Jennifer Van De Loo’s New Barn
Article & Photos by Tommy Brannon
A lot of forethought went into Jennifer Van De Loo’s new barn and arena and it looks like all of the effort will pay off. Jennifer is a dressage competitor who lives in the Hudsonville area north of Holly Springs, MS. She and her husband purchased their place a few years ago and are now in the final construction stages of a new barn and arena.
The construction for both arena and barn was done by contractor Harold Murphy of Holly Springs, MS. Harold said that he has built a number of barns and agricultural buildings, but would not describe himself as a “super barn person.” Looking at the quality of construction, though, and attention to detail, one might disagree. He and “Jenny” worked together on the design, features, and selection of materials.
The barn is all kiln dried cypress lumber except for the posts, which are pressure treated. Cypress has a natural resistance to rot and termites will not eat it. It looks good when it is new and will age to a rich patina. Harold said, “Jenny wanted it to look like an old barn.”
The roof is heavy gauge steel that was roll formed and fabricated on site to the required exact lengths by roofer Paul Anderson of Mt Pleasant, MS. Harold commented that this is a very efficient way build a metal roof because there is no waste.
The barn has three stalls and a tack room. The short side is a run-in shed that can accommodate 4 or 5 horses. There is an outside wash rack with a hot water provided by a 50 gallon water heater. Jenny said that she can wash several horses without running out of hot water. There are also freeze-proof self waterers in the stalls and the run-in shed. The loft will hold 350 bales of hay and access is by a unique, built-in ladder that can be moved out of the hallway. Bales are loaded in the loft by a hay conveyer. Typical Mississippi summers can make a barn feel like an oven. This barn uses natural convection via a cupola on the roof peak, which draws air up through the doors and out the vent, providing a cooling effect. In addition, the barn is equipped with “Big Ass” brand fans.
The all-weather arena construction was an elaborate undertaking. Jenny said that the arena has an Otto footing system. Otto is a German, family-owned company that has developed all weather footing for arenas worldwide. This is the same type of footing that is in the arena at the Kentucky Horse Park, installed for the World Equestrian Games in 2010. Harold said that he followed the procedure in the directions provided by Premier Equestrian and Chris Neihart, the Premier representative, was available for technical assistance.
In constructing the arena, the first step was to install drains. Then a 5-inch layer of crushed rock with rock dust was laid down and compacted. Then a 3-inch layer of #57 crushed limestone was spread and compacted; The next step was to install the Otto Mats. These are engineered interlocking plastic panels, about the size of a pallet, that have an alternating system of drains and cups. The drains release moisture slowly and evenly, while the cups hold water. The design allows for an even amount of moisture in the footing no matter what the weather. In the dry season the arena will not get too dusty or too hard, and in the rainy season not to slippery and wet. An additional layer of fine #68 gravel was added to the mats. The top layer of material which is applied over the Otto Mats is a 4 inch mixture of silica sand, specifically sized for the job, and a special felt material by Premier Equestrian. This mixture makes a footing that is even and firm in texture.
The fencing at Jenny’s farm is a Ramm Flex-Fence. This fencing is a 5-inch strip of polyethylene coated and reinforced with high tinsel wire which is stretched between wooden fence posts. This fencing system was designed specifically for horses and will flex up to 6 inches without losing its shape. It never needs painting and will not splinter or warp.
The final step in the Jenny’s “farm upgrade” will be to install lights for the arena. This is an impressive project that should provide years of use with low maintenance.
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