As the days grow shorter, riders are increasingly confined to indoor schools, which can make them – and their horses – feel just a little cooped up.
But at Lucinda McAlpine’s Bowhayes Farm, Culmstock, Devon, an innovative ventilated wall has transformed the indoor arena into a more natural, open environment. Instead of the usual wooden walls and year-round fluorescent lighting, she has installed perforated metal wall sheeting called Highlight on three sides of her indoor school.
“We installed the first panels a year and a half ago along one whole side of the arena and half of another side,” says Lucinda. “It’s proved to be simply fantastic – since then we’ve installed the last few panels to side that was half completed and put another whole side in.”
The sheeting is colour coated, so it doesn’t rust, and is 25% voided in the form of tiny holes, which allow plenty of light and air through, but keeps out wind and rain. Although it appears to be ordinary cladding from the outside, it gives perfect visibility on the inside, giving a feeling of riding outdoors without the weather.
“It was very quick and easy to install, and is perfect for me, as it keeps the weather out and is not draughty,” says Lucinda. “It’s also so light inside that I don’t need to turn the lights on as early in the evenings, which saves a lot in electricity costs.”
The more natural feel fits well with Lucinda’s philosophy on keeping and training horses in a stress-free environment. One of the country’s leading experts in Natural Horse Management, over the past 15 years her work has extended into the fields of diet, fitness, injuries and rehabilitation, as well as behavioural work. Working every day with between 20 and 40 horses of various breeds, ages and types, she has extensive experience of the benefits of a more natural lifestyle for the horse.
An added bonus of being able to see through the arena walls has been the change in horses’ behaviour when working indoors, she adds. “Horses are more easily distracted when a noise is made and they can’t see the source. Since Highlight was installed, if there is a disturbance outside, the horses can see what’s happening and are a lot less spooky. It’s a magical product and I’m hoping to get round to installing more in the future.”