Getting my own place to keep my horses was a dream come true. A long long held dream, ever since I had ponies in fact. There are some advantages to livery yards – hacking out with others, someone on hand to help out if you are late at work or go on holiday. But for how I wanted to keep my horses, they were too restrictive – when they had to be stabled, who they could turn out with if anyone at all. Whilst some places were better than others, the lack of ability to control my horses environment was sometimes extremely stressful to both myself and my horse, to the extent that I felt guilty that I could provide a suitable environment. Luckily some land became for sale locally.
Windy Acres is 5 acres of ancient meadow land on Lincolnshire clay. I remember when I went to view it, just standing in the meadow grass thinking how peaceful it was, it has a serenity about it. It was a blank canvas for us to make what we wanted of it.
The field and putting in the boundary fence.
First we needed some fencing, it was part of a much larger field but I didn’t need, nor could afford the full 17 acres so our corner needed to be fenced. Then we needed a gateway, so we reinstated one which had fallen out of use and added two sets of gates so the ponies wouldn’t be straight onto the road.
Reinstating the old gateway.
Then came the planting. There is a very magnificent and mature hedge round most of the property but we wanted something along the new fence line, especially as that was the way of the prevailing wind. My husband also wanted to plant some trees for a copse, to provide more shelter and later to coppice. That first winter we put in nearly 1000 hedging plants a trees, predominantly hawthorn and dog rose, with hazel, goat willow, small leaved lime and hornbeam.
Ever since I first saw Jane and Stuart Myers of Equiculture talk about the Equicentral system, I knew it was something I wanted to implement. For anyone interested I suggest you visit their website and fantastic resources, but briefly it is a way of using horse’s natural behaviours and sensible land management to create sustainable and healthy pasture and in turn, healthy horses. Whats more it is designed to save time and effort as well as being cost effective.
We decided on a fairly centrally located shelter, with a loafing area and access to 5-6 paddocks all from the yard or loafing area. The shelter is pointing exactly away from the SW wind and inline with the new copse area which will provide further shelter. It’s design and construction is covered in Building the Mega Shelter
The land is mostly flat with a slight slope down from the gate. It is at sea level so can get very wet, to the point of flooding so we have added underground drainage all round the shelter and loafing area with a connection drain lined with willow trees going out to the main drainage ditch that borders the field.
We have also planted a second hedge in the field alongside the paddock usually used in winter, to provide extra shelter. The first part of these are alder which are quick growing and don’t mind very wet conditions, in fact they thrive in it and are used in flood mitigation.
The plan is maturing well, the trees are growing and it holds up well in the snow.
Over the next year the plan is to manage the grass better through mulching, harrowing and topping regularly.
Longer term plans involve a permanent hay barn, a herb garden and enrichment/ play areas.
I hope you will join us for the journey.