We moved to Tennessee from Arizona. It’s not that we didn’t like Arizona but there were some things in Tennessee Mikki in particular wanted to experience. She wanted to be surrounded by greenery, have a garden (for the first time ever!), experience rivers with actual water in them…and to possibly own her own horse. We had been traveling to east Tennessee for years to visit family and on our final trip as visitors, we looked at some property with Mikki’s parents who were looking to retire soon. We happened upon the property where we live now and loved it from the start. Almost 8.5 acres, mostly fenced for horses with two barns, including a mostly new barn with three finished horse stalls, room for hay storage, a tack room and a covered port for storing a horse trailer. Perfect! Honestly, I think the barn is what sold the place. Nine months later, Valentine showed up and the rest we’ve been blogging about since February 2006.
After more than seven years of blogging about our horse experience, I realize I’ve never gone into much detail about the barn. And since I have some things I want to do to the barn and I’ll want to write about those things, it seems like you need to know the basics.
Our barn has three finished horse stalls, one semi-finished stall with room for five total. We initially used two unfinished stalls for storage and had no intention on having more than three horses but then Romeo and Cash came along so we cleaned out one of the storage stalls. Romeo occupied that stall for a while but now it belongs to Jazzy the mule. We plan to replace the metal gate (which Romeo got his head stuck in years ago) we use as a wall with a full wooden wall. The barn is open in the center aisle and the aisle is big enough to drive a truck, hay wagon or tractor through. At this point we don’t have doors on the ends but it’s an addition we’re planning. In the winter it’s darn cold in there and it would be nice to close up the barn during bad storms. Except for Jazzy’s, each stall has an inside door and an outside door/window combo. The roof is metal and boy does it make a racket during rain storms. The horse stalls are 12×12 with a dirt floor.
We love our barn but have some ideas for improvement and we’ll be writing about these as we accomplish them. This list isn’t in order of importance:
Paved center aisle
Outside lean-to for covered feeding
Hay loft over the storage stall (done! I’ll write about this soon)
Barn doors – each end. Either sliding or hinged
Water piping with quick disconnect
Horse shower capability
Stall flooring with drainage
Reinforced security door for tack room
Covered front “porch”
Paved parking area
Camera security system with remote monitoring
Rainwater collection system
Aerated composting system
Hay elevator for lofts (not as expensive as it sounds)
Slide pole for exiting lofts 🙂
Lights over every stall
Pneumatic pipes with quick-connects (for filling tires and running air tools)
Some of those are clearly luxury items, such as the paved center aisle and barn speakers but if you spend a lot of time in a barn, why not make it more enjoyable and easier to clean?
We’ve put most of these projects off all these years but we’re finally starting to catch up on projects. More later.
What’s on your list of horse-related projects this year?
Four years ago we had a problem with Moonshine cribbing. Her bad habit was destroying the wood on her stall doors so I got an idea to cover the wood. This worked initially (see part 2) but eventually a tear developed in the thin aluminum and I worried about her cutting her tongue or face on the sharp metal. Other than that, the concept worked. To improve on the aluminum design, I needed something that would cover the affected area and hold up to a horse frequently licking it and occasionally biting it. While scanning the fabrication aisle at Home Depot, I came across a section of thicker, angled aluminum wide enough to cover the inside top of the stall door. I removed the old, thin aluminum section, clamped the new angled piece in place and drilled holes every foot. I then screwed the new section in place and made sure all edges were smooth. I’m a little behind on posting about this but the benefit of that is that I now know if this solution works. I’m happy to report that after a year of Moonshine licking and biting that stall door the new section is still in place, there are no sharp pieces or tears and Moonshine hasn’t suffered any injury. Total investment was about $8 and a half-hour of time. Now that winter has returned and the horses are spending more time in the barn, I plan on adding this protection bar on the other stall door (each outside stall has two doors) and even though our other horses aren’t big wood chewers, I’d like the whole barn to match. The horses that occupied the barn before we moved here wore the stall door tops down so I’ll need to replace those but hopefully this will be the last time.
If you let it go, horses who chew wood can do a lot of damage. Here are a few pictures I took at a historic barn at the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina showing extensive damage to a stall door top and on the walls.
Do you have a wood chewer/cribber? What works for you?
Fat horses have motivated us to shift our summertime horse routine. Since Cash foundered last month, we noticed all of our horses were on the heavy side. It’s been very hot and humid so they’re not getting much exercise. We didn’t want to put grazing muzzles on all of them. Our solution has been to put them into the barn at night to reduce access to hay and grass. A nice side benefit is that we’re sure to see them twice a day to check for irregularities.
Last week as very cold weather approached, Mikki and I got a hankering to knock off one of our outstanding barn projects. Although our barn is designed with room for five stalls, two of them were being used for storage. Since we built a hay loft over one, we’re able to store hay there instead of the other stall. Sure it’s more of a pain to get to but poor Romeo needed a stall. Romeo, being the most easy going horse we have, was chosen to be an “open staller”, meaning he got the run of the center aisle. When the weather is nice, that’s not a bad spot. You get lots of room and we kept the barn door open on one end so he could get water whenever he wanted. But when the wind blows, it blows right through the barn. Clearly we needed to do something. So last weekend Mikki and I cleaned out stall four for Romeo. He doesn’t have a fancy wood door like the others and he’s missing an outside window but he’s safe and protected from the wind.
Here is what it looked like before it was cleared out. What’s missing is all the hay bales. It doesn’t look like much but it took hours to find new homes for this stuff, pull exposed nails and clean all the loose hay off of the ground (it was old and nasty).
And here it is after. It was dark by the time we were done, hence the dark picture.
Having a boy horse and a girl horse is interesting, even if it’s a mare (can make baby horses) and a gelding (can’t make baby horses). They still go through most of the motions, especially her and it’s obvious to me she gets quite frustrated when our gelding doesn’t show as much interest as a stallion would. But still they flirt. They nibble eat other, posture and he’s sorta interested. When they’re near the barn I usually tell them to get a room. Well…this week they did that.
The night before it happened we were outside roasting marshmallows and I thought I heard banging in the barn. I went to investigate and I swear the horses were looking out of their stall, whistling, as if to say “nothing to see here, move along human”. I looked around and saw nothing. The next morning I get up, walk to the barn and notice troublemaker Valentine’s head poking out of Moonshine’s stall. When I got to the stall I saw her in the background, eyes wide open as if to say “I told him we’d get in trouble…IT WAS ALL HIM!”. That banging was apparently Valentine, our big gelding, kicking the boards between his stall and hers (see pic). Upon closer inspection, I can’t see how he got through there, as he’s wider than the opening.
So I let the horses out and we re-installed the boards, this time with screws.
Now as funny as this is, a few things have me concerned:
I’ve heard horses shouldn’t be in the same stall, even if the stall is pretty large. They’re big, powerful and not graceful in small places.
The displaced stall boards were laying on the ground with the nails poking up. Most of the nails were bent over so I imagine they stepped on them.
Even with strong screws, if this 16.3 hand gelding wants to visit my mare, a few screws and a 3/4 inch wood slat isn’t going to stop him. I hope this isn’t a trend.
Oh, and to be fair I see how she encourages him so my mare isn’t the least bit innocent in this incident.