11 December 2012

The Riding Arena

Jack is one of the few people thin enough to almost hide behind a post.
As an avid equestrian, a riding arena is incredibly useful for training horses, especially in dressage.  I love a good gallop on Stoney but usually, I like to have the boundaries a riding arena provides.  I wouldn't even try riding Dancer without some kind of fence to stop her should she decide to test her limitations.

So, a few years ago, we started on our beautiful riding arena.  We transplanted our garden and leveled the ground, filling it with course limestone and sand for footing.  Sure, it was missing the fencing but it was otherwise perfect.
Evelyn loved having a sandbox the size of a beach in her backyard and I used it as much as I could for riding but between pregnancies and sabbaticals from the farm for Jack's out-of-town internships, it wasn't used as often as I'd hoped.
Then the battle with the weeds began.
We almost lost our kids a few times in the jungle of weeds.
Mother Nature hates a void so nothing (especially in the fertile soils of Iowa) stays vacant very long.  We did our best hacking and pulling the weeds by hand...
It's good to teach the love of work early, right?
. . . we put Stoney and Dancer to good use. . . 
. . . and when all else failed, we sprayed and mowed (and would have harrowed if we'd had one).
When we returned back from Texas, I was determined to finish the arena.  As we tore down our barn, we used the old posts and floor boards for some of the rails and put it up bit by bit.
Hooray for single user gas powered augers!
It required a few days work but once the posts were in, it was just a matter of nailing the rails to the posts.
I have always loved how sharp white painted fences look silhouetted against a bed of green grass so to protect the wood from rot and help it last longer, I bought a heavy duty oil-based barn paint.

I got about this far before I decided I hated doing it:
Oil-based paint is torturous to work with, especially in the variable speeds of Iowa wind.  It splattered everywhere and doesn't come off without use of mineral spirits.  Plus, all kinds of bugs are helplessly attracted to white so just as I'd slop some paint on, a swarm of sap beetles, houseflies and various other insects would get entangled, only to leave their little corpses in the fresh paint.

While I stewed in my misery, I decided painting a riding arena falls somewhere below sanding drywall (and that's saying something after having sanded an entire house's worth of drywall) and only slightly above how awful I'd imagined scraping out a pig sty with my bare hands would be.

So, naturally, I conned others into doing it.  When my sister and her family visited, I gave my brother-in-law a pair of painting overalls and gloves and sent him out.  From what I understand, he actually enjoyed it.  My sister said he probably spent the entire time pretending he was Bob Ross painting miles of happy little clouds.  What I didn't do after that, my darling Jack did for me, probably so he didn't have to listen to any more of my whining.

I have since used the riding arena quite frequently and love that I can turn kids loose on Stoney without fear of him showing them what it's like to gallop (it's surprising how many little children insist they could gallop a horse if given a chance).
I spy Jack painting away!
One more goal off our list (although it's sure to be right back on it next year when we find another acreage.  Oh, well.  Now we're arena building pros.  Maybe I'll give Jack a real challenge and have him build me an indoor riding arena...).

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