Monday 25 May 2015

Derby Field Design

Our jumping field could be one of the farm’s best features. We’re lucky to have a site that’s naturally almost ideal; gently pitched toward the stream, lush grass on rich topsoil, beautifully framed by an old stone wall.

Lawton Adams, our local arena-and-jumping-field pro, came over this week to evaluate things. He usually has to do major earth moving to make people’s jumping fields, but not this time; he’s as excited as we are about this land.

There’s a hollow at the north end where we’d build a grob (a.k.a. Devil’s Dyke, a sunken obstacle in which horses jump a fence, take a couple of downward-sloping strides to a dry ditch, then a couple strides up to another fence). We’d place a water jump somewhere in the middle, and on the sides where the field slopes up, a bank (a steep mound of earth that you ride up and down) and table (a bank with retaining walls that you jump onto and off of).

Bank jump by Lawton Adams

Bank jump by Lawton Adams

The primary section of field would be great on its own, but there are more super-cool features in the works. We’d clean up the stream and make a couple of land bridges across it. (The town responded well to this idea, since we’ll be improving the health of the waterway so much). East of the stream, between the new indoor arena and new outdoor sand ring, there’d be an extension of the field. You could ride across the land bridge, jump the bank jump, and head back to the main field.

On the other side, east of that picturesque stone wall, is the meadow we use for hill work. We ride the horses up and down the slope for fitness. It’s the most beautiful field on the farm, and we plan to leave it open for riding. So from the jumping field, you could ride up the hill, do some fitness work, and connect to our new trail that loops through the woods.

The future derby field

The future derby field

Derby field on left, hill-work meadow at upper right

Derby field on left, hill-work meadow at upper right

W/2-foot contours: derby field has a nice, gentle pitch—flattish but good for drainage

W/2-foot contours: derby field has a nice, gentle pitch—flattish but good for drainage

I love these hand-drawn property plans by Nelson Byrd Woltz.

I love these hand-drawn property plans by Nelson Byrd Woltz.

View across the overgrown pond/stream, from future field annex, across to hilly meadow

View across the overgrown pond/stream, from future field annex, across to hilly meadow

Our horses will stay fit and fresh, not stuck in the ring but out in nature. Perfect for developing young horses and keeping older ones happy. When we bought this place, we didn’t know how extraordinary it would turn out to be. You couldn’t see, because it was so overgrown with vines and dead trees. And now that we’ve lived here with our horses, we have a vision for what works, and what’s possible.

We could have the ultimate derby course: jump from the sand arena onto the grass, ride down the bank and across the stream, through the grob and over the open water, across the table into the hilly field, over a stone wall, and so on. Another taste of my fox-hunting roots. And good timing, since derby classes are back in style!

In the meantime, we have some cleanup ahead:

At the edge of what will be a nice little pool, southwest corner of main field

At the edge of what will be a nice little pool, southwest corner of main field

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Nice shade trees; need to tackle those vine-tangles

Nice shade trees; need to tackle those vine-tangles

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