Creature Comfort: It's a Horse's Life at the Spring Hill Guest Ranch
December 14, 2009
By Amy Grisak
When the safety and comfort of horse and rider is paramount, the Spring Hill Guest Ranch near Bozeman marries both of them beautifully. Locati Architects researched other facilities and consulted with knowledgeable horse people to create an ideal environment for the horses and the people who enjoy them.
The first impression of the arena is noticeably different. Instead of an obtrusive steel structure, natural materials, such as stone, are used on the exterior helping to blend this 30,000 square foot building into the base of the Bridger Mountains. There is a natural feel that fits well with the landscape.
The 100-ft x 200-ft arena beckons the owners and guests to come play. Gates on rollers, instead of the standard swinging gate, which can be a safety concern in some situations, gracefully glide as you open it with one hand.
It is well lit with natural light from the numerous windows, as well as an extensive halide lighting system that evenly saturates the area. A sound system with speakers hanging in the middle of the arena, in addition to piping into other areas of the building, provides background music for any riding mood.
Overhead radiant heating keeps riders comfortable at 45-48 degrees during the coldest winter days. Conversely, when the thermometer is cracking 90-degrees in July, people and horses enjoy the refreshing 55-60 degree temperature inside.
One of the greatest assets of the arena is the "dustless dirt" providing sound footing for the horses and virtually no particulates to coat the adjacent dining area. This revolutionary concept uses polymer coated sand that is top-dressed with mineral oil harrowed in to the desired depth needed for a particular discipline. The sand appears to be alive. When you grab a handful and mound it up, it settles back into place. The most important care for this base is keeping it clean from solid waste, and if needed, add more mineral oil every five years or so, depending on the amount of use and number of horses.
Before the dustless footing was installed, the caretaker had to use a watering system to keep the dust to a minimum. This exacerbates the difficulty in keeping low moisture levels, which is often a problem in large arenas. To alleviate this situation, an enormous air exchange system will completely change out the air inside of the arena within moments if the humidity rises above 44%. However, Mark Gustafson, ranch manager, pushed to replace the watering system because it taxed the air exchange units. "To put water on natural fines you'll have mold" in the system, which would have seriously damaged the building within five years.
Caring for the horses is obviously as important as riding them. Each stall is equipped with rubber pads that are cleaned of solids, hosed and disinfected every day after the horses are turned outside. A vet and wash room - with hot and cold running water in a clean environment - also help in caring for the equine residents.
The tack room is a shining example of order and tidiness. Every saddle for each horse has its own place, and whatever piece of equipment is at hand. There is also a commercial washer and dryer to keep saddle blankets clean and ready to use.
People Comfort, Too
The arena at Spring Hill Guest Ranch isn't just for horses. When the owners or guests aren't riding they relax in the living area complete with cozy furniture, six bunk beds tucked into the wall, a full bath with a large glassed-in shower, and complete laundry facility.
A separate kitchen pleases anyone with a passion for the culinary arts. A six-burner Viking stove and Sub-zero refrigerator/freezer accommodates any cooking project. There is plenty of cupboard and granite countertops give the chef ample room. A kitchen of this magnitude is only fitting for a dining area, which overlooks the arena that can seat over 20 guests with a large harvest-style table, round table, and chairs along a bar.
Where the Elk Roam
The owners of Spring Hill Guest Ranch are dedicated to restoring the surrounding land to its natural state - primarily habitat for over 200 elk that range in the area. The resident horses have 60 acres of pasture surrounded by a 5-feet tall post fence with a continuous top rail that the elk don't jump. The rest has been seeded with native grasses to provide suitable feed for the wild residents.
Spring Hill Guest Ranch creates the ultimate horse-lovers playground by marrying the care and comfort of horse and rider with fine craftsmanship and modern materials in an ideal setting.