A Horse's Life
It's time again to spend a beautiful fall Sunday enjoying the sight of Southern Pines horse country with its green pastures and peacefully grazing horses. The Southern Pines Area Horse Farm Tour is scheduled for this Sunday, Oct. 15.
Six farm owners have generously invited the public to share for a while their equine-centered lifestyle and admire their barns, pastures and horses. The self-guided tour is presented by Prancing Horse Center for Therapeutic Riding, and will start and end at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Health Center on U.S. 1 just north of Southern Pines. The Equine Health Center will be hosting an open house.
Two of the farms to be shown have been lucky enough to acquire owners wanting to tailor the insides of their barns to the specific needs of their horses as well as make the outsides as architecturally interesting as are their own dwellings.
Windshadow Farm is the creation of Jim and Gigi Secky. Ready to escape the snowy Massachusetts winters, they took to exploring North Carolina in the spring of 1996. A self-employed residential designer and an interior decorator, they needed a good place to re-establish their businesses as well as plenty of room to ride their two pleasure horses.
Many of the eventing riders they'd met at their local competitions wintered in a place called Southern Pines. So it was that they headed to the Sandhills.
"It was like finding an oasis!" says Gigi Secky. "We immediately fell in love with the area. Southern Pines is to horses what Pinehurst is to golf, so both Jim and I were in heaven. We also loved the fact that the wonderful southern charm is flavored with people from all over the country, providing a broad client base."
In less than three days, they made an offer on a piece of land off Young's Road. The gated equestrian community, Yadkin Run, has deeded bridle trails, two training rings and is a 10-minute ride to the Walthour Moss Foundation.
"Our farm in Topsfield sold quickly, and we had little time to prepare the new farm for our arrival," says Gigi. "Rod Lynch of Knowlbrook Farms and Bradley Charles' Fencing were a godsend."
With only six months to clear the land, establish pastures, fence the paddocks and build the necessary accommodations, the Seckys decided to start out with two basic buildings that they designed themselves. Their first priority, of course, was the horses. A two-stall shed row barn with overhangs and a large all-purpose room to house hay, grain, tack and the farrier's work space would serve their initial needs. The second priority was a place for themselves.
"Rather than immediately undertake the detailed task of designing and building our primary residence, we decided to build a small hunt box which would serve as our initial living space and later as a guest house," says Gigi.
The Seckys arrived in mid-January 1997 with two horses, a dog, a cat, all their worldly possessions and a business that had to be up and running overnight so as to service projects that were still in process in New England.
"This little hunt box has served us well and given us a lot of bang for the buck," says Jim Secky. "We used the first floor as a warehouse for our furniture and boxed goods, packing the stalls and tack room to the brim. We set up our office and studio in the barn aisle and lived in the apartment above."
Three years later, having locally established their businesses, they turned their attention to building their home. The two-story cedar-sided farm house, built by Leroy Harris, was designed, inside and out, by the Seckys to appear as if it had been there for many years.
In September 2001, the Seckys acquired a former racehorse, now a competing jumper, and the hunt box, no longer warehouse to their furniture, saw its first equine tenant.
"It's a great facility and served the purpose, but horses are very social animals and having one separated from the other two, in different barns, didn't bode well for the high-strung thoroughbred," says Jim. "It also meant extra work for me. We decided to do a renovation of the shed row barn so as to stable all the horses together."
Gigi wanted to save steps while providing for the comfort and safety of her charges. Jim was interested in minimum upkeep and maximum sanitation. By combining their talents they have admirably achieved their goals. The resulting spacious center aisle barn, built by Dennis Dunagan, has five large stalls, two hay rooms, a wash stall, a climate-controlled tack room and space for tool storage.
The three new stalls have extra high ceilings and skylights. All stalls have been outfitted with three-speed oscillating caged fans for summer comfort and the turn of a valve at the hot water heater sends warm water to the individual stalls, a timesaver in winter. The aisle and stalls have generous florescent lighting that is sealed in watertight cases and operates in even the coldest of weather.
"Jim teased me about the amount of lighting I specified but you never know when a late night emergency might require it," says Gigi.
Each stall has access to its own 36 -Todd McCrimmon, complete with roofed shelter and rubber-matted areas for feeding hay. Four-foot gates between these walkouts allow stall cleaning to take place without tying up the aisle. People-sized openings in the walkout and pasture fencing permit easy access to all areas without ever opening a gate, through which a horse might bolt.
The heated and cooled tack room is a triumph of handsome and innovative design. The feed section is equipped with commercial-restaurant rolling bins that keep grains airtight and easily accessible.
A small, cedar-shingled "outhouse" provides a toilet, next to which are a washer and dryer with a hot water heater above. Saddles, tack and blankets are handsomely and handily displayed; medicines and small, easily mislaid items are organized in a wonderful swing-out pantry cabinet. Memorabilia abound, making this a pleasing and fun room.
The aisle entries are serviced by the most handsome pair of glass-paned folding doors, custom-made by Rick Hall at the Pinehurst Blacksmith Shop. This unique design, created by Jim, solved the problem of how to achieve full width access and ventilation when there is no room for sliding or full width opening conventional barn doors.
What makes this barn so special is its attractive solutions to function and maintenance. The entire building can be power washed inside and out. Exterior siding is Hardiplank. The aisle and stall walls are southern yellow pine, with six coats of polyurethane front and back.
Vinyl siding was installed above the kick walls and on the ceiling. One-inch thick solid vinyl (Azek) caps all the wood surfaces, which not only seals them off from water, but makes them practically chew proof.
The fans and light fixtures are exterior quality, sealed and capable of withstanding the washing. The sides of the aisle have gutters to shunt cleaning water outside.
As a touch of whimsy and testament to the fact that some Southern Pines barns are elegant enough to have chandeliers, one brought from a previous home now hangs from the cupola, center aisle. It's lovely, and proves they've designed and built a totally functional, washable building that looks great enough to feature a chandelier.
Jim and Gigi Secky plan to be on hand to welcome tour-goers and help explain their barn's many creative, useful and attractive features.
Shady Bank Farm
Down Moss Farm Lane and up on a hilltop sits Shady Bank Farm, ideally situated between Youngs Road and the Moss Foundation's lands and tracks "reserved for equestrian use only." Mike and Ilene Keatley's two-story house looks over a pretty little pond, and there are 12 acres for keeping their sturdy, striking, white-maned, chestnut-colored Haflingers.
The Keatleys had competed in Combined Driving Events in Southern Pines during the1990s. They said, "Moore County and specifically Southern Pines is a very competitive equestrian community, we loved visits here. When it was time to retire and enjoy our Haflingers and driving we could not think of a greater area. The Walthour-Moss Foundation has enriched the Southern Pines area and the farms on Youngs Road. We feel very blessed to be a part of this equestrian community."
When they found this place a year and a half ago, they knew the barn would need a major remodel to provide the best possible housing for their horses and ample space for their carriages.
Careful planning and the extra attention to detail that come from many years of horsekeeping, enabled them to turn a simple cement block center-aisle barn and implement shed into a six-stall driving barn complete with ample aisle space, new stall doors, wash rack with a rotating ceiling-mounted hose, and plenty of storage space for the necessities of farmkeeping. The handsome entrance doors were made locally by Barnware of Aberdeen.
A 40 by 40-foot carriage, harness and memorabilia room was added facing the house. It has its own double-doored entrance, plenty of light, and space to clean tack or just contemplate years of horse pleasures and accomplishments.
The remodeling was done in record time by Bob Sterns Arcadia Construction Company. Sterns is a horseman too, so communication was easy, even when the Keatleys were still in their previous, Newark, Del., location. The barn is a truly masterful mix of useful features and was given a beautiful stone facade outside makeover to match their nearby home.
Mike and Ilene have had a variety of horses going back 20 years, but it wasn't until Mike brought home their first Haflinger 16 years ago that Ilene got hooked.
Originating in the Austrian Alps as a small draught horse, and imported here since the 1970s, the Haflinger continues to win new fans year after year as a result of careful breeding for an ideal leisure horse, for riding as well as driving.
Mike and his Haflingers have a long record of wins in both Combined Driving and Pleasure Driving competitions, and he is an American Driving Society Pleasure Driving Judge (R), a Haflinger judge and also a Chief Inspector for the Haflinger Breeders Association.
Tourgoers will enjoy meeting and learning about this handsome and people-oriented breed as well as seeing a wonderful assortment of carriages.
Sunday's tour will also include another farm which has had a major make-over. At Southern Quarters Friesians, Barry and Gail Solomon will harness a pair of their magnificent Friesian horses and present a Dressage Demonstration. Lunch may be purchased there with a choice of Panera Bread's box lunches or Prancing Horse's famous grilled hot dogs.
Also showcased will be Willard and Claire Rhodes' Ravenbrook Farm. Their imported Dutch Warmblood carriage horses are top winners, and they will show their working carriages as well as a 1920 Stanhope Mail Phaeton competition carriage.
In Hunt Country off U.S. 1, are the final two farms. At Rendezvous Farm, Thom and Vicky Thomas will host a therapeutic riding demonstration and introduce tourgoers to their prebuilt Barnmaster barn.
At BellaVista Farm, Wayne and Fran Gertz will show their tidy horse barn with its upstairs apartment and studio, and tourgoers will be able to see and learn about another fascinating and exotic farm animal, the alpaca.
N.C. State University's College of Veterinary Medicine's Equine Health Center will be holding an "open house" with explanations, exhibits, and take-away information pieces about its five main areas serving the area's veterinarians, farriers, and owners.
The Center is a USDA-approved Quarantine station with a Laboratory serving veterinarians throughout central North Carolina. It offers Reproduction services, Ophthalmology services and a Podiatry service working to help foot-problem horses for their veterinarians, farriers and owners.
Farms will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the tour headquarters tent at the Equine Center opening at 10:30 a.m. for visitors to pick up tour maps, see the sponsor exhibits and view and choose among the wonderful selection of door prizes.
It will remain open until 5 p.m. for ice cream treats from Cold Stone Creamery and the door prize and raffle drawings.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the Tour. There is a military discount, and properly supervised children under 12 are free.
Tickets are available at The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines Feed & Supply, Cabin Branch Tack Shop and the Cook's Choice in Southern Pines, as well as at the Given Book Shop in Olmsted Village, Pinehurst, and at Not Just Linens, 5496 U.S. 1, Vass, or from the Prancing Horse Web site www.prancinghorsecenter. org.
Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the tour at the headquarters at the Equine Health Center or at each of the farms.
For more information, call 245-3220.
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