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Horse center plan still kicking

February 26, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

About 80 people showed up at the Venice Inn on Dual Highway Wednesday to demonstrate support for building a show-quality equestrian center on part of the Hagerstown Fairgrounds property.

A working group that is reviewing dozens of proposals for the property will meet today to discuss the horse-show idea.

Christine French, a professional horse trainer who is a member of that group, urged supporters to develop a plan that would accommodate as many equestrian events as possible.

"The more uses it serves, the more likely it is that the city will accept it and the more likely it will be that it will pay for itself," she said.

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Working out the details will be tricky, however. People interested in at least seven different classes of horse shows want a facility in Hagerstown. Many of these groups have markedly different requirements.

For instance, French said, draft horses - horses that pull weights in competition - need a hard, straight surface. Hunter/jumpers however, need an oval course with soft ground, she said.

Horse enthusiasts agreed on one point: Washington County needs an equestrian facility because many county residents have to travel great distances to events.

"You have enough horse people here that will support it," said June Porter, a Sharpsburg resident who is active in dressage shows. "Why should we have to go so far?"

French outlined a plan that calls for a 200-by-300 foot ring to be built in front of the grandstand off Mulberry Street. Horse stalls, water hookups and parking could be built, she said.

French said it is too early to affix a price tag to the proposal.

In addition to obvious benefits to horse people, French said the city would gain a great deal. She estimated the seven groups vying for a horse facility could sponsor several large, money-making shows a year.

That would help pay off the initial investment in the center while filling the area's hotels and restaurants, French said.

Ken Enfield, who represents the Western Maryland Jousting Club, said his discipline does not require much more than an open field.

"We're pretty easy to please," he said. "We're putting in our 2-cents worth and waiting to see what happens."

Others remained hopeful, if somewhat skeptical.

"It seemed (plausible), but the mechanics of the whole thing remains to be seen," said Cearfoss resident M.B. Hellman, who judges quarter horse events.

French and representatives of various disciplines will meet again at the Venice Inn at 7 p.m. on March 10.

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