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The Carroll County Horse Park
has been the site of rodeo action this past summer

Carroll County horse park
bodes well for one in Oldham County

Ben Fronczek
Staff Writer


(October 2001) Carrollton, Ky – Kentucky sports a strong tradition with horses. The annual Kentucky Derby at Louisville’s Churchill Downs is only a part of this tradition. A significant portion of the horse population comes from nearby Oldham County.
According to county magistrate Duane Murner, Oldham is in the top 3 percent of the nation in horse population. He cannot think of a better reason to develop a horse park in Oldham County.

Carroll County Rodeo

A public interest forum will address the issue at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13 in the Oldham County Community Center. This was brought on by a recent appropriation of $4,700 from Oldham County’s Fiscal Court to fund an appraisal of the land.
“We have a great diversity of breeds and a strong 4-H interest,” said Murner. “To me, this is one of the attractive things about Oldham County.”
Murner himself has 20 years of experience in showing horses. In all those years, he never had a close-to-home venue in which to show them. Thus was born the vision of a horse park in Oldham County. Murner soon discovered he was not alone in this vision and soon was talking with fellow magistrate Mary Ellen Kinser about the project.
Before Murner made his move on a local horse park, he did his homework out of town. He visited Hoosier Horse Park in Edinburgh, Ind.
The 200-acre horse park is part of the 600-acre Johnson County Park and was built specifically for equestrian events in the 1987 Pan-American games. Funding for the facility came from the county and the state as well as private donations.
According to park superintendent Tim Davis, the project involved converting the old Camp Atterbury military base into a horse park. The county purchased the facility first for the Pan Am competitions, then later for shows and public use. It consists of a covered arena, three dressage arenas, two large stadium jumping arenas and two outdoor practice arenas. It also has 325 stalls and can accommodate more than 3,000 people.
“We used this as a model because it was successful and attracted a lot of exhibitors,” said Murner, who has been showing horses at the Johnson County Park for 10 years.
“It seems to be very well managed. The stalls are very convenient to the arena. There is an excellent P.A. and nice, open and easy parking. It’s very accessible for people wanting to show their horses.”
The park plays host to more than 60 events a year between February and October. The rest of the year the arena is still open to schools, classes and practices. There are also 10 miles of riding trails. It costs $2 to ride a horse. Renting arena ranges from $100 to $300. The cost to stall a horse is $6 per night.
Davis said the support from the county has greatly helped the running of the park.
“We can offset our prices to keep them low and have more shows here because people can afford it,” said Davis.
Murner’s efforts to develop an Oldham horse park were at first limited because a lack of an appropriate location. Then last April, La Grange resident Garnett Morgan Jr. opened a series a series of riding trails called Little Big Horse Trails on his 1,000-acre, 200-year-old farm.
Murner presented his idea to Morgan, hoping that the horse park would play in nicely with these horse trails. Plans for the park would include a covered arena and two outdoor arenas for horse shows. stalls, an area for recreational vehicles and a picnic area.
“I think it is well needed,” said Morgan. “It is going to be for all breeds and bring in a lot of interest, not only for people who want to show horses but see horse shows. I’m not so worried about it benefiting my business. It will some because people who go to the horse park may get the bug to ride.”
Murner said the vision is not enough. Naturally, the financial backing would have to be in place. Murner has drawn up a proposal for firms to bid on doing a feasibility study. Also, Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton recently visited Morgan’s land to look it over and discuss possibilities for state funding. On his Aug. 17 visit to the proposed site, Patton left optimistic about the proposed plan and said he would consider some possible funding avenues.
Meanwhile, Murner has mentioned some other possible funding sources, such as the Federal Trails Program, State Tourism Development and the Phase I Tobacco Settlement by the Agricultural Policy Board. He noted that the county itself cannot afford to be pumping money into the project.
“Fundamentally, we need sufficient support from the state so we can develop the property,” he said. “It should eventually support itself on an on-going basis. If you have a covered area, people show almost all year round. If we’re not able to secure adequate support from the state, then were not going to do this.”
The Oldham County movement for a horse park comes a decade after one was developed in English, Ky., near Carrollton. David Maiden, who had grown up riding horses, teamed with his wife, Penny, his brother, Charlie, and Carrollton residents Jimmy Aaron and Buddy Skaggs. Together, they started to develop a park that today consists of 20 acres of arenas, stalls and a recreational vehicle area.
A $5,000 contribution from Carroll County Tourism also helped start the effort in 1992. According to Penny Maiden, it was around $10,000 in private contributions as well as donated labor that made the difference.
“We knocked on doors, made phone calls and invited anyone in the community who wanted to donate their time and resources,” she said. “That is what provided the bulk of what has made this horse park. We’ve been well supported by the businesses in the community.”
The park, which opened in October 1992, was originally built on a portion of the Maiden’s land, which they leased to the Fiscal Court. Penny said that this provided an umbrella for liability purposes. Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson was Carroll County’s Judge-Executive when the Fiscal Court first leased the land. He also served on the tourism board at that time.
“It has been very well received,” said Tomlinson of the park. “It adds to the quality of life here and gives our youth something to participate in and be competitive.” The park is also used for livestock and 4-H activities.
Recently, it played host to a show sponsored by the American Quarter Horse Association.
Those behind the development of these parks are true believers in the Kentucky horse tradition. For them, horses are a part of life beyond the first weekend in May.

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