A world champion equestrian needed more space and her father needed a place to showcase some of his products. The answer for both was a collaboration that serves double-duty at ThorSport Farm in Sandusky, Ohio.
The facility is Allison Thorson’s domain where she trains Tennessee Walkers, prepares for competitions throughout the country and studies online for high school. She is not your typical teenager. “I’ve been riding in competition since I was 8,” says the very articulate teen. “My hobby turned into a job, but I still enjoy it.”
Her parents are owners of ThorWorks. ThorWorks is best known for brands such as SealBest, FarmPaint, ThorTurf and more. The facility is a showcase for ThorTurf and FarmPaint but also the products of a ThorWorks business associate, Menards, a chain of builder supply stores in the Midwest that got its start as a post-frame company more than 50 years ago.
The original post frame building was 3,000 square feet and housed six small wood horse stalls. The horse stable was expanded to a 7,200 square foot post-frame building with materials and engineering supplied by Menards and Midwest Manufacturing. The new building includes 13 deluxe stalls (supplied by Classic Equine), tack room, grooming and wash bays, and a lounge area with full glass view of the riding arena.
Because it’s newer, the 100 by 178 foot, 18 foot tall riding arena is really the show-off area. Although 100-foot span trusses are becoming a little more common today, it’s still unusual to find them in post frame. When they were building the arena four years ago it was even more unusual. “Not everybody does 100 foot clear span trusses,” states Steve Olson, post frame specialist for Menards.
“One of the more interesting things is this is a totally insulated building,” states Dave Shupe, operations manager for ThorWorks. As he points up to the windowed area near the roof he explains, “those are simply acrylic panes up there but, inside and outside, every opening was framed and trimmed.” This added touch gives a pleasing appearance and provides a dead air space for insulation value.
Surrounding the interior base of the riding arena is tongue and groove center match lumber.
“Center match has been used for years in pole barns but this is a manufactured composite unique to Menards, 50 percent wood fiber, 50 percent recycled plastic and co-extruded,” explains Olson.
“We put it vertically so the dust couldn’t lay in the grooves,” Shupe adds. Its slick surface helps to keep the arena clean.
Given even more credit with keeping the facility clean is the special turf used in the arena. “It’s very unusual,” Shupe explains. “There’s no dust. You look in here and literally there’s very little dust.”
“If you had sand in here they’d be cleaning this all the time,” Olson says.
What they are referring to is ThorTurf. It is a synthetic equestrian surface that’s dustless and can be used in arenas and tracks (not suited, however, for stalls). “When horses hooves are pounding on sand, or whatever granules, it’s going to smash and become dust,” Shupe explains. “And what [ThorTurf] does is binds it and eliminates the dust. There’s fiber in it so when you walk on it, it cushions and is less stressful on the horse.”
For people with allergies and horses who can develop respiratory problems in dust-filled environments, the benefits are significant. For Allison Thorson, it just makes good sense and working her horses – which she loves anyway – is a more enjoyable experience.
“It’s nice to come home to a facility like this,” she says. She has a demanding competition schedule that keeps her traveling most weekends from March through November, from as far north as Michigan, as far south and west as Texas and as far east as the Carolinas. The arena in particular is something she enjoys, having started on a dirt arena outside. “Now I can ride year round,” she says. “It’s so dependable. And it’s so clean.”
If there was a drawback to the all-weather facility it was that Thorson was able to extend her competition season to the point where she was missing too many school days. She is now studying online.
One day the young Thorson says she will likely hang up her reins of competition and work in the family business. Her first-hand experience with some of the products will come in handy. “It’s a good testing facility for FarmPaint and turf products, showing their durability,” she says of her equestrian facility.
In the meantime, the new season of competition is well underway and she continues to add to her trophy case of over 30 world championships and high point awards in 10 different categories. – By Sharon Thatcher, Rural Builder; photos courtesy of ThorSport Farm
You may also be interested in these articles on horse barns and arenas:
2012 Guide to Horse Barn Products
Problem-solving horse barn accessories
A builder’s challenges in creating an equine paradise on Mackinac Island
Appeasing horses – and their owners
A barn for the equine athlete
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