In late 2015 Just Riding had been trading for a few years and so with profits from the business and ALL of our savings we commenced with our quest to build our own stables.
I think it is most horse owners dream to have their own place to keep their beloved horses and we are no different. We had and still have big plans for Just Riding Stables the first plan was to create a base for the business close to the horses, the second was to create a building and facilities that could accommodate the horses we rescue so that we could give them a comfortable temporary home in which they could feel safe, be well looked after, re schooled if necessary and eventually re homed.
Aside from our Brand Ambassadors program we had always wanted to build somewhere that we could use to rescue and re-home abused or unwanted horses. We managed to secure a deal on a very old stable and some surrounding land through my family. The stable was water tight, well mostly..but in need of a lot of work to bring it up to the standard we wanted it at and make it a habitable place for horses. After all it wasn't all about rescuing horses this would double up as our family getaway, a place for the children to play in and enjoy as well.
2016 came along and with it super exciting times, we commenced on site and made the first cut in the land for the schooling arena.
The days and weeks rolled by with work on the build really steaming along, powered by me.. I was on site everyday! I am sure the builders loved that! lol
Here below is a gallery of images which shows how the development progressed over the following months, we found that our plan changed around 20 times as we moved forward the builders would come up with improvements and ideas which we always loved and of course agreed to. The problem is with working like this, sure you end up with the exact washroom you wanted and the toilets in the barn itself instead of outside but when the bills start coming in for these "extras" ouch!
Click or Tap on the large image to expand the gallery.
Around 5 months on and you can really see the changes in this video from what was the old building to what is becoming the new. The guys were working tirelessly, we still hadn't secured the site with regards to perimeter fencing and so still no horses on site at this point.
These are the last few pictures towards the end of the year, the outstanding tradesmen we had employed had successfully and almost completely renovated and rejuvenated what was a completely outdated mess of a building. We could not have been happier.
My two favourite places was the wash bay created from nothing, tiled and looking stunning and the tack room which lead into the new office. I could not believe that from a room that was used for keeping pigs in at one time, something so beautiful could be created.
One of the proudest moments of my life hanging the canvas picture on the wall of my grandfather who originally owned this building 50 years ago, one on photo he is standing one foot on each horse. He had horses in his blood like me.
A few days after completion the horses had been moved in, we were already using the yard as a valuable place for outdoor play with the kids and had cleared a space and thrown down some wood chipping for the much anticipated play area. Which arrived a few days after this photo below was taken.
The two rescue kittens we had taken in where happy and content, life was good and everything seemed to be going in the right direction. We had taken one young horse on to train and we had already started to look for rescue cases that required our help.
One late summer afternoon we were all at the yard, there were even a few tradesmen finishing off a few bits and pieces. I was washing off a horse with another rider, the guys were tinkering with the wi-fi in the office, kids were running around and the music was playing.. the weather and the atmosphere at the stable was just perfect. You know when sometimes you wish you could just cut a piece of time out and keep it forever well for me this was a time like that.
To some it might not look like much but to me it was perfection and I had my slice of paradise and I was looking forward to doing so much...
I posted this happy photo on Instagram and wrote "LIFE IS GREAT !!!"
We heard the children screaming first and I thought they were playing, but I then realised that something wasn't right. 5 seconds later I heard the word I think any stable owner fears the most... "Fire!!"
We immediately ran up to the hay loft to see how bad it was but it was way too late, the flames at the far end of the building where our new building attached to the old one were as tall as the roof itself and spreading so fast there was no chance to do anything other than to get everyone out and release the horses. A few guys tried in vain to use a garden hose to slow the spread but it was absolutely hopeless. We were blessed that everyone from the surrounding houses came running over as soon as they saw the smoke and started to grab everything and anything and dump it outside on the paddock. Within 10 minutes there was a huge pile of saddles, bridles, computer bits, furniture.. everything that was inside that could be moved was now outside.
We all stood in shock and watched 12 months of work and the last 10 years of savings go up in flames.. utterly powerless and utterly devastated.
Here is a short video which shows the sheer ferocity and scale of the fire.
A brave firefighter tries to do everything he can to save my stables.
The following photos are still today a little difficult for us to look at, some people might be thinking. What? it's only a building, but to me this "building" was the realisation of a lifelong dream. I had against difficult odds brought a building back to life that had once belonged to my grandfather who passed away just before I was born. Call me a romantic but I loved the notion of that!
The scale of the damage mostly from the gallons of water the fire service poured into the building is devastating. The fire destroyed the upstairs and the water destroyed the downstairs. In fact so much water (9 fire engines) was poured into the building that the concrete ceiling was found to be structurally unsound afterwards. #tackroomsdontmakegoodswimmingpools
Our new crisp white ceilings, a few days later they just started to fall into the building.
After the fire we found one kitten but his brother was missing for a while, we feared the worse. This was the final twist of the knife as far as we were concerned it was horrible news that we really did not need. As the guys that worked on the yard started to clear the rubble and fire damaged hay and equipment we received a call to say they had found the other kitten, alive!
The poor little thing had actually singed his whiskers they were all curled up, it shows how close to the heat he must have been, one very lucky kitten and at least 8 of the 9 lives used up for sure I reckon. In an odd way this news lifted us a bit, a small triumph out of what was a hideous time.
We had been knocked down by what had happened but with horses and other creatures we were responsible for we got stuck into clearing up and assessing what needed to be done. It is at times like this that you find out who your friends are.. some of them even turned up to help with cleaning up and just offering to do whatever they could. Like Bishu in the photo below who literally threw himself into the soot and muck for two days we wont ever forget that.
We worked quickly to isolate 3 outdoor boxes and a room which was largely unaffected by either fire or water to store feed, we put up a tent for the hay and moved some horses to friends. The others that we could keep at the yard we did.
The roof had to come down and unfortunately the entire ceiling as it had been deemed to be unsafe. Our two handy men who had been working odd jobs at the stables for me tore down the entire roof and the ceiling, along with my Dad and some friends. I was speechless at how they all worked so hard on that building for me.
When I saw this after a few weeks of the guys working on the stables I truly wanted to throw in the towel and walk away, we were actually in a worse situation than we were when we started the renovation of the old building, at least then we had a roof. I think this was one of many moments where curling up into a ball in the corner was definitely an option.
Work has continued on the yard and we now have a ceiling but no roof, we have to get a roof on the building this year it isn't an option not to, because if we don't the winter will completely destroy the building. I am determined to make this happen this year, hopefully with the support and loyalty of our Just Riding customers your continued business will make this possible.
The inside where the boxes are located is rubble but we are working slowly to restore it, the tack room below seen in the photos above have not been touched, the plasterboard all has to come off and replaced and repainted which we have not yet done.
There isn't much else to add at this stage, right now we have been developing this new website and invested in new brands, attending shows with the shop and moving forward.
The stables are being worked on currently but on a drip payment basis, basically it works like this...If we have a reasonable week on Justriding.com we put up some plasterboard or lay some bricks, or buy some materials for the roof. Everything we had went into the first renovation of the building and so it has to be this way for now.
We wont be deterred from realising our dream, every time I think about quitting I just have to look at my smiling face on that horse on the last instagram post I made before the fire.
In the words of the amazing Nelson Mandella "A winner is a dreamer who never gives up"