ideas and tips for those
shopping trips, too! 

Installment 11:

Crunch time. It’s awesome to see the siding go up on all sides of the barn! We had the barn
consultant come back with his Genie (elevator feature) to help put on the
highest pieces of siding. That means this is a fully enclosed structure! That’s
so exciting and rewarding and feels like great process– at the same time it is
making us count the days of sunshine we will have left to work on the project.
The finishing details of the stalls, the interior walls, the paddock, the
fencing, the electricity,  the waterer–all seem overwhelming to get done
before the snow flies! We have hay paid for but the barn isn’t ready to house
it quite yet. I’m sure we’re not the only ones to be rushing before winter– do
you have lots to get done before the snow flies? Look for more shopping and
contracting tips about the interior of the barn soon! I’m making phone calls
and measuring and re-measuring the pasture to make sure we get the right bids
for fencing and footing. Oy-vey! Wish us luck and wish us good weather for a while

 

Installment 12: 

Today, let’s talk about stall preparation, drainage and the footing
and excavation you have underneath it all. What has worked well for you and
what keeps your horses most comfortable? Did you dig down deep for drainage? Do
you have thick mats or a stall mattress that you like? I have enjoyed hearing
about your own barn building plans as I’ve been chronicling my own. Here’s a
note from a “BAB” follower. What would you recommend for her? 

 

“I am in the process of building a barn and need suggestions on what type of foundation and said
foundation to use in my stalls. Currently I am using red clay and sand
which is not very good.  Finally I have an offer for someone to come
over and give us an estimate on how much it would cost to do the site prep work
and get a quote for the stall material. It would be most appreciated if
you could give me an idea of the best to use for the northeast Florida
area where we have a lot of sand. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Respectfully, Barbara W.”

For my barn, I’m not planning on keeping horses in the stalls for long lengths. We had a nice, level place to
start the barn and it’s on a sandy patch of ground– so already offering some
drainage. I am looking at a 3 to 4-inch layer of road base over the natural
ground then tamping in pea gravel for the top layer. Then I am shopping for the
best stall mats or even a stall mattress– I haven’t made up my mind on that
yet, but ideas welcome! What do you like –or wish you had? Or even, what do
you wish you hadn’t bought?

 

Oh, and here’s what my co-worker, Melissa is thinking of: I haven’t 100% decided on ours yet, but for the
indoor barn stalls we have been discussing a 1/2″ rock road base packed
down with rubber mats on top, probably putting 4-5″ inches of coarse arena
sand on top of the road base for more drainage and cushion under the mats, the
rest of our barn will be concrete floors. Our outdoor run in shed, which has
been in use for almost a full year now, we used the road base, packed it down
pretty tight,  and then 6″ plus of the arena sand on top for
urine drainage and some cushion for bedding, as I wanted to avoid using any
type of bedding (shavings) out there. It seems to drain just fine so far, the
horses seem comfortable bedding down for the night on it (no bedsores), and we
will replace/refresh it every few years. 

 

Installment 13:

Fall means hurry-hurry around here! We are frantically working on the barn (which looks great by the way) and
turning our thoughts toward the utility lines and fencing. While the barn looks
like a real building (with siding and even doors!) and is ready for paint, the
grounds around the barn suddenly look empty.

I first promised my friend (who has my horse, Q, at the moment) that we would have the barn done October 15 and
thankfully she is amazing and willing to keep him as long as needed. Thank God
for talented husbands and amazing friends! Right now, my horse is safe and
sound. We still have so much to do before the temperatures drop for good.

First on the list is fencing. I have been researching lots of fence types but love the look of good old
fashioned wood. To make that work, we will put up no-climb mesh on the outside
of the wood (away from the paddock) and put hot wire at the top of the area
where Q will hang out the most. I also want electric line around the perimeter
of the property since we have neighboring horses who already like to put their
heads under and over the fence to get to the pasture. More about that, soon!

The big news is that we are putting solar panels on the roof of the barn! This is exciting and will help
our whole household go green. It also means that the solar company will dig the
ditch to get the power to the barn. That has to be done before the fencing goes
in. Thankfully, they are putting our property at the top of the list and power
should be coming soon.

Did I mention that my amazing husband has plumbing skills, too? Looks like the water line will be his to do
on his own. We have a lot of digging going on and it all has to be done before
the ground freezes. We got some outrageous quotes!

My husband, Jared, has worked so hard on this barn and his Julie Goodnight hat is proof. This poor hat used to
be yellow. Julie says he sure got his money out of that one! I wish I could
find him another hat just like that one–it just might need to disappear after
this project is done. If anyone still has that old logo, yellow hat and wants
to sell it back, let me know!

Whew! I think my shoulders are permanently tight now, but doing as much as possible (for me that means phone calls,
ordering and measuring) to make this barn be the perfect home for our horse, Q!
Now El Nino, can we talk and make sure you don’t come this way for a
while? 

Installment 14:

Painting and fence shopping. It is looking amazing. One photo from the morning and another in the evening–
there is color! My husband rented a sprayer from the paint store to make the
painting go quickly– he also donned a hazmat-looking suit for the day. The
spray made the main color go on smoothly. He even got most of the trim painted
by hand before sundown on Saturday. He saved our daughter a few little parts to
paint– this worked great for all of 2 minutes, but she got to help. 

 

Today’s online shopping is focused on fencing. I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments. We would
like a traditional look, so are opting for three rail wood for the paddock and
the division of the pastures. Julie has warned me about using wood fence around
the everyday enclosure. At her place, she has panels and metal fencing
surrounding her pens. I agree totally, but am attempting to keep costs down. My
horse isn’t a cribber, but I don’t want to make him interested in the thought!
I also don’t know what horse I may have later in life. To keep the horses from
wanting to nibble, it will be non-climb mesh lined and have a line of electric
at the top. That’s the plan for now. My horse, Q, is respectful of fencing and
electric and I’m looking for the safest and most dependable options. We also
have horses on all sides of our property and I want to make sure there’s a safe
border so that no one is trying too hard to get over the fence to munch or
meet. With ample turnout time in the pastures, I don’t plan for him to stay
cooped up for long.

 

The progress continues– though the barn looks complete, we have lots to do inside and around the paddock. Our
stalls (we finally settled on a great local company with lots of budget and
customized options, Port-A-Stall, http://port-a-stall.com) will be done next week. They are finishing up
the wood additions as I type. More about the stall plans soon! 

 

Today, I was able to speed up the electric plans a bit– I hope! Sometimes it pays to live in a small town and
have a few friends in the town office. The solar panel company prepared for
inspection and was told they would get the paperwork from the town in 10 days.
I called the town clerk and she gave me the town inspector’s cell phone
number– he says he will have the inspection for the electrical work to proceed
after Thursday of this week. Don’t be afraid to call and check on progress!
With a friendly voice, you can get a lot done! 

 

 

Installment 16:

Time to talk about
posts–drinking posts and fence posts! Hi all, it’s Heidi and here’s the
current, snow-covered view our small-acreage barn! It is looking so good and we
got so much done before the temperatures plummeted. We still have some work to
do and we are waiting out the cold temps.

First off, let’s talk about water– since that’s what could be freezing out there right now. One of my
“must haves” in this barn (and to consider bringing a horse home
during the winter months) was to have automatic water sources. Choosing an
automatic waterer was a research process. I am excited for the install of my
chosen “post.” We were worried that we wouldn’t have electric to the
barn in time to install the waterers (electric is coming a bit later) so I had
to rethink my first waterer purchase. When we had a plumber out to give us a
quote about digging the trench for water from the house to the barn, he handed
me a brochure about a waterer that doesn’t need electricity. I had seen the
posts previously at the National Western Stock Show, but was now even more
interested because we needed water without the electric plug in! Enter Drinking
Post Waterers. The waterer looks like a white fence post and operates much like
a hydrant you may already have in your barn– the water line is installed much
deeper than is typical and below the frost line. No water stays in the bowl–
it just fills when the horse presses the pad to get water then drains back down
below the frost line. So there’s no standing water, but consistent water
temperatures from the ground’s insulation.

I am so excited to see the install of this on Friday and to see how my horse, Q, likes it in just a few weeks! The
posts come in two different sizes and we are getting one of each–an 8′ for the
stall where Q will be and a 6′ for the paddock. Don’t worry, the horse won’t
have to reach up for water because so much is buried underground. I wanted the
shorter post in the paddock in case we do find that perfect, teen-age, trained,
drivable miniature that I have always wanted (know anyone selling?). I have
been impressed with the design and all the testimonials I’ve found on
independent websites. There aren’t heating elements to replace and there are
fewer parts to service than some other waterers. We are putting one in the
paddock and one in a stall (hopefully if the trencher can still fit through the
stall door–send good thoughts!) so that we have water inside if conditions are
slippery or we’re snowed in. The paddock waterer will be available when we
close the barn but keep the pasture gates open during turnout time. I arranged
the fencing so that both pastures open immediately to the paddock so we can
just open a gate and turnout is easy! 

That leads me to fencing! Let me start with hole digging and placement planning. Jared and I measured the
pastures and paddocks and spray painted marks for all of the fence holes. There
will be a dry-lot paddock surrounding the barn then two pastures divided so we
can do our best to keep grass growing well! When Q was boarded at first, they
had a great fence and gate system that allowed the care takers to open the
appropriate gates and turnout the horses without leading from one pasture to
the other. I knew I wanted that set up! We were able to place the openings for
the pasture gates so that they both will open into the main paddock. That means
opening one pasture gate and locking it open will allow the horses to graze
then access the automatic waterer–no extra buckets! 

Thank God that we hired our barn consultant to come back with his Bobcat and a fence post auger. Jared tried the
auger that came with our tractor and with no downward pressure, the hole-digging
didn’t go as planned in Colorado’s very hard soil. With the right equipment,
Jared and John were able to dig all 72 fence posts (plus the scratching post I
planned for the paddock) in just 2.5 hours. That’s well worth hiring the people
with the right gear! 

With the post holes ready, we headed to Jax Outdoor Gear-Ranch & Home in Loveland to pick up the fence
posts and the no-climb mesh. I had called around to find the best deals on the
fencing and Jax Outdoor Gear had the brands and best deals. I feel like I’ve
talked to their ranching department staff so much now, that I’ll need to send a
Christmas card. That’s great, though, because they offered to “run
quarterback” for all of the gear we need. What a blessing to have ranch
stores that allow you to see the gear instead of just ordering and hoping you
like what is shipped. They helped us load up the fence posts into the horse
trailer and they helped us choose the electric fence charger and all the
grounding and insulator gear we needed, too. If you’re on the front range, Kirk
and Jim know their stuff about fencing and are great resources to help. Kayla
has gathered up and ordered all of our mesh-filled gates, too, and they will be
coming home shortly. We chose wood posts for all the fencing but it will be lined
with Red Brand, no-climb 2×4″ mesh and then have a line of Electrobraid at
the top. That will keep the horses off of the wood part but provide a
consistent look with the fence that is already in our neighborhood. It will
also help me keep the kiddos and dogs out of the horse part of the property
when I don’t have eyes in the back of my head! 

On Saturday we worked all day to clear out the residual dirt in the holes, make sure they were all dug deep and
measured consistently and went to work setting posts. Jared cemented in all the
posts that will bear gates and almost every other post. My mom happened to
“stop by” to say hi and stayed to help set posts all day. She was a
farm girl and knew much more about setting (and resetting) posts than I would
have guessed. She saw two posts that looked out of line and helped me pull them
out and set them so we’d see the best line. It was murder at the moment, but
I’m so happy with how it all looks now. Jared had to reset a few, too, when we
realized we needed to double check the measurements for the gate openings.
Something great to check before the concrete set up! It was a hard day’s work
and we’re all still a little sore. You don’t use fence-install muscles for
riding– that’s for sure! 

This cold and snow won’t stop us
for long and we’ll be back to work on what’s turning out to be the perfect
place! 

Installment 17:
Note: Let’s talk fencing and pea gravel! I am in the midst of finishing up and
ordering last minute stuff for the fence. I will be glad to stop
“straddling” the fence project and get my feet on the ground! For
those of you who saw my question about pea gravel in the paddock with
electric fence. The decisive word seems to be change my footing order. The pea
gravel is great for paddocks with panels, but with the electric line at the
top, the pea gravel can be too dry. Part of the moisture in the ground needs to
be present to make the fence work with horses. Glad to know before the delivery
truck came! Sand is what was suggested–just 1.5 inches to cover the ground but
not be deep to walk in. I was at first leery of sand because of sand colic, but
I don’t plan to feed hay from the ground and am looking for a slow feeder for
the paddock to keep the hay safe and we have the lazy susan feeders in the
stalls for dinner time feed. I was also advised in having three
copper-and-only-copper-will-work grounding rods to make sure the whole electric
part of the fence is working well. If the electric fence isn’t strong enough
the horses actually like the feeling of being tickled and will lean on it!
That’s not something we want to chance! 

 

Installment 18: 

Trench City: Hi all, it’s Heidi and this installment of Build a Barn had to be renamed a
bit. It is about getting water to the barn and how the trenching process sure
makes you feel like you’ve stepped backwards instead of forwards toward the end
goal. Right now, our barnyard looks like someone could host a WWI reenactment
in the 4-foot deep trench stretching from the house to the barn. It was looking
so smooth and close to being finished. That was a mirage! Add to that big wide
trench a more shallow trench stretching from the opposite side of the house to
the barn–to attach the solar panels–and my dogs have no idea where in the
world they should be or if the world is coming to an end. There are pits and
piles all around. I think this might be the most overwhelming part of the whole
building process.

While we have had some amazing help and contractors along the way, the trenching process has challenged my
ability to trust that all folks will show up or do what they say they’ll do. We
originally had found a plumber with a trencher that could dig down 4 feet
without so much dirt misplaced– but he cancelled on me on the Friday before he
was to start on Monday. I frantically called around to find another trencher–
but all were booked months out or couldn’t dig down deep enough for a water
line. (While electric lines can be buried at 2-3 feet, water lines need to be
18 inches below the frost line for the best non-freeze guarantee.) I found a
great local company who could dig the trench– but with a 24 inch wide back
hoe. Yep, that’s a big trench for a 1″ water pipe, but it’s what would get
the job done. However, he couldn’t access about 16 feet that needed to run
alongside our house– that needed to be hand dug. I hired another company to
come dig this short (but admittedly tough soil) line only for Jared to check
their work and find that they stopped digging at 30 inches. I asked for 48.

So, today’s post might be more of a stressed-out rant than an offering of advice, but let’s think of the lessons
learned…. 1. Plan for trenching well in advance. These companies seem most
booked in the fall when everyone wants something done before the ground
freezes. I don’t know how we would have done this differently– it’s when we
got to the project, but if you can plan accordingly…. 2. Double check. I’ve
been glad that I do work from home so that I can go out and meet the folks that
are working around my place and make sure we are all informed as much as
possible. In this last instance, I wish I had more fully evaluated the work
before the crew left. I now have my tape measure handy. 3. While it’s possible
to do some projects yourself, there’s a time and a place to hire it done well.
We had at first planned to use our tractor to fill back in the trench, but I
think I will hire the same dynamic duo who dug the main line to fill it in. We
are running out of time to add more to our plates and that’s OK to know when to
say when.

Good news, too. We picked up our gates this weekend. We have the wire filled gates at the ready when we can get
to the paddock and our fencing projects again. For now, I’m stretching and
practicing more yoga so I can keep jumping over the trenches….

We will get it done! In the meantime (and in a week based on thankfulness), I’m thankful for an amazing
husband who keeps chugging along and has done so much for this project. I’m
also thankful for the world’s best friend who is willing to keep my boy,
“Q,” as her own until his new barn is complete.

 

Installment 19:

Many of you have asked about the solar panels going up on the
roof. As of today they are up and ready for the power company to connect us! We
have worked with a company called SolarCity Colorado. The panels’ placement on
the roof will provide our home and the barn with power. We are still connected
to the power company– so if we don’t produce enough for some reason, we can get
power the old fashioned way. However, having the panels means that we are
providing our own power most of the time. That also means that after the
initial cost of the panels (there’s a tax rebate by the way) we won’t have a
power bill. In the meantime, we pay per month what we usually would have from
the power company until we own the panels outright. What made this deal extra
appealing to us (besides going green) was that the panels could go on the barn
instead of our high pitched roof. With this placement, it also meant that
SolarCity paid for the electric trench from the house to the barn and got power
to the barn for us. Pretty sweet deal when you learn what it costs to dig!
SolarCity didn’t give us anything for writing this, but I’m all about praising
a team for a job well done. Everyone there was great to work with and so
helpful. 

 

What’s next? We still need to get the water line and trench inspected then it’s time to fill it in. Jared and I
wrapped the whole 180 feet with insulation tubing to help keep it extra safe
through time and to protect it when we fill in the huge trench. The Drinking
Post Waterers are in and connected! Those were easy to install– the hardest
part was the digging, but got it done! 

 

After that, we have fencing and
gates waiting for install. Anyone want to stop by and help? More soon, Heidi.

 

Installment 20:

The water line is in! The cold weather sure put us behind for a bit, but we
have been catching up and using muscles never before used! I think in any big
project you hit a point when you are just ready to be done. We are there now
but doing our best to trudge forward and keep putting one foot in front of the
other! 

 

The water line is in and finally testing well. We will have two automatic waterers (one inside and one out) plus
a frost-free hydrant.  Because we had such a wide and deep ditch, we hand
filled about a foot of softer soil throughout the 180 foot line. We wanted to
make sure that the pressure of the 4 feet of dirt that needed to be filled in wouldn’t
hurt the Pex pipe line if it were all back filled with a tractor. We have some
clumpy and rocky soil! We are playing it safe and making sure all the rest goes
smoothly! That was a fun filled weekend and my arms have never felt so strong
(or sore!). My husband Jared started filling in the rest of the dirt with the
tractor and it is looking better out there! You can now walk from the house to
the barn again without jumping a big trench! 

 

Next on the list? The inside of the stalls (getting road base to level out the base layer) and the fencing. We
have all the fencing supplies on hand but couldn’t work on that until the
trenches were gone. Still much to do, but all is well and there’s a light at
the end of the tunnel! 

 

I did get in a quick ride down the road with Q last week. I’ll be so glad to have him with me, but so thankful
he’s happy and safe and in good hands. 

 

Installment 21: 

Build A Barn: What do you do to keep your horses busy and moving when not turned out? 

Today it is all about paddock planning. When my horse Q comes home, he’ll have a big paddock
area (about 50×60′) known as a “sacrifice” paddock. Off of that,
we’ll have gates to two pastures to rotate so he has time to graze and be a
horse. But on small acreage, keeping those pastures grassy is going to be a
challenge and he’ll have to have some time in the paddock, too. I want as much
turnout time as possible and as much as is possible to keep him busy and
walking in the paddock. (Walking instead of standing still has been shown to
keep hooves and horses digestive tracks healthy.) The paddock will have
“crusher fines” as the footing to help reduce mud and slipping. 

 

I’ve researched a few slow grazing feeding boxes and am considering putting them around the paddock so
that he’ll get his daily hay rations and have a “grazing experience”
as he goes between slow feeders. More soon about the slow feeders– and please
post any tips you have about using them!

 

I also found a cool product called Scratch n All that is designed to help horses scratch and have something
they like to rub against. We’ll put those on a scratching post in the paddock
to entice Q not to rub his tail on the barn itself (he does have that habit and
I have the pulled out horse hair to prove it). These are little pads with soft
“fingers” that feel good to animals without hurting their skin. The
pads are small but designed to fit together so that you can cover the amount of
area you choose. I got 12 to cover a full side of a scratching post (that is
set deep in concrete). I love the idea of having these around in case there are
any sharp edges or areas that need to be smoothed out in the future. Q cut his
nose deeply on some metal edging at his current boarding locale last fall. A
Scratch n All pad lining the Dutch door would feel good to the horse and keep
sharp edges away from soft noses. Don’t you have a few places you’d like to
cover up to make sure the horses are safe and not scratched? Scratch n All for
more info (http://scratchnall.mybigcommerce.com). 

When Julie came to visit the construction site, she recommended that we cover up as much wood as possible–
and to not make it too easy for horses to get at wood and learn to like it (and
crib). With her advice, we have chosen metal mesh, no climb fencing for he
paddock area (to keep the dogs out and the horse(s) safe) and there will be an
electric top line to keep the wood posts off limits. When thinking about having
wood posts, though, I also wondered how they will fare over time. They are the
most economical for sure, but I wanted to keep them safe. I found another cool
product made to block the top of the posts from weathering. These little tents
for the top of the posts aren’t expensive and keep the water from running down
through the wood’s most vulnerable surface. We have 73 posts awaiting the snow
to melt and the metal mesh to be installed. Those posts took a lot of hard work
to set and I want to keep them safe! http://www.postopper.com.
We got the 5″ PosToppers and they fit well. They are almost black in color
but will look fine when all are uniformed and set up. 

Inside the barn, my husband Jared has gotten quite a bit done! We have hauled in and laid the road base as the
stall flooring (that was the heaviest, hardest workout in a long time to move
20 tons!); our amazing neighbor Bowdy helped to place the stall divider (that
took a lot of muscle); Jared cut and placed the stall mats AND he got the
inside walls finished. The smooth wood won’t give the horses anything to grab
onto and will be less appealing than the internal wood. The stalls will be smooth
inside (though I’m considering some anti-cast strips– anyone used those?). We
are moving along and just waiting on some snow to melt before being able to get
the fencing in place. 

Thanks to you all for your encouragement and ideas along this journey! 

Installment 22:

Link to the progress VIDEO>> https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10152557058567181&video_source=pages_finch_trailer

Who wants to see the barn? Here’s your video tour of the progress so far. It is such a nice day
I thought it would be better to show you what we’ve done instead of just write
(and I got to go outside!). My husband, Jared was able to work on the no-climb
mesh fence this weekend. We got the two pastures divided then got one more
stretch complete. So thankful for Youtube videos from the manufacturers
with tips about how to install. We got everything ready then went in and made a
video playlist to watch through so we could install without a headache. The
next steps are to complete the mesh fencing, install the gates, install the
electric braid that will be the top of the fence, then get the crusher fines
for the paddock footing. It seems there will always be something left on the
list, but we are getting close! 

 

Q is doing great at my friend’s place and I continue to debate about what to do for a buddy once he gets here.
I have found a few cute miniatures for sale and I’m also thinking of bringing
his current buddy (an 
American Quarter Horse
Association
 sorrel named “Red”) home for a bit to ease the transition. Does your horse have a
buddy? Julie thinks it’s important for all horses to have another horse that
they can touch and interact with. Here on our two acres, we are rated for two horses,
so the decision seems heavy. If I get a miniature now, will I want a full size
horse later (for my daughter Savannah to ride once she’s bigger– a mini is
perfect for her for now) and would we have trouble giving up the small one? Oh,
thoughts for another day! Let me know what you’d do! –Heidi Melocco, Julie’s
TV show producer on 
RFD-TV.

 

Installment 23: 

The fencing is almost up! We had two beautiful weeks of spring temperatures before the snow
arrived for a long stay. In that time, my husband Jared and I were able to get
up almost all of the wire mesh fence. It looks great and he did a great job
pulling it tight and smoothing the rough edges. We ran out of time and need to
install one more line of fence (then add the electric braid to the top rail)
but it feels like such progress.

The fence we chose is called no-climb horse mesh. It is designed with more knots than typical 2×4” mesh so
that horses can’t put in a toe and drag down the wire easily. We will have wire
mesh all around the paddock and also wire-mesh filled gates. That will give me
peace of mind to know that dogs can’t easily run through the horse pens. The
dogs are good, but with a little herding blood in their veins, I’d prefer to
know they are separate. We chose gates with the wire mesh already in place.

Tips on fencing? In this age of videos, go online before hitting the field. Jared and I took a break to watch
the fence company’s Youtube page and a video page on their own website. The
installation tips saved us a lot of time and we skipped a lot of trial and
error. We learned it’s best to have two “comealong” ratchets in place to help
pull the wire mesh tight at the top and bottom. We got to see how the experts
laid down the fence then put it into place vertically. Use your resources! I
have a Youtube playlist called “barn plans” and I can collect all the
directions and tips I think we’ll need now or down the road then we can watch
them together on the TV (through Roku). It has been a great help! 

With the wire and posts in place, Jared also put the PosToppers LINK http://www.postopper.com
in place. We switched to get the 4” toppers for our 5” posts so that they
stretch and fit securely. They went on easily. I love the idea of
these—just think of them as little tents for each wood post so that the
elements can’t get in and destroy the wood before you’re ready to replace a
fence line. 

 

Installment 24:

Arena time! Do you have an arena at your place or do you ride the trails and trailer to
arenas? Look who showed up at my place today! This means that MY arena footing
will be on its way soon. How cool is that?! Hi all, it’s Julie’s producer,
Heidi. 

Golf and Sport Solutions-
Equestrian Arena Footings
 just finished Julie’s indoor arena and they’ll start on my outdoor soon, too. They’re also helping
with the final stages of the barn and landscape prep. They will help with
footing in the paddock to help it from getting too muddy. They will also help
put footing in the round pen. Q is going to get back in shape and get to work
when he gets home! 

All of this is possible because Jared did an awesome job finishing up the fence last weekend. He still has the
electric braid to add to the top of the fencing, but the hardware is in place
and all the posts and no-climb fence is properly secured and pulled tight.
Jared also built a wall to divide the paddock from the human walkway and has
started framing up the tack room on the inside of the barn. It is all coming
along so beautifully. 

We have one more gate to go pick up and need to get some more fencing to put around the arena once the footing
is there. It’s getting close to having my friend Q live at home! 

What’s next on my list? Now, it’s time to officially start shopping for that mini to have as his buddy. You’ll
read in Julie’s newsletter column this month that she thinks all horses should
have a buddy they can touch– one that is with them most of the time. I agree
and have narrowed my search to the miniature horse. I want a teenager who has
been trained to drive and is good around kiddos. I think Savannah will learn
about horses best if she can groom and lead and learn to handle a horse that is
her own size. Plus, having a mini will provide Q a buddy without making me feel
guilty if I don’t have time to keep two full size horses ridden. Of course the
mini will need exercise, too, but I love that and we’ll have the round pen in
place!  

Installment 26:

Who wants a barn tour? Here’s the status of Build A Barn as of today!
It is looking amazing and with just a little patience to get the final details
in place (the arena and paddock footing and the saddle racks for the tack room)
we are nearly DONE! We have a penciled in date to bring the horses home just
in time for my birthday– right after the 4th of July. I’m so excited! Watch
the video and let me know your thoughts!
What’s next in the planning? I’ve been thinking a lot about how the
organization and logistics will work once the horses are home. With two
pastures to alternate plus two dry lots to keep the horses in, too, there
are lots of options for their daily schedules. I’ll have slow feeders in
the dry lots (a total of three) to keep them moving and walking around
as if to graze. In the pastures, I want to do the best job possible to
keep grass growing so that they will have time to be turned out and
acting like horses. I am researching the best patters for pasture rotation
on a small acreage. Ideas welcome! I will keep you posted about what I
find out about pasture management. If they get even an hour or two a
day on the grass, I will be happy knowing that they have a chance to roam and graze.
I am excited for the footing crew to arrive later this week. Once the paddock
footing and arena are in place, we can bring the horses home! Thanks to G&S
Sport Solutions for helping me find the best footing to keep mud out of the
paddock and to Julie, too, for helping to formulate a great arena mix. It’s
going to be time to ride!
Installment 27:
Hi all, it’s Heidi. Guess what? My horse Q moves home tomorrow! We have been busy today prepping his stall (moving out the temporary wood working shop from that locale) and getting the final touches ready so that he’ll be happy at home. I have slow feeders ready and placed around the paddock to keep him roaming and happy when he isn’t turned out. I’m so excited to test out the  Savvy Feeders and see what he thinks! It is a cool design that allows you to place your horse’s rations into a feeder with a grid –allowing the horse to pull and pick the hay through the grate similar to the grazing process. Also the grass in the pasture is beautiful and ready to be chomped down. He’ll have ample turnout time in our two pastures. We are also excited to see how he’ll like the Drinking Post Waterers. I was just reading through the directions for training a horse to use them. I’m not sure if Q has used an automatic waterer in his past, so we’ll check it out!
The Arena is DONE!Here come the before and after video clips for the arena! It was a dirty job (ha! pardon the pun), but wow, this place looks amazing. The crew from  Golf and Sport Solutions- Equestrian Arena Footings were here at my place for 5 days to turn a field into an amazing, level and groomed arena. They used a pre-blended mix of sand and clay that will drain well and help keep the dust down. They also graded and laser leveled the paddock so that my horse Q won’t stand around in mud. The material looks the same in color as the arena mix, but has different size sand and clay particles to help it stay compacted and not quite as cushioned as the arena area. I am thrilled with how it all looks and am excited to show you more about the whole process! If you’re in Colorado, check them out and find out what it would take to turn an area of your pasture into a leveled, graded, puddle-proof riding area. It’s worth it to have a great place to ride.
Installment 28:
Build a BarnIt’s now been almost two months of having my horse, Q, at home! And the pony, Romeo, arrived just shortly before my daughter’s birthday in August. Best birthday present ever I hope! The horse and pony have gone through their paces to learn who is in charge and now blissfully stand in the shaded paddock to groom one another each afternoon.Since the two have been home, we keep adding and updating some of the features of the barn and fencing. Last month, my husband finished the fence around the arena (we’ll add some Centaur LINK http://www.centaurhorsefence.com flex fence as a top and middle rail, but the arena is enclosed) and the the tack room organizers from Equi-Racks LINK http://www.equiracks.com have arrived and will be installed soon! We also need to outfit the barn with gutters before the rains fall and winter months arrive. I think there will always be something to do, but it is feeling great that nothing HAS to be done this moment.In the time that the horses have been home, it has been interesting to figure out who should go where when. I am so glad that we designed the paddock with access gates to both pastures. Off of the paddock, I can open gates to either pasture or the arena. Now that the horses have gotten to know one another and are together most of the day, I can go out in the morning and simply open a pasture gate, anchor it open and turnout time is done. I leave the gate open so that they can access the waterer in the paddock. No more filling buckets in every pasture! When it’s time to call them in, I walk out and yell “Come on” and they (eventually, it’s getting faster) trot back into the paddock. The system is working and with so many gates and options of where to put horse and pony, I can divide them or keep them together in different areas.But it’s the amount of time to allow them to graze that has me studying and thinking. The pony, Romeo, doesn’t need to be out long. He doesn’t need too much extra nutrition, and I don’t want him to ever founder. And for both, grazing on small acreage is a recreational activity. I want them to feel like horses and get that time out but we don’t have too much grass to munch. I want to make sure that they aren’t out too long each day so that grass will keep growing and the plants will survive for next year. I have seen many properties where there once was grass and with over grazing on small acreage there is soon only dust and weeds. While horses in the wild browse and ration themselves because there is plenty, horses who aren’t used to being turned out 24/7 can eat too much too quickly and the land can’t keep up with their munching. When you’re horse keeping on only two acres, you have to get a little creative with turnout time. I have been alternating pastures weekly so the grass in one has time to recuperate a little before being munched on again. Still, I want to make sure my pastures stay in good shape.How do you keep your pastures growing so horses can have this time at play? I met an extension agent at the county fair who quickly handed me the Colorado Master Gardener Program brochure. I probably will never qualify as a master gardener, but the master gardeners can help identify the grasses that are already in the pasture and help me know what type of grasses will grow well in my area. I plan to take in a sample and find tips to help over-seed the pastures. I did learn that horses can help to re-seed the pasture on their own by digesting and then spreading the seed (so to speak), but this isn’t a sure bet with small pastures. Many times the seed-rich poop is “spread” in the paddock and removed at our place.For now, I keep the horses out three hours a day then bring them into the paddock where their slow feeders await. It keeps them munching and moving. It is also great to see how much more active Q is with his new little friend around. With someone to interact with, he is walking and keeping an eye on Romeo’s whereabouts instead of standing still in the paddock. I think that interaction and movement is so important.
Installment 29:

Arena fencing:

The horses have been home since the summer and we are prepping for our first winter together! I am so thankful that they have a cozy barn to keep them out of the wind and cold when needed–and I love that they have lots of outside turnout, too. I am pleased with the layout we chose for the paddock, fields and arena gates. I can simply open and close gates to move the horses around easily. When it’s time to come in from the pasture, I keep the horses in the paddock then open the gate to the arena so they have space to run and move.
I chose not to have electric fencing around the arena, but the no-climb horse mesh must have something at the top to keep the horses from bending it over time. I also wanted a sight line in the arena to make sure that the horses can see the edges easily. I love the look of board rails, but didn’t want the upkeep. I was thrilled to find the Centaur horse rail fencing– it’s flexible and strong. I remember seeing their video a while back–with elephants leaning on the fence and bouncing back! I like the idea that the flexible fence will go at the top and middle of my arena fencing to provide safety and a sight line. I chose brown to blend in with our wood posts. The flexible fencing will sit on the inside of the arena so that if the horses do hit the fence, they hit that and not the mesh if they’re running. The flexible rail at the top will also bounce back if they try to lean over the mesh fence to graze on the grass that lines the arena. I love anything that saves time (no painting or upkeep later) and is safer for the horses! This system can be used without other fencing with it, but we want to keep the dogs out of the arena area, too. What fencing are you using?

Installment 30:Pasture Management

Yesterday I had a visit from the CSU Extension​ office. They have a master gardener and a small acreage program and a service where one of the agents will come see your place! I learned so much about what to do, what grasses we have growing, when to seed for more, how to keep it growing, etc. Sharon helped me to know exactly how long the horses could be out right now without devouring too much of the grass.Since on our two acres, we have limited grazing, I realize that grass time is a recreation and not the means for primary nutrition. She said as long as the horses are eating hay first, they can be out up to 2 hours to get some browsing and running time. The horses will be happy! I have been keeping them in the paddock and arena with several slow feeders parked around to mimic grazing, just to make sure that we didn’t graze too much. I don’t want my pasture areas to turn to dust!She also helped me identify that most of our grass is Smooth Brome. That’s what the horses seem to like best and what was growing the best. She advised that cool season grasses like that can be planted now. Any time from November to April is cool grass seeding time for growth the next summer. We do have a few bare patches so I’ll get those seeded ASAP (of course I stopped by the local farm supply store and they looked at me like I was crazy for wanting grass seed in December–they had packed it away; hoping they will learn about cool season grasses, too!). I will head to the expert gardening store where I saw that they had it in stock. Amazingly, she said it doesn’t take a lot of grass seed to plant a bare area.Have you been in touch with your local extension office? It’s an odd name for a great program– every land grant university (Colorado State, Ohio State, for example) has an “extension” office in each state’s county. You can get low cost help and lots of resources to know what works best in your area. Grasses and plants are so different by region, that this is a great way to teach folks what works best in their own back yards. Check out your county offices and find out if you have a small acreage or horse program that can help with questions. It is an amazing resource!