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  • Writer's pictureDyan Vorster

A Moving Target

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

“Farewell," they cried, "Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey's end!" That is the polite thing to say among eagles.

"May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks," answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

An eagle's eye view of our barn area before we began developing it.

One thing is for certain, if you choose to embark on this journey into becoming a land owner, you will quickly realize that "journey's end" is an ever moving target. We bought 10 acres. To the average person this might seem like a fairly decent parcel of land - practically a small farm in fact! But to the seasoned farmer it represents a pitifully small acreage with limited income earning potential. And small acreages demand careful stewardship to maintain maximum productivity.

Looking at our land from a horse farm perspective, our primary crop is grass (I'll go into that more in my next post). However, horse boarders aren't just content to have pasture turn out for their horses, they also need a place to ride. This was the challenge we now faced, "How do we create a riding arena that can be used year round, even through Oregon's wet winters?" Building an indoor arena was so far out of the question it didn't even feature, but a small all-weather arena - that was something we could conceivably accomplish.

The property already had a huge level carpark in front of the barn that had been graded, compacted and covered with 3/4 minus stone (not quite sure what the previous owners were thinking, but hey, we weren't complaining!). This meant that we had a pre existing foundation to build on. We did this by hiring a contractor to lay down 3 inches of 1/4 minus crushed gravel. We then pulled out the old railway sleepers that had randomly been used as fence posts all over the farm and used them to measure out and enclose a 20X40 meter dressage arena (yes, there were that many!). The plan was to ride on this surface through the winter, allowing the stone time to settle and compact, before adding a final layer of river sand.

At the same time we had our contractor grade 6 inches of dirt out of the round pen on the back side of the barn. After laying down heavy duty weed fabric we spread three inches of 3/4 minus over the entire surface, compacted it, and then added another 3 inches of 1/4 minus. This too would be allowed to settle and compact before adding a final layer of sand.

Our last arena project involved leveling the large paddock to the left of the barn and spreading manure from our manure pile over it so that it would be ready for reseeding in the fall. We had to move the boundary fence in a couple of meters to allow for horse trailer and barn client parking, but this still left us with plenty of space for a grass jumping arena that we could use during the dry months.

Creating our all-weather arenas was a relatively expensive project (for us). But living in a state like Oregon, where it rains 6 months of the year, having an all-weather arena is not a luxury, it's a necessity. In the long term, the investment paid off, as it was appealing to horse boarders (I was easily able to fill my barn), and it allowed me to teach lessons year round.

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