Building the Dream Barn: A Dressage Husband's Perspective

Dressage professional Kelly McGinn's husband, Bobby Cordes, weighs in on the construction process of their dressage facility and his contributions to their life with horses.
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When my wife, Kelly, told me she was going to write a blog for Dressage Today about building her dressage facility, I immediately said I wanted to write an entry from the horse-husband’s perspective. I’ve never written a blog before, nor do I have any horse experience, so how hard could it be? 

Bobby has definitely taken on the role of farm owner and horse husband!

Bobby has definitely taken on the role of farm owner and horse husband!

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My immediate go-to is humor, so me writing a blog might scare some people who know me. When I said I wanted to write an entry, Kelly’s first thought was, He’s going to make fun of me the entire time. Well, not the entire time, but I can guarantee there will be some jokes directed her way. I mean, if you know me you’d expect nothing less.

I had never been around horses until Kelly and I met. When she invited me to a show for the first time I remember thinking while packing, Why are we taking so much stuff? Then we arrived at the show and unpacked everything! Then we packed it back up to come home. And, you guessed it, we unpacked it again at home. It was eyeopening to see the workings of a show. I’ll give credit to all who go—it’s quite a task. 

One of my favorite memories was when Kelly won a cooler. I was excited that we—I mean Kelly—had won a cooler. Little did I know that my definition of a cooler and the prize-list cooler were two different things. Needless to say, I didn’t have a place to pack ice and a few cold beverages that weekend. 

A few years went by and Kelly’s students started going to shows and I stayed home. I do go occasionally and when I do, I look at Google Maps to see if there are any breweries around for me to check out.

So, if I had a dollar for every time I’m asked, “Do you ride?” I’d be able to pay for our barn project with cash. I guess it seems obvious that I’d have some interest in riding but it’s not really an interest for me. I have labeled myself part of the “Support Team.” I’m there for the incidentals. You know, keeping the truck and trailer clean. Everyone who knows me knows I like my truck clean. 

I do actually enjoy horse shows. I have made many friends throughout the last 20 years and I think it’s refreshing for some riders to be able to chat with someone who is not going to analyze their last ride. I’ve been known to offer my eye but it never goes over the way I think it should. It seems, after all these years, I’m still not taken seriously. Go figure. Now that our daughter Lulu is getting older and showing interest in riding, I guess I’m going to have to step up my game.

My real purpose in this latest journey of building our barn is to make phone calls, send emails and handle any other correspondence to make this barn a reality. I’ve been the one talking to contractors to get bids, see if they’re ready and make sure they’ll get the job done in a timely fashion. I have to say everyone involved in this process has been great to work with. I have a bit more time and cell signal (and patience) to make this happen, so naturally it was me. 

When you think of building a barn you think, How hard can it be? Well, the building process hasn’t been too bad. For us, it was just the process leading up to getting the permit to build that was most difficult. There were many times Kelly and I asked each other, “Should we quit?” Thank God we didn’t, because we’re almost there. As you’ve read from Kelly’s blog entries, we jumped through many hoops to get to the point of being able to break ground. 

If I could offer some advice to anyone out there looking to build a facility, I’d say allow time, more money than you’ve allotted for and a few trips to the local liquor store. I would also say not to let some apprehension stop you from at least trying.

So, now this whole dressage operation is going to be in my backyard. I’m going to be a lot more involved now. All of Kelly’s current clients are going to read this and think, Oh no!

It’ll be fine, guys! Think positively!

Keep it clean and there will be no worries.

All in all, it’s been great to see my wife’s dream of owning her own facility come true. After all, as a husband and a dad, I need to make sure my girls are happy. This barn offers many years for them both to learn, grow and bond together—assuming that mother and daughter get along. We’ll all be able to bond—or wring each other’s necks. 

Not only is he a great farm hand and horse husband, he's a wonderful father too!

Not only is he a great farm hand and horse husband, he's a wonderful father too!

Being around the horses has also given me an opportunity to meet some really fun people. A few may not see me as “fun” in return because they’re usually the butt of one of my jokes but hey, everyone else laughs. I’m sure as new clients come in, I’ll be making more friends. This journey has been years in the making and there is definitely a light at the end of our current tunnel. So, for anyone out there who has the dream of owning your own barn—or whatever dream you have—go for it. Make those calls, meet those contractors, talk to the banks, make it happen. The only other option is a ”What if?”

Click here to read more of Kelly's blogs.

Kelly McGinn is an FEI rider, trainer and coach. She has brought many horses and riders up through the levels and has enjoyed success in regional and national championships as well as year end awards. Kelly was also chosen to ride the Friesian stallion Lolke 372 in the opening ceremonies of the World Equestrian Games in 2010 in the famed 10 horse Friesian train. Kelly has trained with Scott Hassler since 1991 and she credits Scott for her teaching and training style as he has been a big influence in her education. Kelly has also had the opportunity to ride with many well known clinicians including Steffen Peters, Michael Klimke and Debbie McDonald. Kelly also participated in the Young Dressage Trainers Symposium for 9 years where she developed a love for the process of training young horses. She runs a small teaching and training business in Easton, Maryland, where she has a variety of different horses in training and believes that every horse can benefit from good dressage training regardless of the breed.

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