Elizabeth Twp. horse arena is back after storm collapse

| Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010

Fallen Timber Stables co-owner Terri Willey said the day her horse arena collapsed from February's snowstorms changed her life.

"It was life changing both in a good and bad way," she said. "It was devastating when it happened. We questioned whether to rebuild. We decided to do it."

Terri Willey and her husband Lew, who also co-owns the Elizabeth Township facility, will host an open house Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at Fallen Timber Stables, 1501 Fallen Timber Road.

Terri Willey was almost killed when the indoor arena collapsed Feb. 16 and her horse Rarely Blue was injured.

"She was the horse that I was getting ready to ride when the building collapsed," Terri Willey said. "I'll never forget it in my life. If I hadn't got a phone call, I would have been in the arena riding her."

She received a phone call from her friend Jeff Michael and she decided to move to the side wall of the arena with Rarely Blue.

"(Rarely Blue) must have sensed something was going to happen," Terri Willey said. "She reared up and spun away from me. I was on the phone so I didn't see or sense anything. She ran towards the collapse. When she realized the building was falling around her, she went the other way. Her lead rope got stuck around one of the trusses."

She said she doesn't remember everything about the incident.

"I think the mare must have knocked me down," Terri Willey said. "Jeff could hear me screaming and the building fall. My husband was standing outside the arena. The force of the air from the collapse blew him through the doors. One of my students ran into the horse wash stall. Lew found the phone out in the arena."

She said she had bruises on her knees, but didn't seek hospital care. Rarely Blue spent a week at Brown Equine Hospital in Somerset.

The 6-year-old quarter horse had wounds all over her body including lumber impaled in the side of her face.

"She had no major joint damage and no broken bones," Terri Willey said.

She said Rarely Blue also suffered a bad infection in her foot.

It took the Willeys five days to clean up the collapsed arena with the help of A.W. McNabb of Burgettstown.

"They did a really good job," Terri Willey said.

While they didn't have the indoor arena following the collapse, the Willeys still had the horse stalls and an outdoor riding arena, so Fallen Timber Stables was still operational. While the buildings are connected, only the arena fell. The Willeys even created another outdoor riding arena with sand in April.

The new indoor arena was finished in July and the entire construction project with a bigger office was finished at the end of August.

The new arena is 80 by 164 feet instead of 60 by 144 feet. The roof has a 15-foot clearance.

The reconstruction cost more than $100,000, with insurance only paying for some of it.

"We're trying to utilize the natural light with clear panels," Lew Willey said.

"We lined the walls," Terri Willey said. "This is a metal building and the other was wood."

She said the arena was made to ensure there could be barrel racing and pole bending in it as well as horse jumping, dressage, western pleasure and hunter under saddle.

Fallen Timber Stables offers private boarding and training. It can board a capacity of 40 horses. The business specializes in barrel racing, but does basic training, as well.

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