Grassroots effort

Horse arena to be built
at Oldham County fairgrounds

Officials want a horse show
similar to Shelby County’s

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (March 2005) – Many Oldham County residents feel that the county has needed a horse arena for a long time. In a county that has a diversity of horse breeds, an arena or show ring would keep a growing industry within the county, horse enthusiasts say.
A building is desired that would be “serviceable for all types of things,” said Kathy Hockersmith, a member of the Oldham County Fair Board who has been involved in 4-H activities in the county.
There has been no quality arena in the county for the last 15 to 20 years, said Hockersmith, and 4-H clubs have had to travel elsewhere to compete in a show arena.
The fair board is taking bids for an arena to be built behind the existing Merchant’s Building at the fairgrounds. The Merchant Building houses pageants and events that need to be held under roof. The site is what used to be the old tractor pulling area of the fairgrounds.
Compared to what the county now has, “something is better than nothing,” said Hockersmith. The only area at the fairgrounds for horse shows is a track used for demolition car derbies. The ground is deeply embedded with glass from the many collisions held on the spot, making it unsuitable for livestock shows.
What is needed is an all-weather arena, said Hockersmith. The fairgrounds already has a nice, large barn, but Hockersmith believes there are still ways to improve the facilities. “So many people have expressed an interest” in such a project, said Hockersmith.
She said members of the fair board have even spoken to a local dog club about playing host to an area-wide dog show at the fairgrounds. Goats and llamas are some alternative cattle crops, and owners might consider shows and herd sales if an arena were available at the fairgrounds. Clinics and fund raising are also possible events to be held at an arena.
Any event held would open a whole new venue for the county, said Hockersmith. There is such as diverse group of horse people within the county that a future goal of the fair board is to play host to horse shows comparable to the Shelby County Horse Show. Different horse types to be found in Oldham County include Icelandic, Arabian, thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
In the past, the Oldham County horse shows have been almost at the same level as the Shelby County Horse Show, said professional trainer and judge Howard Rea. Before the population of the county exploded, the American Quarter Horse Shows were “so big you couldn’t get another trailer in,” said Rea. With the right facility and management, Rea believes Oldham County could play host to a show comparable to that in Shelbyville.
Linda Hamrock agrees that with the right person to manage and promote an Oldham County arena, the entire county would benefit. “An arena would not be just for horse people,” said Hamrock.
Hamrock heads the Ballardsville High Riders 4-H Club. The 4-H clubs have to hold their district show at Lakeside Arena in Frankfort, Ky., because there is no place in the county for one. Lakeside is booked almost solid year round, said Hamrock. she added that an arena could be used year-round in Oldham County for different purposes.
“There are so many people in the county that ride,” said Hamrock. Talk of a potential horse park in Oldham County has stalled, but she feels this would also be a facility the entire county could enjoy.
Of the 13 4-H clubs that meet in the community, six are horse clubs, said Kelly Woods, Oldham County Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development. An arena would be a “wonderful opportunity to showcase the accomplishments of 4-H members,” said Woods.
Oldham County’s tourism director, Diana Polsgrove, said that based on the success of the Shelby County Horse Show, she sees no reason why Oldham County could not do the same. “It could be very profitable,” said Polsgrove.
The economy could be boosted from visitors staying in town for shows, shopping and visiting restaurants while in town. “It would be a tremendous boon to the county,” she said.
Rea is a former president of the fair board and has spent 27 years as a 4-H leader in Kentucky. He said the area, not just the county, needs an arena. “In Indiana, every county has a 4-H facility,” said Rea. “We’ve shown at many of them.”
Rea’s children put a lot of time into 4-H programs, as did their father, both scoring the high point at the state show. Rea recently testified before a subcommittee of the Kentucky Legislature, presenting the need for an incentive program. “Kentucky is loosing a tremendous amount of horses,” said Rea.
Horses are not considered livestock, he said. When a breeding to a stallion is sold, a 6 percent sales tax must be paid. For this reason, many stallions have moved out of the state and into Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas or elsewhere. “We’re not asking for a tax cut,” said Rea. He wants to see the money used to establish an incentive program.
Former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones tried to save the horse industry in Kentucky through the Kentucky Equine Education Program. Rea compared the horse industry to Kentucky’s vanishing tobacco crop. Once they’re gone, there will be no replacing them, he said.
The area comprising the Oldham County Fair Grounds is privately owned. A nonprofit “Friends of the Oldham County Fair” group has recently formed to oversee horse arena efforts. One goal of this group is to request funding, and $2,000 has come from Fiscal Court for general fair improvements. In-kind donations are sought, such as labor and a rubberized material that Hockersmith has seen and thinks could be used for the floor of the arena.

• For more information, contact Kathy Hockersmith at (502) 222-1983 or Oldham County Cooperative Extension agent Kelly Woods at (502) 222-9453.

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