There be Dragons Here!
Updated: Jan 18
“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
Our dragon of a barn was in many ways a thing of beauty. She was 60 years old and solidly built, with 12 stalls (two of which had concrete floors), a generous hay loft, and a covered extension suitable for storing shavings.
On the negative side, she was filled knee deep with layers of firmly compacted cow manure (try digging through that with a shovel!), half her stalls were missing their dividers, her floors (underneath all that manure) were uneven compacted dirt, the ceiling of her hay loft had been built a fraction below the recommended height for horses, her paint job was in pretty bad shape, and she had no run outs.
There were some things we couldn't do anything about, the ceilings being one of them. As for the rest, we quickly realized that no one ever slayed a dragon by backing off from the challenge, so it was roll up our sleeves, get out our shovels, and get the job done!
First we removed the manure, both inside and outside, and leveled the floors and area around the barn as best we could. We then measured out 10X12 sections outside each stall, dug holes, planted posts and built the fences for our run outs. At the same time we added a round pen onto the one end of the barn. That done we turned our attention to emptying all the junk out of the hay loft, 'sweeping' using a leafblower and power washing the entire barn. It took numerous attempts to remove decades worth of dust and cob webs!
Our blank canvas was now ready for a fresh coat of paint! Due to a non existent budget, we painted the outside of the stalls with simple white barn paint and left the insides unpainted. At the time we couldn't afford to paint the outside of the barn so we left that for a later date (something we finally accomplished this year).
The back of the dragon broken, we moved on to adding stall mats in the stalls and run outs, and installing hardware (blanket racks, tie rings, feeders, hay racks, and tack trunks). We then turned the two stalls with concrete floors into a tack room and workshop, painting them inside, and installing 20 saddle racks and bridle hooks in the tack stall. We also added a small deck to the outside of the tack stall which faced what would become our grass arena, so that clients friends and family could sit and watch them ride.
While my father, husband, and son worked on the rentals, my 70 year old mother, 16 year old daughter, and I accomplished all of this in just under a month. Within two months of purchasing our property it was generating enough income, through the barn and rentals, to cover both our mortgage and operating expenses.
The dragon was well and truly slain!