Sunday, May 19, 2013

Five Fires Equestrian Centre, Our New Facility

In my last riding post (the one before the FEI Quarter Horse link) I said I was going to write about the facility we're building in my next post. Then the idea of doing that seemed so over whelming that I haven't posted since :). So here goes. It may be a little too honest, but so be it. I think to simplify things, I'll write it as an 'interview' to myself.
Q - Why did you decide to build an equestrian facility?
A - My husband Doug and I decided in 2011 that we'd build an equestrian centre. It wasn't on our radar until then - it was just something that evolved because we couldn't find a boarding barn and dressage lessons that we were happy with close to home, so we decided we'd build one. My volunteer work with Nova Scotia's dressage group had led me to recognize that there wasn't a good competition facility in the Province, so I thought "let's do that". If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you may recall it was on a wish list as I sipped wine and dreamed at the start of 2011.
Q - What are you building?
A - We bought a 135 acre parcel of land that is very accessible from all over the Maritime Provinces, and we're building a 220 ft. by 80 ft. indoor riding ring that will have a kitchen/lounge/viewing room, tack room, office and show office (riding area is 204' X 80'). The facility will have 40 stalls, an outdoor ring, large parking lot and turn out areas. Next year we'll install RV hook ups, and over time we'll add trails to link into the power corridor that runs along one side of our property (this will access many, many miles of trails).
Q - Tell us a little bit about the construction experience.
A - I could write a book on this, but I'll try not to :). Here's the evidence that Doug and I are crazy, or that Doug and his brother Greg (who's helping us build it) are heroes and I'm delusional. We are building the facility ourselves. Yes, you read that right - hammers, nails, staging, lumber.... Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but not much. 
We're using Nova Scotia companies as much as we can (almost exclusively) and we selected Treeline Project Management to put up the frame and roof for our Britespan arena. We've hired trades as needed, i.e. an excavator, an electrician. But... Doug and Greg, with me as a helper, framed it in, put the metal siding on the sides and ends, built kick walls, put in the windows and doors (from Metro Windows and Doors, owned by family members) which are one of the nicest features, and we're in the process of building the stables and stalls, constructing the outdoor, parking lot and turn outs, running water lines etc.
This (building the facility) is an all consuming task. There's no energy or time left for anything else, and it goes on for months, and months, and months... This is why I seldom blog anymore. I don't do anything anymore except ride and build. There are dark days when it seems like, and I truly believe, in my mentally and physically exhausted state, that it will never end - that this is my life, I'll never be rested or have fun times again. There have been many difficulties and also we've probably had the worst year for building, weather wise, in the last 50 years. We've had record setting flooding, record setting cold snaps, record setting heat waves,...
Then there are the good days - I get up at 6:00 am to ride, so I can still work at the site, and the birds are singing and the sun is shining and everything works. I get to the site and the guys have things laid out and the radio is on and the coffee is made and it's all coming together and I can see, as clearly as if it were right in front of me, how great it's going to be - the space is huge and the light is magical and it's a dream come true - not something I can even comprehend.
I wanted to include pictures to show you the progress, but if I wait to get the energy to do that this will never get written. There's an album on the Facebook page I've created for our business if you have time to look. If not, I'll describe the building a bit - it's got a fabric roof, with a somewhat Gothic shape. It's sided (ends and sides) in charcoal grey with white trim. There are many, many windows in the front and a large half round window in the back. The stalls are in lean to buildings on the side of the arena.Here's a couple of samplea from the winter:

Doug, winter 2013


Greg and Carol, winter 2013


Q - What are your plans for the business?
A - We'll put on equine events - competitions and clinics, of various disciplines. Because dressage is what I know, that will initially be more of a focus. Here is our Events page from our website. We'll put on our own events, and rent the facility to clubs and individuals who would like to put on events as well. 
The most exciting event? A year from now, Victoria Day weekend 2014, Arthur Kottas, former Chief Head Rider at the Spanish Riding School, is coming for a four day clinic!!!


Another event that I'm pretty excited about is an equine photography course with Reg Corkum. Reg was a successful fashion photographer in Europe for years, before returning to Nova Scotia and becoming an equine photographer. He shoots some of the most prestigious horse shows in North America and we have him right here in NS!
I'm also introducing western dressage classes to the dressage shows we'll host. We're hosting Scotia Series dressage, a provincially sanctioned series that is new this year. It's a developmental series and I hope to see some new people trying dressage.
We'll offer Equine Canada shows in the future, but I'm really put out with Equine and Dressage Canada (this would take a whole post and is quite interesting), so haven't even renewed my license yet this year.
We're also establishing a small Hanoverian breeding business. We acquired a wonderful Elite Hanoverian mare (imported from Germany several years ago) last summer. She's in foal to the amazing Bellisimo M. Isabel Worth, winner of more Olympic and World Cup medals than anyone in history, recently noted the Bellisimo M mare she's currently riding, Bella Rose, is the best horse of her life, so this could be a pretty fancy foal! Okay, this is sounding like a sales pitch, but I can't contain my excitement. The foal is due May 30!!! I'll pull myself out of my work mode to post pictures and video I promise.
Q - What's the best thing that's happened so far?
A - That's easy! I met a wonderful woman, Valerie McDermott, who started Five Fires Pony Club. It's a great group of parents and kids and there are already 17 members, even before we have a facility!! Annnnd, there are five boys in the club! I love this group and feel incredibly fortunate to be involved with them. We'll offer them a lesson program and meeting space in our lounge, and generally create a warm and welcoming space where these young equestrians can meet and have fun.
Q - Any closing remarks?
A - We've got a crazy busy summer ahead of us, but things are going well now. I appreciate telling you about it - hope it wasn't commercial, but I can't write about my life without writing about this. You'll note from my riding comment above that Rogo's back home now. He came home the first of May. My next post will be back to dressage training :)
Thanks for reading!