this is a guest post from Jon Bontrager, Facility Director, of YMCA Camp Harrison near Wilkesboro, NC.
I am not, nor do I claim to be, any sort of “horse person.” I do, however, like a challenge. I was excited In 2008, when I arrived at YMCA Camp Harrison at Herring Ridge, to learn that one of my first duties was to help set up infrastructure for our horse program, which has grown steadily to the creation of a “Dude Ranch” program in 2011. This doubled the number of horses we have on site, added goats, donkeys, chickens, a garden, and all associated pastures and structures to support them. So, since the end of summer 2011, much of our time has been spent discussing, plotting, and excessively tweaking to make programming and year-round care easier and more effective, as well as to improve the overall appearance. Due to my “insufficiencies,” it has been a great opportunity for me to release control, listen to our program staff, and provide the construction expertise to help them create what they want. I am quite impressed with the impact this has had on our staff team, and wanted to share a few solutions of our collaborative effort in our tack room.
Prior to this project, the space we ended up using for the tack room was split into tack room and an office. We removed a wall (and the office), doubling the size of the space. We scrapped the 24 square foot desk that took up half the room, replacing it with a 3 square foot “desk.” Out went the couch, stuffed horses, and assorted accumulation of 3 years of programming.
One of our program personnel came to me with a simple metal saddle rack which we used to create a wooden replica. She drove the design, insisting on rounded edges and curvy supporting members despite my half-hearted (time-conscious) protest, and then rallied program, volunteer, and maintenance staff to chip in and help with the intensive construction and installation. End result: a sturdy, attractive way to display in an organized manner the main tool of the trade. The staff who will be in the barn on open houses and during programming drove the construction and will can tell that board member, parent or kid “That? Oh, yeah.. I built it,” communicating competency.
Gate-style hook system:
Horses come with an obscene amount of ropes, cables, and assorted control mechanisms, all of which need to be hung up. In order to save space and attractively display some of these, we built this hinged hook system, which places the more attractive horseshoe hooks on a hinged board, covering up the less attractive hooks behind it. End Result: form makes sense for a horse program, function is great.
We still need to build space for feed, boots, and all the stuff that kids bring with them. As someone who likes to check things off the list, relinquishing control always requires multiple calming talks with the voices in my head. But yesterday I looked around as we were putting up a fence, and saw 3 program staff and 2 additional volunteers who didn’t have to be there laughing, working hard, and enjoying the sun. At some point in the tack room this winter, they became hooked on creating the small, physical details that make camp different, larger than life, and a place to which kids and parents want to return.