Minor Delay

Today is one of our last nice weather days for a while – we’re going in to a string of 90’s with high humidity – no thank you – which meant I was outside working on fence all day but that also means the next blog post won’t get up until late Thursday or early Friday. In the meantime – internet – what is this plant? 

The flowers are purple and bell shaped and living amongst my hostas but the leaves are a different shape than the hostas, much smaller and jagged edged. They are pretty so I don’t mind them provided they are not toxic to horses, but without knowing what they are I can’t look them up to see if they are toxic. So what are they? 

Best Laid Plans

It should surprise no one that my original paddock track system layout has been modified significantly from its first iteration however, before I go into more details a brief public service announcement.

There is a saying in the horse world, “two horse people, three opinions.” It is not unusual for people who are passionate about something to also have strong opinions about that thing, but for horse people, particularly those living near a metropolitan area it sometimes seems more pronounced. I think it has to do with the increasing cost of having a horse close to an urban area. Anyone willing to put so many other wants, and occasionally needs aside – I still have one pair of pants I can wear to work, that’s enough, right? – to afford a horse and/or has that much money to begin with comes with a certain amount of crazy passion. 


Please note the complete and utter lack of sources or any information about my data collection methods – that’s how you can tell this graph is legit.

I mention this because if you, person reading this, have horses yourself you might have some opinions on some of things I’m going to talk about in this, and future, posts; and they might be different from the opinions I have and the decisions I made. I am happy to have a conversation about our differences in opinion, either in the comments here or on Facebook, I ask only that they not be in the form of “What you are doing is stupid and wrong. Let me tell you why…” 

On to the original plans. As I mentioned in a previous post, the layout of Leeloo’s new home is based on the work by Jaime Jackson and his Paddock Paradise book/website/Facebook group. The ultimate goal is to get my horses moving as much as possible and living in a way that more closely resembles the way their wild/feral relatives live so they can be healthier happier horses. There obviously have to be some concessions, but I am trying hard to keep that primary goal in mind.  Below are the first few drafts I had put together.

I spread out the big three needs (water, hay, shelter), so that the horses have to travel to get from one to the other. Ideally the paddock track makes one big continuous loop so that no horse can ever get trapped in a dead-end by another horse being a jerk; however it is not unreasonable to have offshoots as long as the end of an offshoot allows a horse to get away from said jerk. Leeloo has been described by the barn manager of our current barn as being the most dominant horse on the property who is tough, but fair, “Leeloo will only kick someone’s ass if they deserve it.” That being said, minimizing any damage a tough but fair Leeloo can do is still a goal. One of the constant tensions anyone with horses has to deal with is the desire to keep our animals safe with the need to allow them to be horses, and horses have hierarchies that are determined through physical means, some which can cause injury – which sucks.

You can also see there was a question about water. Because this is all temporary until we can get the actual barn built, we aren’t doing things like digging new water lines so the water for the horses needs to come from the spigots by the house. And because we live in Minnesota the water also has to be close enough to an electrical outlet that we can get a tank water heater in it. We have two spigots and exterior outlets on our house, a set in front and another in back. Originally, I had a convoluted plan to run the hose and the extension cord up and around our garage door, but then remembered that we have that other set on the front of the house – so the water moved there.

There is only one large flat area that isn’t too close to the septic system and isn’t currently corn field so that is where the shelters landed. From there it was a matter of going around some trees, the septic system, and the house.

Obviously I can’t just show Leeloo the drawing and ask her to please keep to the designated areas, so we need some fence. Several years ago I had reached out to some of the people I know who have their own barns or horses at home and asked for one thing they would absolutely do again, one thing they would absolutely change if they were starting from scratch, and any recommendations for various horse related products, companies, etc. One of those recommendations was for Monica and Bluebird Fencing. Monica is amazing and has been super helpful through this whole process. We talked on the phone for a solid hour that first time while I explained what we wanted to do (track system); what my priorities were (1st – safety, 2nd – cost, 3rd – ability to move the whole thing in the future); what animals we were hoping to have (full sized horses, donkey? pony? goats?) and landed on Electrobraid as our fencing material and the Common Sense Fence system by Geotek as the corner and in-line post system (more on how that has been going soon). She then asked me to send her my plans so she could price it out and give me a quote. I sent her the plans above and she got back very quickly to say I may want to rethink them. As originally drawn I was looking at a VERY expensive plan because every change of direction was about 20 times more expensive than a straight in-line post, and every corner was 30 times more expensive than a straight in-line post and there were a LOT of corners and direction changes in those early plans. With that in mind I sat back down with the goal of minimizing corners but still getting Leeloo to all the places I wanted and keeping her off all the places she couldn’t be on. And here was the new plan that we are in the process of putting up:


We got it down to thirteen corners and three gates, which at the time seemed very reasonable. Ignorance, what bliss.

First Interlude

Now for a brief interlude whereupon I hurt myself (the first time) and contemplate murder (of rodent kind)

Looking at overhead shots of land is all well and good, but I needed to actually get out and walk the yard to visualize the swirling thoughts in my head and decide if this was really possible. I walked and stood around a lot by myself thinking – which from the outside looks like you’re just staring off into space for long periods of time – I’m sure the neighbors thought I had lost my mind. Then I took Nate out and walked him around while I explained what I was thinking.

During said walks the ridiculous bumpy, lumpy, holey nature of our “yard” fully came into focus for me. A little side note about our so-called yard. The house was built in the middle of a corn field. At the time the farmer hadn’t left quite as much bare space as we had asked for so before we could build we had to physically knock down quite a few almost mature corn stalks so the surveyors could properly site the house. However, our contract only stipulated grading directly around the house and septic system, not the rest of the giant front yard, and we didn’t have any provisions for grass or sod. That meant when we moved in April 2019 we had a giant front space full of rutted up dirt and last year’s corn stalks and nothing else. We frantically planted grass but had to leave much of it because the septic system hadn’t been put in yet and we didn’t know exactly where it was going to go which meant the weeds took over VERY quickly. That lead to goats and all sorts of fun (see the Facebook Group LanternFarm page to learn more about the goats), but we did eventually get a “yard” of sorts that is green and mowable. Is it grass? No. Can the people driving by at 60 mph tell that? Also no. The following summer all those mostly mature corn cobs that got buried just under the surface of the yard suddenly become the most enticing thing in the world to the racoons who live in the area and they proceed to dig them up leaving giant holes scattered everywhere to go with the tractor tire ruts. Then the following summer a family of chipmunks UPDATE – turns out they are thirteen-lined ground squirrels decided the loosely packed dirt along the buried powerline is super easy to dig out and so they have a turnkey home just waiting for them to move into. Now we have ground squirrel holes to go with the racoon made holes to go with the tractor tire ruts – PGA quality it is not. Nate and I don’t do anything outside other than yardwork so we haven’t cared and haven’t dealt with it. But now I’m bringing my accident-prone horse home and am about to let her loose in my pot-hole filled yard. This is a vet bill waiting to happen.  How do I flatten my terrible yard and get the ground squirrels to leave?

The internet has many suggestions, most of them impractical (we will not be digging up the entire yard, regrading it, and replanting all the grass – we have neither the time nor the money for such an endeavor). One suggestion did seem doable even if I wasn’t confident it would work. A lawn roller.  The internet has mixed reviews of this option, and my overall sense was that it depended on the type of soil you have and when you try to roll it. If the ground isn’t soft enough, it won’t do anything at all; if it is too soft, you’re just going to get stuck – and some people insist it won’t ever work no matter what. Not wanting to invest money into something that might not work I decided to rent one from Menards first and test it out. This was a great idea in theory, but the timing was tricky. I needed to find a window of time when the ground was soft, but not too soft, and I had time to go to Menards, pick this thing up, drive it around my yard, clean it off, and then return it. Finding such a perfect convergence took longer than I wanted and even then the day I did it wasn’t ideal because Nate had a thing scheduled so I absolutely had to be done by a certain time so he could help me get it back in the car.

Let’s talk a little more about what a lawn roller is for those of you not familiar. It is a large steel cylinder that you fill with water to make super heavy and then drag it around your yard like a giant rolling pin. I had finished up as much as I was going to be able to do and needed to drain the water, clean it off, so we could load it into my car and the clock was ticking. I park the lawnmower and see that the drain plug is too low to get out. I go back and move the lawnmower up a bit only to overcorrect and now its hiding behind the frame; but it’s only off by a few inches and I don’t want to unhook it because I’ll need the lawnmower to roll it back to the bottom. I decided I can just move this myself. This giant, water-filled, steel lawn roller that is attached to my lawnmower. I got this! I did not, in fact, have it. I did manage to move it the few inches I needed, but at the expense of my back. It did not help that I proceeded to do a bunch of other physical things including wrestling the roller back into my car and then back out of my car. This led to two weeks of being laid up in the house in constant pain while the weather outside was gloriously perfect. I was not happy. I’ll post more about my ongoing back issues and how they have mostly (except in the case of my own sheer stupidity) gotten better.

During my time of enforced inaction, I spent a lot of time staring out the window being annoyed and saw that f***ing ground squirrels and his family digging horse killing holes all over the yard (second update, also turns out that the really big holes aren’t the ground squirrels but the snakes that hunt them – super fun!). *Shakes fist angrily* Get off my lawn! I started researching how to get rid of chipmunks. The internet was again full of lots of ideas, most of which seemed like crap. I tried a variety of non-lethal options first, including scents to scare them away like used kitty litter. I didn’t however wind up purchasing any commercial products. They either listed only a few active ingredients (2%) and everything else was just “other” (98%) and now that all our water is well water I am waaaaaay more cautious about what I put on the lawn (what goes on the lawn winds up in my water and I’m not drinking a bunch of unknown ingredients); or they were things that would be bad for Leeloo too. Unfortunately the used kitty litter and the like did not work. This meant we had to go into lethal options. I considered live-trapping, but where exactly was I going to take these critters and in what vehicle? By this time I was pretty frustrated so rodent murder it was. One of the options I had found online seemed kind of ridiculous but had the benefit of being cheap and best of all involved no poison of any kind (see previous statement about well water, putting poison all over the yard seems like a bad time). The plan – get a large bucket, fill it half-full with water, sprinkle sunflower seeds on top, and create a ramp up to it; the chipmunks see the sunflower seeds, think they found some sort of jackpot, jump in, and drown. Yes, I felt really, really, bad about this and it took me several days before I actually tried it. But every time I looked at those holes I thought, if my horse steps in one and breaks her leg she’s dead. Either my horse dies, or the chipmunks (ground squirrels) die, one of them has got to go. So, I put out my bucket and waited. It took a few days, but all total I managed to take out three ground squirrels! Which by the way are much bigger than you’d think (because they weren’t chipmunks they were ground squirrels!). I did feel bad, but Leeloo is more important and there are ground squirrels everywhere. Including possibly back in our yard because something has just started re-digging out some of the holes!

Where Will She Go?

Coming home from that uplifting appointment I tell Nate that I want to try to bring Leeloo home this summer and though supportive, he was understandably skeptical. We had already agreed to, and taken payment from, a local farmer to farm most of our land for this year, so where exactly was I going to put Leeloo? Also the whole point of bringing Leeloo home was to get her to move more – how exactly was I going to do that?



In the course of our lameness issues, we have worked with at least six different vets, six different farriers, four different chiropractors, a massage therapist, acupuncturist, and osteopath. The one thing they all agreed on was that Leeloo needs to move more, and move in terms of low intensity activity, i.e. walking. So how do you get a couch potato of a horse to move more? I’ve been pondering this for years now, and a while back when discussing this issue with a friend I shared my ingenious (laughable) idea for a hay feeder that would force my horse to move. The general outline was creating a long rectangular box which you would put a perforated barrel, filled with hay, into and Leeloo would have to roll the barrel up and down the track to get the hay out. There are obviously lots of flaws to that idea, but my friend was very kind and just listened and when I was done, asked if I had heard about paddock track systems. I had not.

The basic idea is that you spread out the horse necessities (food, water, shelter) in different locations that require the horse to walk between them. Intrigued I searched the internet when I got home and discovered Jaime Jackson and Paddock Paradise. I acquired his book of the same name, devoured it, and knew that this was my answer. This was how I was going to get my horse to move! One of the many beauties of the Paddock Paradise system is that you don’t need a lot of land to make it work. So, I pulled up an overhead view of our land (thanks ever present observation satellites, your existence isn’t creepy at all) and thought yes – I can get a paddock paradise track set up around our existing yard and house.

We can do this!

Why Now?

So why now? What happened to make me nudge that eyelash and come at my goal of bringing Leeloo home in a different way?

Leeloo has lameness issues, and no, I don’t mean she thinks fanny packs are cool, though apparently fanny packs are cool again? Lame as in not sound enough to ride. I’ve been attempting to get to the bottom of her ongoing lameness issues for years and have spent a lot of time, money, energy, and hope – all followed by heartache – and gotten nowhere. Last summer, when I was adjusting to the fact that the cost of my barn had apparently gone from x to 3x and silly me I had only saved up x (if you are asking yourself, wait, didn’t you say it was 5x – you’re thinking of the price quote I got this year; 3x was the quote I got last year – isn’t our current economic state fun?), I decided that the barn dream was clearly being postponed so I would instead focus on getting Leeloo sound in her current living situation. This led to yet another very expensive vet visit, which I’ll detail further in a future post in case anyone wants to nerd out about equine lameness checks, but the end result of that visit was a decision to inject her right hock. Did the injections help? Who knows! We spent the next several months going through round after round of hoof abscesses – which are just as much fun as they sound. One hoof after the other, round and round, for months. I would maybe get two or three weeks of soundness before the next round began. But then very early spring this year she was lame again and it wasn’t an abscess. The vet was back out and we tried another set of injections (they wear off between 6 months and a year and we were at 9 months). And what did they do this time? You guessed it, nothing. Right around this time my farrier was out for our regular trim, and I was expressing my frustration as he was looking at her back feet and asked “How much does she move? On a scale of 0 to” – ZERO. She moves not at all. The way her current situation is configured the round bale (giant bale of hay) is under the shelter and right next to the water. Leeloo also happens to be the most dominant horse on the entire property, so nobody moves her. She can camp her butt at the round bale, pivot to get a drink of water and then pivot right back to shove her face in food. All day, every day. When the weather cooperates the horses do have a pasture they all go out on, but there is only one pasture so the barn owner is very protective of it and that means once the spring thaw starts the horses don’t go out at all until the ground is firm and the grass is established for the year. I mentioned to the farrier that I come out to the barn regularly to exercise her and his response was – “It doesn’t matter, you could work her every day, what she needs is constant low level movement – lots and lots of walking and even with that there is no guarantee she’ll be sound, but it’s just not going to happen in her current situation.” After that fun pep-talk I was leaving the barn and sitting at the top of their driveway staring at my own house (I live very close to where Leeloo is currently being boarded) I saw my own patch of yard around our house, surrounded by a tilled field and thought… maybe, just maybe, I could figure out how to bring her home now.



My dream is expensive. Really expensive. I recognize that we have more than enough to live happy, healthy, fulfilled lives and that not only are all our needs met, the vast majority of our wants are also met. Except for this one really big want – a barn. And when I say a barn what I really mean is an indoor riding arena. I recognize that this is a pretty extreme and ridiculous want, that in terms of resource usage an indoor riding arena for one person to use is ludicrous. I know this. I still want it. Horses, riding horses, raising horses, some version of this, has been my dream since I was very little – but I hate the outdoors. I hate being hot, I hate being cold, I hate being wet, I hate being muddy, and above all things I hate bugs – HATE BUGS. Being outside is the worst. I am an indoor cat with an outdoor hobby. Having an indoor riding arena is how I reconcile my love of horses and riding with my extreme dislike of the outdoors. Is it practical – no. Is it necessary – no. But it is my dream so that is what we’re aiming for and we’ve given up a lot of other wants in pursuit of this one giant want.

I am pretty frustrated with the current state of our economy, prices, inflation, etc. because in the summer of 2019 the price for my dream was X and now it is literally five times as expensive (that would be 5X if you are setting up an equation). I have had three builders tell me not to build this arena now because it simply is not worth it. (Yet these builders are also scheduled out almost a year in advance, so clearly SOMEONE is building these buildings at these outrageous prices – who are these people?! Why won’t they share their money, clearly they have enough!). What this means is I’m going to be grousing about money in some of these posts – but know that I know that I’m not actually in any sort of financial hardship. I know that I am lucky beyond words to be in the position I am – that I have any chance of all at going after this dream in any way at all is a huge privilege and I am truly grateful – though I might not always sound that way.


Eyelash Wishing

Did you ever do that thing when you find a loose eyelash and you blow it off your finger and make a wish? I have no idea where I got that habit from, but I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember. For years now when I would blow that eyelash off my finger my wish was some variation on “I want my barn” and for a really high number of tries the eyelash wouldn’t float away, it just sat there, no matter how hard I blew – this is very bad luck. So, I would give it a small nudge – I would NOT push it off my finger myself, that would be terrible luck – but I would just shift it a bit and try again. Sometimes it took a few shifts before it would blow away. Anytime I had to do this I would tell myself I am not doomed to failure, it’s just that sometimes you need to make some adjustments to reach your goals. – Well friends that is what is happening. We’re making some adjustments to reach my goal of bringing Leeloo (our horse) home. Plan A – part 1 (the dream) involved a large indoor riding arena with a “barn” on one end with stalls, tack-room, bathroom, hay storage above. This would be centered behind our house. Then there would be pastures and a paddock paradise track system to our east and a hay field to our west. Plan A – part 2 also involved another outbuilding for a tractor and hay making equipment and more hay storage. That is still my dream but with the current state of the economy, inflation, prices, etc. it is still a very distant dream and meanwhile I am getting older, my horse is getting older, and every new election is a chance that my zoning could change and bringing my horse home would no longer be an option. So this spring, after much discussion, Nate and I have decided to make some adjustments to the stages of that dream – we’re nudging the eyelash a bit – so we can bring Leeloo home this summer! You can follow along on this process here.

What have I gotten us into?!