Horse fans push for arena

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 7, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; For longtime horse hobbyists like Paul Bacon can’t imagine a life without horse riding &045; and for many, horse shows are an integral part of that lifestyle.

Yet ever since the loss of the Liberty Park horse barns and arena in 2000, Adams County has been without a public arena in which horse shows can be held.

So local riding clubs are now renewing their push to build another arena, a place they say could build everything from character in youth to the local economy. There’s a need for it, said Bacon. &uot;There are, I’d say, close to 250 families involved in (horse riding) &045; and that doesn’t include the 4-H kids or the ones involved in things like high school barrel racing,&uot; said Bacon, himself a member of the Too Hot to Trot Riding Club.

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But funding from local and state government could be limited, unless such a facility can be included in the plans of the local Joint Recreation Advisory Board.

Camilla Richardson, president of the Dixie Riding Club, estimates that a modest covered arena would cost about $150,000.

Former Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown pursued grants from the state Department of Agriculture for such projects but was unsuccessful. And the popular grant program was a victim of state funding cuts, said state department spokesman Ricky Gray. Bacon, a member of the Recreation Board, said he proposed at the board’s last meeting in November that a lit, covered arena be built as part of the city, county and School Board’s overall recreation plan.

It was stated that more than 30 acres of county land, not including adjacent pasture, on Foster Mound Road would be a possible site for an equine facility. &uot;We are looking at that,&uot; Bacon said.

Barbara Rodriquez, a past two-term president of the Quarter Horse Association, would like nothing better than to see that happen. Her father was instrumental in organizing horse facilities and programs in the Miss-Lou years ago, showing her the value of such facilities.

&uot;It’s something that provided a lot of entertainment,&uot; she said. &uot;People have made lifelong friends through horses. Instead of running the streets, we kids were at the arena.&uot; Working with horses, she said, &uot;helps break down the barriers between people.&uot;

Now that local youth are joining 4-H in Brookhaven to be able to ride there, and now that horse shows are held at the arena in Bude, horse aficionados like Rodriquez get sentimental about the old days. But for Richardson, it’s also an economic issue. &uot;The people who come to town for these shows stay in hotels and eat in restaurants,&uot; she said.

Riding club members are still making their plans but may approach county supervisors and city aldermen in the foreseeable future about funding for such an arena, Richardson said.