About nine miles from the City of Carrollton, Ga., and even closer to the University of West Georgia is a stand-out equestrian facility, West Georgia Riding Academy.
It currently offers instruction in three disciplines of horsemanship: dressage, cross country and show jumping, as well as Western disciplines.
But in its future, according to general manager Jo Roberts, are plans to offer horseback riding therapy to people with medical problems or physical disabilities.
Roberts says she knows from personal experience that riding is good therapy and West Georgia Riding Academy and Saddle Club in Roopville hope to provide a program for disabled children.
For that dream to be reached, however, the first step was to find the property and build the facility. As Roberts explains it, she and owner John Ford saw a piece of property for sale.
“We decided this would be a good place to build a barn. We started buying land and ended up with 350 acres,” she says. “This is an incredible piece of land. We already put in eight miles of trail and plan for 12 more miles.”
While they labor over designing and building the barn, Roberts adds, “Our number one priority for the facility is safety. Number two is function.”
The barn is over 200 feet long and the overall structure is T-shaped. The interior boasts 27 12-foot by 12-foot stalls, each with its own automatic water system and gauges to show how much water the horses are drinking.
The stalls feature inside sliding doors and a Dutch door to the outside that also slides. Stall floors are matted and topped with shavings. Each has a pullout feeder and hay bin.
The well-groomed life
For the care of the horses, there are three wash racks, three grooming racks, and a huge tack room. “All are heated and air-conditioned,” says Roberts. “We also have a walker and five paddocks for exercise.”
For the humans who spend time in the barn, there is an apartment for a trainer, a well-equipped break room and three bathroom facilities.
Two important features of the barn are its sprinkler system and a lightning arrester system.
“Getting horses out of a barn during a fire is difficult,” says Roberts. That makes it vital to take steps toward fire prevention and suppression wherever possible.
The barn took about a year from the planning stages to move-in time. According to the general contractor, Phil McGukin of Carrollton, Ga., this is a first-class project all the way.
“They had definite ideas on what they wanted done, and they were willing to pay for those ideas. There were no short cuts in this building project,” he says.
For example, the interior is done with a tongue-and-groove pine that was varnished. “It gives the barn a classy interior look,” says McGukin.
It’s the small details that give this barn its special touch, McGukin adds. “Even down to the wash stalls — we put stainless steel walls on the wash stalls so it is permanent.” And the draining system doesn’t run into the pasture like in many other barns; instead, a septic system was built to handle the runoff.
Fabral roof tops it off
Another standout feature of the barn is its roof. Roberts insisted on a metal roof on the barn, in keeping with the metal roofing used on all the other structures on the property. The roof provides a “barn look,” but more importantly, it is lasts longer than a standard shingled roof.
The roof, manufactured by Fabral, Inc., is 250 squares of 24-gauge standing seam panels in a vibrant hunter green color.
“My roofing contractor is sold on Fabral,” says McGukin. “He likes the company because they stand behind their product, and he’s had good luck with them.”
McGukin says that even though parts of the roof are long and straight, there are valleys, gables and cupolas.
“A lot of trim work had to be done to make this roof work,” he says. A hay barn near the horse barn incorporates the same look and color scheme, he adds.
One of the challenges of building the barn is the height and length of the structure. “It is a post and beam type building, with the main structure sitting on six-by-six pressure treated beams,” says McGukin. “When you have a building that high and that long, it is hard to keep it straight. With most barns, if it is off a quarter-inch here or a half-inch there, it doesn’t really matter.” But to get the overall look Ford wanted and the planks used, any slight deviation would be noticeable. “So we had to take extra precautions to keep it straight and true.”
The drainage system offered another challenge. “You have such long halls, the drains had to be situated in such a way that when you are cleaning it out, you aren’t walking in a ditch,” McGukin notes.
The plumbing, he adds, had to be well coordinated with the building process so everything that would be behind the tongue-and-groove walls was placed perfectly. “Once the walls are closed up, it isn’t easy to take them down again,” he says.
The combination of red Georgia clay and pristine white barn siding presented an unexpected issue. During construction and until the landscaping was completed, the siding would routinely get smudged with the red clay and the building needed frequent cleaning. But now that the landscaping in completed, McGukin says, the white building sparkles against the lush greenery of the landscaping.
“There were really no great difficulties between this and other construction work,” McGukin says. “It’s taking the drawing and making it work.
“For example, we had some detailed work on the outside door for each stall — in case you had to get the horses out in an emergency. We needed something as simple as being able to open the latch from the outside as well as the inside, but that’s not a typical feature. So we had to figure that out — how do you keep it locked but still make it easy to open from the outside and incorporate it into the tongue-and-groove wood.”
The end result, McGukin and Roberts agree, is a very good looking barn, the true centerpiece of the entire farm.