Outdoors: Riders break in new Equestrian Center, excited about arena’s future

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Megan Logan bounced down the wooden bleachers, as her wispy blonde hair got caught in the wind of a Kodak Saturday.

It was a big day for the 6-year-old in the red-white-and-blue vest scattered with stars. Just last year, Megan got her first taste of riding a horse in a lead line.

But as she boarded reliable Thunderbolt, it marked one of her first trips to ride by herself in a show.

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&uot;The first time (on a lead line) I about had heart failure,&uot; said mother Kay Logan, who along with husband Richard brought Megan, younger brother Delton and a friend to the Dixie Riding Club’s opening of the Adams County Equestrian Center. &uot;I’m OK with it now … usually.&uot;

Richard and Kay Logan are both Natchez natives but live currently in Dryprong, La. They came back to see what beaucoup hours of work and $25,000 of donated cash has netted Natchez’s newest recreation facility.

Adams County has been without a horse and rodeo venue for five years since the former habitat at Liberty Park was leveled.

Equestrian Center board members such as Wayne Smith and Ruthie Hinton said it’s long overdue.

&uot;It’s just beginning. We want to be like every county and get a covered arena,&uot; said Hinton, who wore two hats Saturday as the Dixie Riding Club’s vice president. &uot;Years ago (the state) appropriated money to put covered arenas in counties. But counties had to match a certain amount of money, and it wasn’t on the top of Adams’ list.&uot;

Hinton had not been associated with horses since she rode horses moderately as a youngster. However, thanks to &uot;a mid-life crisis&uot; several years ago, she’s aboard 11-year-old T.J. participating in running events, which is her passion.

Seeing board members’ energy and time come to fruition has been the most exhilarating facet of this labor of love, Hinton said.

There are still goals to accomplish, such as replacing the temporary panels with heavy duty upgrades, putting in bucket chutes for rodeos and establishing a public address system. However, the smiles of those involved with the center are glued on.

&uot;We’ve come so far. I think we’re all tickled pink to see where we’re at right now,&uot; Smith said. &uot;We’ve gained a lot of ground.&uot;

The group has come light years since the county allocated 20 acres of land at a board meeting last April. Due to the absence of an arena, clubs such as Dixie had to hold events in Bude and Liberty last year.

&uot;We’ve had nothing. We’ve been floating around,&uot; Hinton said.

So when a county supervisor informed the group there was an available piece of property if they wanted it, light bulbs began flashing in each board member’s head.

Smith said the group spearheaded efforts to break ground almost immediately.

&uot;To see where we are in less than a year, I think we’re in real good shape,&uot; he said.

Smith feels confident that once the Equestrian Center completes phase two of this cumbersome project, putting a roof on the arena (step three) is a simple task that would require a chunk of change.

Board members also want to construct a 30- by 130-foot barn. Smith said they have the materials, but right now lack the necessary funds to complete the top.

&uot;This year more businesses have put up sponsorship, and you can tell more money is coming in,&uot; Kay Logan said. &uot;It’s a good activity for the children and the community.&uot;

That’s the message that Equestrian Center board members want to send. They feel, as the Miss-Lou searches for new solutions to the area’s recent economic drought, an arena with all the amenities is an answer.

&uot;If we’re going to get rodeos and horse shows to come to town, people have to understand this is not just recreation, but an industry,&uot; Smith said.

&uot;When all these people come down, they’ve got to fill those big trucks before they leave,&uot; Hinton said. &uot;They’ve got to eat somewhere, too.&uot;

Already, the group has scheduled a rodeo for late July, in which the company sponsoring the event will bring its own arena that can fit inside the one that now sits at the Equestrian Center.

Hinton and others also want a better sense of security at their current home.

&uot;We want some permanency,&uot; she said. &uot;We need to know that the Equestrian Center will be at a permanent location. There’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t stay here. Several (supervisors) have said they’re for making this our permanent home.&uot;

The Equestrian Center has another event, similar to Saturday, scheduled for April 29. While a handful of small things still lie in wait for the arena, for a day, workers and volunteers were able to witness the fruits of their labor.

&uot;It’s so exciting after all our hard work that’s been done to have things running pretty smoothly,&uot; Hinton said. &uot;We’ve got some stuff to work out, but overall things are in place.&uot;