Medina Farm Owners Level Their Horses’ Playing Field

By Linda Scherer

Story also available here.

It was all downhill for the horses on the Jim and Chriss Renier farm in Medina, until the abundant snowfall of the winter of 2010-11.

That was when Chriss, primary care giver of the Reniers’ horses, decided she had enough and called RAM Excavating Services located in Winsted for help with a very challenging project.

“Our horses have lived on this down-sloped area for a long time, but last winter was horrendous. It was horrible,” Chriss said.

Every time there was a significant amount of snow, it was impossible for Chriss to let the horses out without clearing a path with commercial-grade snowblowers.

“After you cleared the snow away, the whole area turned to “mush,” Chriss said.

“We were not only on this slope that still had ice all over it, the muck was deep and slippery because this is nothing but clay. It was very dangerous, and a good way for the horses to get a soft tissue injury,” Chriss said.

“When I went out to try to bring them (the horses) in, I was trying to get a footing and they were trying to get footing and, one day, one of the horses ran right over me,” Chriss said. “He had nowhere to go, and I said, ‘That’s it.’”

It was soon after Chriss had made the decision to make improvements to the farm for her horses, that she went to a neighbor’s open house and saw their paddock situation. “I coveted their flat paddock,” Chriss said with a laugh.

She talked with the neighbor’s barn manager, Nicole, who told Chriss if she was interested in doing paddocks on her farm, she should call RAM Excavating Services.

“And that is how I got a hold of Neil (Kerkvliet),” Chriss said.

Kerkvliet, co-owner of the excavating company, met with Chriss and the two started talking about Chriss’ ideas on what she wanted to see accomplished to make life easier for herself and her horses.

The property that the Reniers have owned since the late ‘70s is one of the highest points in Hennepin County, according to Chriss.

“What that means is you go from the house, down, down, down, and if you go far enough out there, then you really go down steeply,” Chriss said.

What Chriss wanted when the project was complete was an all-weather, level paddock where she could walk a horse from a dry lot space into a green space on the same level and not have to go down a slope. She also wanted the horses to be contained at all times when they were leaving the lower barn.

RAM Excavating came in and removed a large amount of the Reniers’ hill, on the north end of their property, and then worked with RAM Landscape Services, which constructed a large boulder wall on two sides of the paddocks to keep the earth in place. RAM also removed existing fence and numerous tree stumps, relocated water lines and waterers, laid crushed limestone with laser grader attachments, and reinstalled new and existing fence.

“This was a challenging project, I learned a lot, and I suspect Neil learned a lot, too,” Chriss said.

“My favorite part of the project is that it’s flat, so it provides a measure of control and safety; and honestly, the horses like it much better. You can see they’re much happier because they feel safer walking in this flat area and are not worried, like they were last year,” Chriss said. “My horses are safer, and I’m safer. That is what it’s all about.”

Reconstructing a Medina equestrian arena Rebecca Frisch has been showing horses in the hunter jumper circuit for the past 20 years and had always boarded her horses until she purchased a farm in Medina in 2010.

One of the improvements she wanted to make was to be able to use the outdoor horse arena on her farm, but she knew it needed some work.

“The original ring was a clay base with a very course sand on top,” Frisch said. “The ring was very deep on one end and very hard on the opposite end, and was also very dusty.”

“Having stabled at barns with good footing, and showing all over the country, it has shown me how important it is to have good footing to ride on,” Frisch said.

Through Frisch’s friends, who have professional barns with many clients using their rings, she had learned of RAM Excavating.

“I figured if their rings could stand up to a lot of use, compared to a single owner with a few horses, I would be happy.,” Frisch said.

Frisch was not only pleased with the finished arena, but recommends RAM Excavating to other horse owners.

“I am very happy with the results RAM delivered. They were easy to work with, their pricing was competitive, and their work is quality. They were also fast and efficient, which was important to me because it didn’t interrupt my training schedule.

“Horse arenas are our speciality,” Kerkvliet said. “We have learned from experience what is good and bad, and what works and what doesn’t. We have perfected it and it’s a good system.”

There are many variations in building and resurfacing indoor and outdoor riding arenas, and 10 years of experience has given RAM Excavating the knowledge to help customers make the right choices, according to Kerkvliet.

“We will look at the whole site. Drainage is the key for a lot of the arenas and paddocks,” Kerkvliet said. “You don’t want water sitting out there.”

Being laser perfect is critical in these arenas, and RAM Excavating uses a laser grading system that makes a perfectly level surface every time.

Kerkvliet also takes into account the different riding styles of customers and the kind of surfaces they prefer.

One example Kerkvliet gave was of reigning, roping, and barrel riders.

“They look at completely different style footings than other riding styles. They like a clay base with 3 inches of wash sand on top of that, because they are looking for a little bit of give underneath if they go sliding into a corner,” Kerkvliet said.

To contact RAM Excavating, call (320) 485-2844 or (320) 224-8713 or e-mail

RAM Excavating Services is within the RAM Family of Companies. Its motto is “Experience the RAM Advantage. ‘We can do it all.’”

RAM has divisions for contruction, general contracting, landscaping, and excavating.