“If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen”
This has been the mantra of my life, and largely, my equestrian life. From riding lessons, to shows, buying my own horse and training her, getting her to Otterbein and teaching her to jump, getting into veterinary school, showing The Mare…every step of the way has required me to get creative and work my tail off to enjoy the payoff.
We are finally settling into a routine at our new barn after a semester of tumult and trial. The atmosphere is fantastic, the facility it lovely, and the people are genuine, kind and provide a stellar level of care. Our biggest caveat is that the barn is primarily a western facility, and they do not have any jumps for The Mare and I to play with.
When we moved, The Mare was still on the cusp of recovering from her cellulitis, so it wasn’t a huge deal; but as we got closer and closer to being back into full flat work, I knew that I would need to find some jumps. Graciously, the barn owner told me that I would be able to bring my own equipment in.
I looked at the notion of buying used jumps (I knew new ones would be way outside my budget), but as it turns out, used jumps still carry a hefty price tag.
Could I build my own? Could it be that hard? Famous last words, right?
I turned to Pinterest and YouTube to see what they had to offer me. I searched through dead end links and much-too-intricate woodworking videos until I found The Holy Grail of all things equestrian DIY.
A YouTube video that claimed to be able to make a jump for under $30. Winner, winner!
I began looking up supplies and putting together a budget. Instead of using 4×4’s for the standards, landscape timbers were an easy substitute at a fraction of the cost. I asked for Home Depot cards and jump cups for Christmas and starting putting together a to-do list.
My parents said they felt strange ‘giving me a box of metal for Christmas’, but 6 sets of jump cups couldn’t have made me happier if they’d been made of gold. I got some money in Home Depot cards, and pooled it with some birthday money. I showed my dad the video I’d found and asked for his help. I wanted to get all the hard stuff (Read: things that required power tools that my dad owns) before I headed back to school in Indiana. We started plotting together, and starting looking at logistics. After taking a measuring tape and getting the specs on my little Toyota Corolla, we determined that if I made all the pieces of the standards, they should fit in my car. And, hypothetically, I should be able to fit 8-foot rails in the length of my car once I was back at school.
We set out to Home Depot the next day. I am sure that we were a sight…As we started to load up landscape timbers for the standards, my dad pointed out that they needed to be straight and
not warped. We spent about 20 minutes pulling timber after timber out, laying them on the ground, scrutinizing their straightness and walking on them to see if they tilted. We loaded up the 2×4’s (to make the feet of the standards) and made our way to the checkout. The look on the cashier’s face when they read the total and then looked to my dad to pay, but instead I was the one to hand over money, was priceless.
Once we made it home, my dad spent the afternoon teaching me how to use his fancy power tools. After some initial trepidation using his table saw, I whizzed through turning the 8 2×4 boards into 48 feet for the standards. Next, we had to cut the landscape timbers in half to create 12 standards. The table saw my dad has was barely able to be set high enough to saw through the timbers, which resulted in some protest from the trusty power tool. I let my dad wrestle with that part of things, but aside from that step, I’m proud to say that I did everything else myself.
With the cutting done, drilling the hole in the standards were the next step. I opted to drill holes every 3 inches, starting at 1 foot. Using a spade drill bit, and some instruction from my dad, I went to town and made fairly quick work of putting the holes in the standards-144 in total. I then grabbed some sandpaper and smoothed the standards and foot pieces.
At this point, I realized that once I was back in Indiana, it probably would be too cold to paint all these jumps, and while I wouldn’t have minded natural jumps, I did want them to look finished.
My dad and I scrounged around to see what leftover paint we had. Thanks to multiple renovations in our house, we had a decent supply of paint. We managed to find 2 half-containers of white paint, some grey, and 2 different colors of teal that had once been in my own bedroom.
I used the standards as drying racks, and started a mad rush to get everything painted. (The fun part about this step was that my sister’s guinea pigs live in the basement where I was doing all this work. To avoid the fumes of the paint being too strong for them, I had multiple fans and buckets of water to absorb the smell, which ended up working really well). I decided to paint 3 of the standards white, 2 of them grey, and one of them dark teal (we are jumpers, after all-we can get away with those fun colors).
The only thing I would need to do once back at school would be to attach the feet to the standards themselves. Through a couple of borrowed power drills, I was all set.
It took me until midnight of the day I was going to leave, but they did all get painted!
I loaded up my car (the real MVP of this escapade was my car; I am still not entirely sure how I managed to fit it all, plus all of my stuff) and headed back to Indiana.
Once back at the barn, I set out to assemble the standards. When the battery on the drill died, I went to Home Depot to get the first load of landscape timbers that would become the rails. Again, the look on the faces of the employees as I asked the location of the timbers and then started casually tossing them onto my cart was, amusing to say the least. And again, my little car pulled her weight and the rails fit precariously from the back of my trunk all the way up in-between my front seats.
I set up the extra stall where I will be storing the jumps to paint the first set of rails. I finished assembling the standards, after borrowing another drill from one of the trainers at the barn, and threw another coat of paint on the rails.
First thing the next morning, I went to Lowe’s (I’d cleared out Home Depot’s selection of decent, non-warped landscape timbers) to get another batch of timbers. I spent the day adding the last coats to the first bunch of rails and getting the second batch started. I rode my horse. Add another coat of paint. Went home for a little while and then went back out to the barn to add stripes to some of the poles.
Unfortunately, January in Indiana is not in fact, prime painting weather (who knew?). The foreseeable future will be too cold to paint, and once I’m back in school, I won’t have time for awhile. I didn’t get stripes added to all of the poles, but I got about a third of them done, and once it warms up, I will finish the rest. I am ecstatic with the final results thus far, and The Mare and I cannot wait to get back at it!