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Search for perfect arena dirt continues

A group of local equestrians are volunteering their support tothe Lincoln County Mulit-Purpose Commission in the ongoing searchfor the perfect dirt.

The group, headed by National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA)Director Valorie Oglesby, is offering to provide funding to haveyet another type of material for the arena floor trucked in andinstalled. The material is being donated by Pike County’s FredBoyd, a well-known local equestrian, and Oglesby’s group views itas a satisfactory material to replace the existing arena floor.

Oglesby said she and her associates are willing to pay in excess of$2,500 to bring in the new material.

“We’ll do whatever we need to come in and help the arena to bringin this new dirt,” she said. “We’re hoping we can get it done with$2,500. If that’s not enough, we’ll have to bring more in and wewill pay that as well. And if there’s a fee for coming in andleveling the arena, we’ll pay that as well.”

Oglesby said she and her group are hoping the newest round ofmaterial will be conducive to all equine disciplines – a conditionrequired by the commission – and safer for horses to run on.

The commission has had difficulties as of late achieving thosegoals.

Earlier this year, loads of river-washed sand were trucked in fromFranklin County, but after several adjustments was deemed too looseand removed from the arena. The commission compensated in mid-Marchby bringing in the current material, which was touted as atemporary fix while a better flooring was found.

The latest dirt, too, has proven unsatisfactory.

“The current dirt is not usable,” Oglesby said. “It’s packing, andit’s just not usable for any discipline. The kids and adults thatare coming in there are riding so hard and so fast, if the groundis slippery or hard, the chances of someone getting hurt are muchgreater. We’ve had a lot of slips and falls and close calls, anddon’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Oglesby commended the commission in its efforts to find the rightmaterial, but pointed to the commission’s funding as the limitingfactor in making more progress.

“That’s why we’re offering to come in – we’re the ones that utilizethe facility,” she said. “We’re happy to try it and cooperate withthe commission however we need to.”

Quinn Jordan, manager of the Lincoln County Multi-Purpose Complex,welcomed Oglesby’s assistance.

“The facility is looking forward to working with a group ofvolunteers in order to better the footing at the arena,” he said.”We’re willing to work with the public in any way to improve notonly the footing, but any and all problems that may occur at thisfacility.”

Even so, the commission has not authorized Oglesby’s group to takeany action. The commission requested the group gather the supportof local equestrians involved in other disciplines beyond justbarrel racing and return to the commission with those supportersbefore any authorization is granted.

But even those steps are not guaranteed to produce the commission’sapproval. Concerns exist over the Pike County material the group ispursuing.

“One of the concerns of the new dirt is its requirement of theright amount of moisture to obtain quality footing,” Jordan said,noting that Boyd uses the material in his personal arena only withdaily moistening – and the multi-purpose arena does not have awatering system. “That is something we can work through as the needarises.”

Jordan said a sample of the Pike County material sent to thecommission’s Tennessee consultant was deemed not usable on its own,but to be mixed with another type of material.

However, the commission is prepared to give Oglesby’s group itsfull attention if it returns with a wide range of support.

“As soon as they get the support, they can bring it straight to meand I will get the information to the commissioners,” Jordan said.”We’re not going to wait another month if they can get it togetherin a few days. We’re willing to work with this group in a timelymanner.”

Both parties are devoted to correcting the arena’s problems as soonas possible – the arena’s livelihood could be at stake. Oglesby hasrecently canceled NBHA events usually held at the arena due toconcerns over the flooring, and South Mississippi Horse AssociationDirector Linda Case has moved her events to an arena inGallman.

Jordan and the commission admitted that mistakes have been made inthe search for the perfect dirt, but those mistakes have not beenmade haphazardly.

“We haven’t just tried to do this by shooting from the hip,” hesaid. “What we’ve done since we’ve taken over the facility has beenbased on both economics and logistics. We’ve looked at multipleareas and taken the advice of multiple entities to get where weare.”

Though Oglesby’s group and the commission left a Tuesday nightmeeting on the same page, the road to cooperation has been adifficult one. Patience has, at times, worn thin on both sides, andTuesday night’s meeting was a testy one.

Oglesby, frustrated by the debates, even attempted to bypass thecommission Monday by going straight to the Lincoln County Board ofSupervisors. Board president the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson attendedTuesday night’s commission meeting to familiarize himself with theevents.

To involve the public in the development of the arena and the restof the multi-purpose complex, Jordan has created Wednesday at One,a weekly public relations meeting held every Wednesday at 1 p.m. atthe complex. Jordan invites all concerned members of the public toattend the meetings with suggestions, recommendations andcomments.