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Horse arena among many fair ground changes

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By Brad Bowman

Henry County Fair attendees will enjoy not only the usual fanfare, but a new horse arena when the fair kicks off on June 30.

The horse arena project took almost eight years in the making and extension agent Cathy Toole says the hard work has paid off.

“The arena had so many drainage issues it just wasn’t safe for horses anymore,” Toole said. “This project took so long only one member is still in the club from when we started.”

According to Toole, Henry County Fiscal Court gave the arena area to the 4-H Shining Spurs Horse Club. Over the years, rainwater filled the drains with debris and dirt. The children in the horse club attempted several times to clean the drains and  even out the ground, but ultimately were discouraged as the drains didn’t function correctly and continued to spill over.

Toole approached the extension board with the dilemma. The board decided before any other grant money or manpower would be lost to build a new arena for the children.

“Mattingly engineers figured out the drainage problems and with horse club leaders like Phyllis McGuire and Mary Jo Ricketts they were able to make the project happen,” Toole said.

The project was voted on in October and construction began this spring. Jason Klempner, New Castle, of Klempner and Goodlett moved most of the ground in concert with the engineers for the arena.

“We had to be careful not to disturb other areas, like where the crash up derby happen,” Toole said. “They were was a lot of work of raising the road near the arena.”

The next phase will be sprucing up the horse stalls where the groundhogs have taken over in the past years, Toole said. The club planned to have a grand opening last Saturday, but the weather rained it out.

“We were standing in the rain looking at the arena,” Toole said. “It definitely doesn’t have drainage issues now. It works beautifully.”

Toole said the grand opening will be rescheduled and the kids will be able to ride their horses in the arena. Travis Buchanan continues to work diligently sowing grass in the area around the arena and repaired the stage area, Toole said.

“We made the arena for everyone in Henry County,” Toole said. “We will have 4-H shows and other fun shows there. In the spring, we will host a 4-H horse camp and invite counties in the surrounding area to learn from people in different areas of expertise.”

According to Toole, people now will have a safe place to warm up their horses away from the public. 

“We are fortunate to have access to these facilities as it was deeded in the land donated that way,” Toole said. “That is what makes Henry County special where facilities in other counties are extremely expensive. Children will have an arena to ride their horses in and be proud.”