Indoor riding ring set to open Volunteers worked, raised money to help riders with disabilities

March 06, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

An indoor riding ring opens for the 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program next month in Westminster, proving that determination can move buildings.

The volunteer group purchased a 10,000-square-foot warehouse on John Street last summer for $20,000 in donated money. Smith and Reifsnider Lumber Co. had vacated the building and sold the property to Westminster Volunteer Fire Department.

Since August, the riding program has raised nearly $90,000 to dismantle the metal building, move it several miles to the Carroll County Agriculture Center on Smith Avenue and rebuild it. Excavation added $12,000 to the cost.

"It has been a long time in the works, and it will be a long time until it is totally how we want it," said volunteer Ann Barclay. "But it will be usable this spring."

Rebuilding an existing structure cut costs nearly in half. Bob Shirley, 4-H cooperative extension agent, estimated a new building would have cost about $250,000.

Barclay acknowledged that she badgered hunt clubs, businesses, even her neighbors for donations. The United Way gave $15,000. The 4-H clubs and parents of the children in the riding program also contributed.

Shelter Systems Corp. of Maryland and Specified Commodity Carriers, a Finksburg trucking company, made sizable contributions.

Volunteers mailed several hundred letters soliciting money. They were competing for donations against the city Fire Department and agriculture center, which have undertaken major building campaigns. The effort will pay off in improved services to riders ,, with disabilities.

An indoor ring will allow volunteers to extend the program to about nine months.

The program has run for eight weeks in spring and fall -- always at the mercy of the weather.

"Last spring, we had rain or snow for seven of the eight weeks," Barclay said. "Riding was very limited."

The building also will eliminate a waiting list. Each session is limited to about 48 riders, and many want to repeat the program.

A dozen horses and a pool of about 100 volunteers work with the riders, who range in age from 2 to adult.

"Now we will have so many more days and more hours to run the program," said Karen Scott, program coordinator. "We can possibly connect with motor development programs at the schools and maybe offer stable management vocational training."

The building, which measures 67 feet by 150 feet, also offers the possibility of riding seminars, demonstrations, volunteer and instructor training, and Special Olympics trials.

"It is big enough to hold shows that will raise more money," Barclay said. "We need to put the building to work at paying for itself."

Gebhart Pole Buildings of Abbottstown, Pa., contractor for the job, has done a few rebuilding jobs.

"It takes a little longer, but we used 90 percent of the old structure," said Steve Gebhart, owner of the company.

Nearly all parts of the metal building survived the move intact, including lights and many of the fiberglass roof sections.

"The fiberglass really lets the light in," said Shirley, who founded the riding program in 1978. "Even on a dark day, you can see how light it is."

Outside will be a 40-foot access path and an outdoor ring.

To come are kick boards, to keep horses and riders from hitting walls, and 7.5-inch-thick flooring that will consist of layers of stone dust, sand and rubber -- "a nice, soft surface for the horses," Barclay said.

"One of our problems here has been rocks and hard surfaces, unsuitable for horses with disabled riders," she said. "Outdoor rings are like walking on cement for horses, really hard on their legs."

Two more donations arrived this week and will pay for the flooring.

Footings Unlimited will provide the rubber surface and the labor. Genstar is donating 500 tons of material.

The ring will take up most of the interior of the building, with space for a mounting ramp and ample room to conduct at least two activities at one time.

At nearly 20 feet, the ceiling is higher than most indoor arenas. It's tall enough to allow riders to jump with their horses.

"We can have a riding class at one end and physical therapy at the other," Shirley said.

Attached to the ring building is a 24-by-84-foot lean-to, which is open on one side.

Volunteers will tackle that space soon, adding a classroom, stalls and possibly an observation room.

Pub Date: 3/06/97

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