Another backlog project has been finished: The riding arena now has lights.
In winter when days are short, the barn crowd still wants to ride their ponies. Perching a spotlight in the hay loft doorway and casting the beam onto the dressage ring my be marginally effective, but isn’t practical. Unless there was a full moon, winter riding suffered. The horses didn’t care, but horse people can get cranky when they’re are out of the saddle for too long.
Although our intention is to turn on the lights only while using the arena, more lights creates more light pollution. There are other houses around too. We didn’t want lights that would blot out the stars, spoiling the evening ambiance for the neighbors. So floodlights were out. We needed an alternative that would provide just enough light to permit riding. And budget is always a consideration, so it also had to be cheap. The solution was to use small landscape lights arrayed around the perimeter.
The arena is a big sandbox bordered by old railroad ties. Metal dressage letters were conveniently posted at regular intervals on the railroad ties, and they were sturdy enough to mount the small light fixtures. So the lights were to be attached to each letter with its beam projected down and slightly inward.
Eight lights doesn’t provide total coverage, but should be enough to see.
The first step was to build the light assemblies and place them around the arena. Each light assembly was built using the following:
- A five foot length of 1/2 inch PVC electrical conduit attached to a dressage letter placard using conduit hangers; This serves as a light post
- An 8 inch topper of 1 inch diameter poly pipe fitted over the top of the conduit as an adapter for fitting the light
- One 8 watt landscape light fixture, with the ground spike removed, pressed into the poly pipe topper; Two vertical cuts with a utility knife on one end of the poly pipe made it easier to press the light base into it; The fact that the light base and light post actually fit into that poly pipe was just lucky, or I might still be looking for another way to mount the light
- The parts were painted black before putting the assembly together
The light fixtures had to be left off until the wiring was completed.
The second step was to run the electrical wires. The electrical outlet was located next to the arena between E and K. I ran two lines: 1) one line to lights E, H, C, M; 2) one line to lights K, A, F, B. Before burying the wires, I threaded them through 1/2 inch poly-pipe to protect it from errant shovels, and from weed eaters where the wires emerge and rise to the light post. I threaded the wire up through each light post, leaving enough slack at the top to connect the lights.
The third step was to connect each light fixture and press it into the top of each light post. I wanted to find wire connectors that would let me easily remove the fixtures for storage during seasons when they were not needed. But I settled on wire nuts as a short-term solution.
The fourth step was to connect the wires to the timing-switch terminals and mount the switch. The electrical outlet was already mounted on a 4×4 post, so the switch could be mounted on the post just above.
The final step was testing. Being the impatient type, I actually ran a test immediately after connecting the first four lights. When I turned on the switch, no lights, only consternation while I diagnosed the problem.
It was already getting dark when I attempted the test. And as I started to plug in the switch I could see a light on the GFCI outlet, so thinking the outlet had been tripped, I pressed what I thought was the reset button. Ugh! The green light meant the GFCI was working, and the button I pressed was the test button. So, after pressing the real reset button, I had lights.
Check another box off my to-do list!