2011 to 2021: Celebrating Ten Years at The Clicker Center: Part 6

The tenth anniversary of moving the horses to The Clicker Center Barn. That was truly Independence Day for all of us. I am celebrating the anniversary by posting a series of articles I wrote in 2011 about the building of the barn. This is Part 6.

Enjoy!

We’re Building a Barn! Continued

Once all the trusses were up, they spent another couple of days adding even more bracing to the roof. They were racing to get the metal on, both so they could secure the building, and also so they could free up their crew and equipment to go work on their other project which was beginning to kick into high gear.  

The metal had been sitting down by the road since early spring. Now the fork lift retrieved it and brought it lumbering up the driveway. The forklift could just manage to squeeze it’s way down the back side of the arena, but there wasn’t room for it on the bank side. So the sheets of roofing were carried up one side of the roof and slid down the other. The men made it look as though they were carrying sheets of tissue paper up the roof, but this was steel they were lifting – hardly a feather weight!

They took great care over the first section, making sure it was absolutely square to the building. Any hair off here would effect every sheet of steel on the roof. Wayne oversaw the process from his vantage point on the peak of the roof. What a view he must have had of the surrounding countryside. I climbed up the side of the building before it was closed in, but I never went up on the roof. I’ll leave that to others!

With the first section of roofing on, the inside of the arena changed dramatically. It felt so much darker and less open. But it also gave me a huge umbrella over head. Now instead of working down in Mary’s house during the day, I could bring my laptop out to the arena and sit under the protection of the new roof while the men worked on the rest of the arena.

I have no idea what they thought of this arrangement, but it did give me time to experience the arena design and think about what we really wanted. I was loving the openness of the space. I loved the arched ceiling trusses. I loved the open front wall, and I wished we could keep that same open feel in the back. The compromise was putting in clear light panels along the top of the gable end and the back wall of the arena.

I’m writing this now, sitting in the arena, looking up at the light panels. What a perfect choice. They let in so much light. Even under the lean to, it’s remarkable how much light comes through the panels. The extra height, the scissor trusses, the open side down the front, the light panels, all make the arena seem so much bigger that it actually is. Everyone who comes remarks on the same thing – how big the arena is, but at 60 by 120 it is really a small arena. Most indoors are much bigger to accommodate larger groups and jumping. For me this is the perfect work space for clicker training.  
 

It was now mid-May and I was getting ready to head off for five weeks of teaching. Wayne had originally thought he could have the initial work on the arena finished by June 1. It was clear that that wasn’t going to happen. They did get most of the roof finished and the first section of steel hung on the back wall before I had to head off, but nothing was done in the barn. The doors and windows weren’t up, the poles weren’t set for the interior stalls, and the hay loft and deck weren’t built. We also didn’t have the lean to or the composter, and the site work still needed to be finished. The plan was to move the horses as soon as I got home at the end of June. That gave them five weeks, plenty of time to get the critical things done that we’d need for the horses.  

It was clear that the barn was not going to be finished in time. That was okay. We could house the horses in the indoor and let them finish the barn later, but we would need water, electrical hook-up, footing in the indoor, the composter, the ramps down to the field and fencing. Fencing meant the basic site prep needed to be done. A couple of days before I left, Ann and I met with an electrician and went over our needs. That piece seemed well in hand. As soon as the excavator was finished at the other project, he’d bring his equipment back to finish up the work that still needed to be done here. I left thinking that we were in good shape for a July 1 move.

At first the reports were I got were of progress progressing. Mary sent me pictures of the arena as the doors and windows were hung and the steel was added to the sides. I had so enjoyed the openness of the space, it was just as well that I wasn’t there for the closing in of the sides. They finished the lean to, and put the posts in the barn in preparation for building the loft.

Mid-way through June Ann met with Wayne for a progress report. I’d gotten pictures from Mary of the barn interior, but it was Ann who spotted the problem with the interior posts and with the doors. We’d designed the barn with five twelve foot wide stalls facing out along the gable end. Those posts were fine. But across the aisle, the various utility rooms were different sizes. When the crew put the posts in, they went on auto pilot. The norm was to have the posts match on either side of the aisle. They didn’t check the plans to see that we had ten foot rooms, not twelve, to give us enough room for an aisle into the arena and for stairs up to the loft.

Mid-way through June Ann met with Wayne for a progress report. I’d gotten pictures from Mary of the barn interior, but it was Ann who spotted the problem with the interior posts and with the doors. We’d designed the barn with five twelve foot wide stalls facing out along the gable end. Those posts were fine. But across the aisle, the various utility rooms were different sizes. When the crew put the posts in, they went on auto pilot. The norm was to have the posts match on either side of the aisle. They didn’t check the plans to see that we had ten foot rooms, not twelve, to give us enough room for an aisle into the arena and for stairs up to the loft.

The dutch doors were also hung wrong. They needed to start at the opposite end of the building so every door would swing open and hinge against the wall of the arena. The way they were hung, the end door had nothing behind it. The doors would all need to be reset.  

The misplacement of the posts triggered many emails back and forth between Ann and myself. Could we change our floor plan so they would not need to move posts? We tried many different configurations and finally settled on a plan that meant moving only one set of posts, but adding in the missing set that they hadn’t yet used.  

I kept hearing that the excavator was going to be there next Tuesday, then next week, then next Thursday to finish the work. Time was running out and we did not yet have a composter. And we also didn’t have arena footing. Wayne’s dump truck was out of commission. They’d had a road accident with it, and it had hit a tree, so he couldn’t bring in stone dust for the arena. We couldn’t house the horses on the gravel. Something had to be done. Thankfully a friend of Mary’s, Marty Gibbons, came to the rescue with his dump truck. He brought in and spread load after load of stone dust.

This was after Ann and I had many email exchanges about what to do next with the surface. The gravel had churned up into huge drifts by all the heavy equipment that had been on it through the spring. There were places where the underlying fabric was showing through. Wayne’s crew leveled the gravel and tamped it down. Should we add another layer of fabric to keep the gravel from working up? Or would that layer of fabric also work up to the surface and create it’s own problems. We simply didn’t know. I’ve been in so many arenas, and no one seems to have a good consensus on how best to build a good surface. Even when they’ve gone strictly “by the book”, people aren’t always happy with the end result.  

In the end we decided to seal the gravel with the stone dust only, no fabric. We’d put that layer in, let it settle and then decide what we wanted to do next. So Mary’s friend brought in truck loads of stone dust and spread them six inches deep across the arena. And Wayne’s crew put in kick boards in the area where we’d be setting up the temporary stalls. All that was good preparation, but we still didn’t have water, electricity, the composter, or any way to get the horses down into the field. And there was still a huge pile of brush making the field unusable.  

Mid-way through June Ann met with Wayne for a progress report. I’d gotten pictures from Mary of the barn interior, but it was Ann who spotted the problem with the interior posts and with the doors. We’d designed the barn with five twelve foot wide stalls facing out along the gable end. Those posts were fine. But across the aisle, the various utility rooms were different sizes. When the crew put the posts in, they went on auto pilot. The norm was to have the posts match on either side of the aisle. They didn’t check the plans to see that we had ten foot rooms, not twelve, to give us enough room for an aisle into the arena and for stairs up to the loft.

The dutch doors were also hung wrong. They needed to start at the opposite end of the building so every door would swing open and hinge against the wall of the arena. The way they were hung, the end door had nothing behind it. The doors would all need to be reset.  

The misplacement of the posts triggered many emails back and forth between Ann and myself. Could we change our floor plan so they would not need to move posts? We tried many different configurations and finally settled on a plan that meant moving only one set of posts, but adding in the missing set that they hadn’t yet used.  

I kept hearing that the excavator was going to be there next Tuesday, then next week, then next Thursday to finish the work. Time was running out and we did not yet have a composter. And we also didn’t have arena footing. Wayne’s dump truck was out of commission. They’d had a road accident with it, and it had hit a tree, so he couldn’t bring in stone dust for the arena. We couldn’t house the horses on the gravel. Something had to be done. Thankfully a friend of Mary’s, Marty Gibbons, came to the rescue with his dump truck. He brought in and spread load after load of stone dust.

This was after Ann and I had many email exchanges about what to do next with the surface. The gravel had churned up into huge drifts by all the heavy equipment that had been on it through the spring. There were places where the underlying fabric was showing through. Wayne’s crew leveled the gravel and tamped it down. Should we add another layer of fabric to keep the gravel from working up? Or would that layer of fabric also work up to the surface and create it’s own problems. We simply didn’t know. I’ve been in so many arenas, and no one seems to have a good consensus on how best to build a good surface. Even when they’ve gone strictly “by the book”, people aren’t always happy with the end result.  

In the end we decided to seal the gravel with the stone dust only, no fabric. We’d put that layer in, let it settle and then decide what we wanted to do next. So Mary’s friend brought in truck loads of stone dust and spread them six inches deep across the arena. And Wayne’s crew put in kick boards in the area where we’d be setting up the temporary stalls. All that was good preparation, but we still didn’t have water, electricity, the composter, or any way to get the horses down into the field. And there was still a huge pile of brush making the field unusable.  

They tried burning the brush pile. They waited for a rainy day to set it ablaze. In theory it should have been the answer, but they neglected to tell the town they were going to be burning brush. When the state troopers across the road saw the flames, they thought the barn was on fire. They called the fire department and the rescue squad. I heard about this via email. It’s something else I’m glad I missed. Apparently, it was perfectly okay to burn the pile. They just needed to let the town know that’s what they were going to be doing. When the fire department arrived, they decided the arena was getting too hot, and they put the fire out. So we were left with a half burned, but still enormous pile of brush and logs.  

So that’s what I came home to. We did have temporary water. They had hooked up a line so we could use Mary’s well water, but it was looking very doubtful that we would be able to move horses. I flew home on Wednesday, June 30th, and Thursday I stood in the arena surveying one incomplete unit after another. There was so much to be done, and no one was on site getting anything finished. The parking area in front of the arena was cluttered with rolls of fabric, unused steel, lumber and equipment. Even if the barn had been ready, there was no way we could bring a horse trailer up on the pad.

The 4th of July weekend was coming up. This was the weekend we had to move if we were going to move at all, and nothing was ready. Every now and then you have to be a squeaky wheel. I started calling. The messages I left were polite, but clearly not happy. They got action. Chris left the other building site and came and cleared the parking area so we could at least get the horse trailer up to the arena. There wasn’t much else he could do at that point. We went over what we needed for the horses. We needed the ramps, the composter, the brush cleared away. And we needed water and electrical.  

I know from experience this is how construction projects work. The initial phase goes so fast and then things slow down. Builders have to keep their crews and their equipment in use so they never have just one project going at a time. We’ll see lots of progress for a while, and then the crew will get called to another site where something equally pressing needs to be finished. I understand the process, and I can flow with it – up to a point. But my own schedule locks me into certain constraints. I thought five weeks would give them time to get done the basics of what we needed, and perhaps if the dump truck hadn’t broken down, or we’d had a little less rain in the spring, we would have been on schedule, but I also know with construction, there is no such thing as staying on schedule. There is simply working with where you are and what you have.

So on Friday we began the process of setting up temporary quarters for the horses. We had given our thirty day notice to the barn owner where the horses were. She had already rented out the stalls. We could delay for a couple of days, but not much longer. And I was locked in by my travel schedule. I had given myself most of July at home. After that I was away almost every weekend. If I didn’t move the horses now, we would have to wait until November. I wanted to get them settled while the weather was still good. So Friday we went shopping. We bought extra round pen panels and floor mats and hauled them into the arena. We set up five stalls along the back wall. Four of the stalls were made out of the John Lyons round pen panels that I already owned. Only one stall had to be made with the new panels. These new panels are not as safe as the others. The spacing of the rails, for one thing are not as horse friendly as they should be. We lined them with the plastic fencing I use to keep the deer off the evergreens in the winter which made me feel better using them.  

We also ran panels across the opening for the back door and across the near end of the arena. So once the horses were in the arena, they were in a safe, fully enclosed space. Even if we forgot to close a stall door properly, they would still be in a fenced area. I used my extra light weight panels to create an ante room beyond the first gate, so again, even if we forgot to latch that gate, they were still contained.  

It took us three days to get the arena set up and most of our stuff moved out of the other barn. Most boarders have only a tack trunk, a saddle, bridle and their horse to move. We had five horses, all their normal stuff, plus the round pen panels, about twenty stall mats – most of which had to be pulled out of the ground and scrubbed clean.  We also had three very heavy steel stall doors which had to be swapped for the original doors that were stored up in the hay loft. We’d put these doors on our horse’s stalls because they gave them better ventilation than the original doors that were on the stalls when we moved in. The barn owner had allowed the swap though she really didn’t like them. They didn’t match the rest of her barn, so she was well pleased to be returning to the original doors.

The saga of the barn construction continues in the next installment.

2011 to 2021: Celebrating Ten Years at The Clicker Center: Part 5

July 4, 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of moving the horses to The Clicker Center Barn. That was truly Independence Day for all of us. I am celebrating the anniversary by posting a series of articles I wrote in 2011 about the building of the barn. This is Part 5.

Enjoy!

We’re Building a Barn! Continued

The following day the first of the trusses went up. They brought in a long metal brace to keep the trusses from bending as the crane lifted them. I watched each step of the preparation. They had to get the straps even on the brace. And then they had to lift the first stack of trusses to the ground to get to the gable trusses. The lumber yard had stacked these trusses in the middle of the pile instead of on top.

That brought some grumbling from the  crew for the extra work that created. They took great care pulling the stack of trusses down onto the ground. The last thing they wanted at this point was to damage any of the trusses. They dragged them across the gravel into the center of the building, ready for the crane to lift them up onto the headers.

They normally would have taken the gable truss outside the building to lift it up, but the space around the building was too tight for their equipment so they had to bring it down the middle of the building and out through the gable end. Only it didn’t really fit through the gap between the posts. They tied a rope to one end to guide it through. It started out looking like the gentle guidance you’d give a boat as you tried to nudge it through a lock system. But it ended up looking more like calf roping as they wrestled both with the truss and the wind.  

The truss could only take so much wiggling. Something had to give and it was the gusset plate joining the two halves together. Oops! They did a temporary fix to keep the truss from falling apart even more while they somehow squeezed it through the opening. They set the truss back down on the ground and hammered it back together. By the time they were done driving in extra nails it was stronger than the original.

The truss was raised back up and worked into place. Again there was the attention to detail, to getting the truss exactly set to the marks they had made. They nailed it into place at the ends and then nailed it more solidly to the gable end posts, checking again and again the placement to make sure the building was truly square. 

The next truss went up and then the two trusses were tied together through cross bracing. The process was repeated three more times that afternoon for a total of five trusses. More braces were added, then the whole building was chained. This was the vulnerable stage in the building. Until the roof was up and the whole building was wrapped in steel, a strong wind could take it down. So at every step in the process they would pause to set the cross bracing and to add more chains. The chains kept the building from twisting out of square. Inside it was like walking through a giant spider’s web – one that kept growing as they added more trusses.  

I left for my next clinic having seen the first five trusses go up. When I returned five days later, the roof trusses for the indoor were in place and the first three trusses for the section of the building that would eventually become the barn were up. It was looking more and more like a building!

I sat on the stack of remaining trusses and watched as the bracing was put in place. I was feeling stiff after a long transcontinental plane flight. Watching the crew maneuvering in the trusses made me feel even stiffer. As the crane lifted each truss into place, I couldn’t help but think of images of a ship’s mast. The trusses sailed up into the air and were swung around with a rope to bring them into place on the headers. Each truss meant more bracing. By the time they were done with each section, there was a huge amount of wood holding that roof together.  

I’d missed seeing the holes dug for the posts, but now I got to see the final holes dug for the gable end. They weren’t nearly as impressive as the ten footers they’d had to dig at the opposite end of the building where the fill was even deeper. These only had to go down about four feet into the ground. They brought the big, stegosaurus truck in and lined the drill up over the marks they’d painted in the gravel. The drill bit through the layers of gravel and dirt and had the hole dug in minutes. 

They got the posts in the ground and then decided that after all they had put the shorter poles in the wrong holes. Rather than leave it looking not quite right, they brought in the forklift and used that to help maneuver the poles back out of the ground and into the right holes. The posts were now as they wanted them. They lined them up and leveled them, and when they were satisfied with the placement, they poured in a bag of dry cement, and then back filled the holes. With the gable posts in place the framing of the building was almost complete.

I loved how the building looked at this stage. I loved the openness of the space, and the shadow patterns in the gravel formed by the roof. After the work crew left for the day, I stood under the canopy of the open roof and visualized how the barn was going to look. For the first time ever I understood modern architecture with all of its glass. Standing there in the bones of the barn, looking out at the sky framed between sections of the roof, it seemed a shame to close it in. It was such a beautiful building just as it was.

To get to the barn I drive past two other construction sites. Both are building large multiple unit condominiums. Perhaps if I stood inside the framing as I was able to do for the arena, I would see the same beauty in form, but I think not. The large arch of the arena creates an amazing space. One thing the builder had talked me into was using scissor trusses instead of the more conventional flat trusses. I’m so glad I listened to him. They make the building. It’s a beautiful roof line. Especially with the open side, they make the building seem so much larger and more open.  

The last trusses finally went up. These extend the roof another eight feet beyond the end of the building. The stalls for our five horses are at this end of the barn. Each stall will have a dutch door going out into a small turnout run. We needed some form of protection for these runs so there will be a deck above them, and protecting the deck will be this additional eight feet of roof. 

The saga of the barn construction will continue in the next installment.

 

2011 to 2021: Celebrating Ten Years at The Clicker Center: Part 4

July 4, 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of moving the horses to The Clicker Center Barn. That was truly Independence Day for all of us. I am celebrating the anniversary by posting a series of articles I wrote in 2011 about the building of the barn. This is Part 4.

Enjoy!

We’re Building a Barn! Continued

As I watched the headers go up, I was again impressed by the flexibility and athleticism of the crew, not to mention their seeming lack of concern for heights. They balanced at all sorts of impossible angles to nail in the headers. I was especially impressed by the foreman, Chris. I’d watched him through the spring take on any job that was needed. When we needed to cut further back into the hill to reduce the erosion concerns, he’d been up on the hill with a chain saw clearing brush.

What a hard job that was! We had to make the very difficult decision to take out four or five mature trees that were just too near the edge of the hill. The trees were all leaning the wrong way. They needed them to fall across the pad so they could cut them up and remove them more easily. But they were all threatening to fall back into the woods, so Chris shimmed up the trees to tie ropes into the upper branches. With a couple of them, the men could wrestle the tree into falling in the right direction, but with the last of them, they had to bring in their mini digger to add a bit more pulling power.

I’ve cleared a lot of brush in the woods surrounding my house, but it has always been by hand, never with power tools. Watching how fast three men can cut up and remove a felled tree was indeed impressive.

And now with the headers going up, I was watching that same lack of concern over heights as they hung from the edge of the lift or walked along the headers to get to the next section going up. They were part way down the second side when they were interrupted by the arrival of the truck bringing the roof trusses.  

The truck was 85 feet long. I especially wanted to see how something that long was going to maneuver its way up the drive way. If it could get up, then we would certainly be in the clear bringing the horse trailers up. The first challenge was turning off the road into the driveway itself. I thought they were going to take out the stone pillars of the neighbor’s driveway, but the driver managed to get in off the road without doing any damage.

However he did need a little assistance getting around the first curve of our new driveway. Wayne went down with his forklift and tied chains to the front of the truck. The added pull gave them just enough power to get the truck past the culvert ditch and onto the straighter part of the driveway. But now they faced an even bigger challenge. The driveway curved past Mary’s barn. It was a pretty line to look at, but a hard one for something that long and heavy to manage. The driver said this was the heaviest load of trusses he’d ever carried. When the trusses were finally unloaded the men kept commenting on the size of the lumber that was used in them. The engineers who had approved the plan gave us trusses that hopefully will more that hold up in the snow loads we get here in the Northeast.  

But before we could worry about snow, the driver first had to get the truck over the still settling curve of the driveway. He ended up having to make a choice. He could keep his back wheels or his front wheels on the roadbed, but he couldn’t do both. He opted to keep the flatbed tires on the driveway. His cab rolled off the side of the drive, down the ditch and across to the other side where it became mired down in spring mud. It was well and truly stuck. No amount of rocking back and forth was going to dislodge it’s tires from the grip of the mud.

However he did need a little assistance getting around the first curve of our new driveway. Wayne went down with his forklift and tied chains to the front of the truck. The added pull gave them just enough power to get the truck past the culvert ditch and onto the straighter part of the driveway. But now they faced an even bigger challenge. The driveway curved past Mary’s barn. It was a pretty line to look at, but a hard one for something that long and heavy to manage. The driver said this was the heaviest load of trusses he’d ever carried. When the trusses were finally unloaded the men kept commenting on the size of the lumber that was used in them. The engineers who had approved the plan gave us trusses that hopefully will more that hold up in the snow loads we get here in the Northeast.  

But before we could worry about snow, the driver first had to get the truck over the still settling curve of the driveway. He ended up having to make a choice. He could keep his back wheels or his front wheels on the roadbed, but he couldn’t do both. He opted to keep the flatbed tires on the driveway. His cab rolled off the side of the drive, down the ditch and across to the other side where it became mired down in spring mud. It was well and truly stuck. No amount of rocking back and forth was going to dislodge it’s tires from the grip of the mud.

Now this is the kind of situation where you’d like to say, “oh well, better luck next time” and walk away. Except you can’t. You can’t just leave the truck stuck there. Nor did anyone want to have to unload the trusses at this point and carry them one by one up to the building site. They had to get the truck out. This is also where I watched some great horse training characteristics. People become great horse trainers not because they are born with some special talent. Talent will get you just so far with horses. It certainly helps to be athletic, but I’ve seen lots of athletic riders who never really developed into great horsemen. No matter how good you are as a rider, there’s always a horse out there who requires more from you. So great horsemen develop because they are persistent. They don’t give up. If one approach doesn’t work, they try another. They are creative. They look at tools and see not just the standard way in which that tool can be used, but the new ingenious way that cracks the puzzle.  

I saw these same characteristics in the work crew. The truck was stuck. There was no possibility of failure. They had to get the truck out. So Wayne brought his forklift back. Watching it lumbering towards us out of the gravel of the building site, I couldn’t help but think that whoever had designed these giant machines must have played with model dinosaurs as a child. It looked for all the world like a Stegosaurus with it’s spiky front end. They attached chains to the fronts of both trucks and pulled. The mud pulled back, holding the truck ever more firmly in its grasp. It was like watching two giant dinosaurs fighting over a bone. The little stegosaur fought and pulled, but the bigger dinosaur wasn’t going to let go.

So the little stegosaur was sent away and the truck that dug the bore holes was brought in to have a go. At first it looked looked as though the mud it was going to defeat that truck as well. The chains broke. The front bumper on the bore hole truck bent. They retired the chains, changed the angle they were pulling from, and tried again. The wheels of the big truck began to inch forward. And then finally the mud released its grip, and the truck regained the solid ground of the driveway. The drama was over for the moment.

The truck pulled up onto the building site and slid the trusses off its back end. There was the roof, stacked in a pile in the middle of the building site. They were sixty feet long, the width of the arena. The truck was built like an accordion. The flat bed had been sixty feet to carry the length of the trusses. Now it rolled itself together and became a normal length truck. Turning around in the cramped quarters of the pad was just a minor inconvenience. He was soon back down the driveway, and the work resumed on setting the headers.

While the remaining headers were lifted into place, Wayne’s son, Zack, worked on bracing the walls. By the end of the day the back wall was essentially done, but the last of the headers still needed to go up on the pasture side.

Overnight we got more torrential rains, and this time the building site was not spared. But the gravel did it’s job. We were surrounded by mud. At the barn where my horses lived, the driveway was essentially a duck pond, but on the gravel pad the water had drained away and everything was dry – everything that is except the electrical system of the forklift. The lift still worked to go up and down, but the motor that drove it wouldn’t turn on. So again they had to practice those horse training skills of ingenuity and persistence. Both the mini digger and the forklift were called into duty to move the lift along and to keep it level as the tires sank into the soft ground around the poles.

Overnight we got more torrential rains, and this time the building site was not spared. But the gravel did it’s job. We were surrounded by mud. At the barn where my horses lived, the driveway was essentially a duck pond, but on the gravel pad the water had drained away and everything was dry – everything that is except the electrical system of the forklift. The lift still worked to go up and down, but the motor that drove it wouldn’t turn on. So again they had to practice those horse training skills of ingenuity and persistence. Both the mini digger and the forklift were called into duty to move the lift along and to keep it level as the tires sank into the soft ground around the poles.

The morning was spent, stop and go, lifting headers up, and then pulling the lift out of whatever ground it had become mired down in. The last header went up mid-day, then then the work continued on framing the sides. 

They used the building itself as a ladder. Rung by rung, the structure was taking on more of its final form. The back wall was fully framed up to the headers. 

On the front wall, overlooking the horse’s pasture and the hills beyond, the framing only went up two tiers for a total of four feet. The rest of the space was going to remain open to the sky. This got more confused comments from people visiting the site. They just couldn’t understand why we were leaving the front open. They kept telling us how we could get curtains to close it off.

We had our set answer ready for them: “We can always close it off later, if we decide to, but we really do want the arena to be open.” Indoor arenas are not warm, even when you have them all closed up. If you are building an indoor in the Northeast because you think you’re going to be warm and toasty inside in the winter, you are in for a rude shock. Yes, they keep the wind out, but they are still ice boxes. Ice boxes with very limited airflow. I want the open sides. I want the air flow, and I want the beautiful views.

Digging out the side of this hill to create a building site may have its problems, but it has created an amazing setting for the arena. It feels as though we are up in the tree tops looking out. As I watched the framing go up and spent time in the space, visualizing how the arena was going to evolve, I knew the decision to have open sides was very much the right one.  

More preparation followed the framing and bracing of the walls. Each of the trusses had to be measured and marked so they would know where to place the cross bracing. This was a tedious process that took up a good part of a day. 

The saga of the barn building will continue in the next installment.

2011 to 2021: Celebrating Ten Years at The Clicker Center: Part 3

July 4, 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of moving the horses to The Clicker Center Barn. That was truly Independence Day for all of us. I am celebrating the anniversary by posting a series of articles I wrote in 2011 about the building of the barn. This is Part 3.

Enjoy!

We’re Building A Barn! (written in 2011)

When I returned the pad had been transformed yet again. When I left it was mud, ten-pound mud the builders called it, meaning as you walked across it, that’s how much stuck to your boots and more. Now it was an ocean of gravel. 

Next came the trucks from the lumber yard. They brought in the posts for the arena and stacks of lumber for the bracing and the arena walls. The first line of posts went in while I was again out of town. I got home to see the line, like perfect soldiers all standing at attention, planted down the back side of the arena. Each post was braced. I snapped lots of photos, marveling at the images I was seeing through the camera lens. 

The following day the second line of posts went in. The holes had all been dug for them. At the far end the holes went down almost ten feet before they hit untouched ground. I tried taking pictures, but the camera couldn’t do justice to the depth of the holes.

Getting the posts up was an exercise in perseverance. They leap-frogged the posts into the holes. Three men would get under the post. To push it up they swapped places, moving closer and closer to the base of the post until it was standing upright in the hole.

That was actually the easy part. Then each pole had to be lined up and leveled. This was string day meaning the posts had to be aligned to a string that ran the length of the building. You want to set posts on still days, days when there is at most just a puff of a breeze. That’s not what we got. We got a strong spring wind blowing in the change of seasons. You could see the posts that were already set swaying at the top from the strength of the wind. That played havoc with their ability to set posts.

You had to have a few moments of stillness in which the string wasn’t moving in order to align the posts. And they had to line up. You needed to be able to stand at one end of the line, look down the row of posts and see them as only one post. There couldn’t be any sticking out. The builders explained that getting this part right made the rest of the building go smoothly, everything would line up. (Sounds like horse training.) But if you let the building get out of square here, you’d have problems with every other step in the building process, especially getting the steel on later because things wouldn’t be lining up. 

So I watched them struggle with every pole. They’d check the string again and again. Check the level, check the string. It’s a hair off, I’d hear one of them say. A hair off wasn’t good enough. It meant the pole had to be shifted. And that meant wrestling with a pole that was ten feet in the ground and swaying in the wind at the top. Not fun.

They’d wrestle the pole into a slight shift, check the string, check the level, check the string, shift it again, check again, until finally they were satisfied that it wasn’t just good enough, it was exactly where it needed to be. At that point they would empty a bag of cement down into the hole and then back fill around the post with the dirt that had come out of the auger hole.

This process was repeated for every post they put in. They were hoping to get all the posts done that day, and normally that would have been very doable, but the wind finally defeated them. They had to call a halt with about a third of the posts still to go.

A heavy rain overnight was in the forecast which would have created another hardship for them to work with. At my house I heard the rain pounding on the roof through much of the night, but it missed the building site. So the following day the rest of the posts went in. Each post was braced, creating a dramatic line of triangles marching down both sides of the arena. In just three days the building had sprung out of the ground. All the time the bulldozers had been working, you couldn’t see the arena from the road, but now suddenly it was there!  

With that work well in hand, the posts for the gable end at the far end of the building were set. This was an easier process. The wind had died down, and the holes were not as deep. Near the back side they were only about four feet as compared to the ten feet they had had to go down to get past the fill on the bank side.  

The same diligent care was given these posts checking for level. Again off a hair was off, and they didn’t set the post until things were exactly right. When I left at the end of the day the building had three sides. The posts were all braced, and the headers were set in place at the base of the posts. 

The following day they brought in their very ancient lift so they could mark the top of the posts to know the exact height for the headers. When that was done, they brought in a crane to lift the headers into place. Again, I heard “off a hair” as they checked the header against the marks on the pole.

Wayne was operating the crane. He would adjust the boom up or down, ever so slightly to bring the headers into perfect alignment. I’m glad I was there to eavesdrop on the care they gave to getting everything right. And I know this wasn’t just a show for my benefit. I could see the result of this attention to detail in the work that was done on the days when I was out of town.  

The Saga of the barn going up will be continued in the next post.

Independence Day 2011 to 2021: Celebrating Ten Years at The Clicker Center Barn: Part 2

July 4 2021 marks the ten year anniversary of moving the horses to the The Clicker Center Barn. I am celebrating that milestone by posting the series of articles I wrote about the building of the barn. This is Part 2.

Enjoy!

We’re Building a Barn! – Continued

When I got home from the Expo and saw the building site for the first time the following Tuesday I was both astounded and appalled by what I saw. 

Mary did indeed have a barn! It was almost completely framed. And what a pretty structure. I do like looking at the bones of a building, especially barns. There’s something very pleasing in the lines of a barn. It’s almost a pity we have to close them in with siding.

I could see all this from the road, but I couldn’t actually get up the drive. A huge tractor trailer was blocking access as they unloaded a load of lumber. I had to drive on, turn around further up the road, and by the time I got back, they had gone and I could get up the drive.

I drove in past what looked like a wrecking yard. There were piles of steel, stacks of lumber lining what is a very long driveway. The trucks had made huge ruts in the soft spring grass. I found what looked like a solid piece of ground to park on and walked up past the house to the future site of the indoor. I felt as though I had just stepped into a disaster zone. It looked like those terrible pictures you see after a tornado or a hurricane has gone through an area. There were huge brush piles of uprooted trees, and mud everywhere. What a mess!

They had begun their cut half way down the hill. So picture a long hill sloping down to merge gradually into the field that was to be my horse’s future pasture. Now imagine you are a giant sculptor, and you can take a knife to make a vertical cut straight down into this hill and push all the dirt beyond that cut forward towards the pasture. You cut and push, cut and push to create a broad flat pad, but what you leave behind is a straight vertical bank at the back of the pad. And what you create is a sharp ten foot plus drop into what is supposed to be horse pasture. And sitting at the foot of this drop off are huge piles of brush and mud.  

I was horrified. What had we done! And how do we make it stop! Of course we couldn’t make it stop. The steel had been ordered. The process was moving forward. I had to keep repeating to myself: “Don’t take score too soon. Don’t take score too soon.”

When the work crews left for the night, I paced out the pad. It was too small. “Don’t take score too soon.” It wasn’t long enough. There was just barely room for the building itself, but there was nothing left over for outside turnout for the horses. And there wasn’t enough room along the sides. It felt as though the building would be in a straight jacket caught between the uphill side of the hill and the drop off down to the pasture. “Don’t take score too soon.”

The next day I walked the site with the project foreman, Chris. Wayne was out of town working on another project, so Chris was in charge. We paced out the pad, went over the plans, and talked not just about the physical size of the building, but also how it had to function for the horses and for vehicles coming in. We needed access for hay wagons, and for horse trailers. We couldn’t be squeezed in tight on the pad. 

The following day the excavator began another cut down into the pad. They went down another four feet, digging a deep trench with the back hoe and then pushing it out over the edge with the bull dozer. I brought my lap top out and sat in the house working. Periodically I would walk out with my camera and take photos of the huge piles of earth that were being rearranged. I’ve never spent any time in a construction zone. To these men, and I’m sure to any builders who are reading this, my descriptions will seem incredibly naive. And indeed they are. This is the one and only time I am going to be building anything of this size. Twenty plus years of planning and preparation have gone into this building, and I intended to enjoy the construction process – hiccups, major glitches and all.

As I watched the men work and saw how much they got done in the course of a day, I thought about how much work they were putting into this building. But then I also thought about the twenty plus years of work that this really represented, and not just on my part, but on Ann’s as well.  

Watching the bulldozer move back and forth across the pad was oddly mesmerizing. I could have watched for hours, but I had work to do. So I would watch for a bit, go back inside, and then several hours later I would go back out and see what transformations they had created.

Bit by bit the pad grew and took on dimensions that came closer to our needs, but there was still that deep cut at the back of the site. And there was still the substantial drop off into the field. And the brush piles seemed to be growing ever larger – not shrinking and going away.

Mary’s barn by now was fully framed and the steel was on it. The day they put the roof I arrived early at around eight thirty, and they already had the back side completely finished and had started on the front. Her barn looked almost ready – so near and yet so far. The work had gone so fast on her barn, but now it slowed down to a snail’s pace as the work crew shifted over to the arena.  

The first major next step was the building of a driveway. The quarry truck arrived mid-morning and dumped the first load of stone. By the end of the day there was a driveway curving up past Mary’s barn to the arena. It was going to take a lot of heavy trucks pounding over that surface before my little car was going to be able to make it up the drive, but those trucks were coming.  

They brought gravel for the pad first, truck load after truck load of gravel. I saw the first couple of trucks arrive before I had to head out of town once again. 

The building of the driveway

This look back after ten years of the building of The Clicker Center Barn will continue in the next installment.

Independence Day!

Peregrine in barn door 5:17:12

While others celebrate July 4th as a national holiday, for me it marks a much more personal anniversary.  July 4 is truly Independence Day for me.

July 4, 2011 is the day I moved my horses out of the boarding barn to their very own home.

I spent the better part of yesterday going through photos.  Things have changed so much for the horses.  The first nine months living in a construction site was hard, but now they have what I wanted for them, a good life.

Enjoy the photos.

Indy day 1

Indy 2 mud into level siteIndy 2a contractors framing

 Indy 4 roofing

Indy 5 June barn
Indy 6 Stone dust spreadIndy 7 redone move inIndy 4 deep trenches outside

Indy 7c barn mess

 

Indy 9 Fengus in arenaIndy 10 barn in Sept

Indy 11 hay loft

Indy 12 Pg looking

Indy 13 hay loft winter comingIndy 14 barn mess OctIndy 15 cement truckIndy cement pour

Indy 17 tack room viewIndy 18 walls going upIndy 19 tongue groove

Indy town water

Indy 21 composterIndy 22 barn interior Dec 18

Indy 25 stalls designIndy 26 upstairs loftIndy 27 winter workIndy 28 outside runs

Indy 29 Peregrine napping

Indy barn transformed

Indy 31 horses moved in

Indy 32 Horses in filed

Indy 33 Peregrine choiceIndy 34 Choice Pg by door

Indy 35 Iceys play

Indy 36 Flowers

Indy 37 Peregrine window

Indy 38 shavings bags

Indy 39 Pg content

Indy 40 home

Indy 41 land reclaimed

Indy 42 more home

Indy 43 playtimeIndy 45 naptime 2 images

Indy 46 friends tog