The J.S.Bridwell Agricultural Center is already home to dozens of horse events each year. But without a separate warm-up arena for the horses, it may not be living up to its full potential.
"It's not viewed as a space that's going to attract a lot of extra equestrian opportunities," said Wichita County Extension Agent Maranda Revell.
"When you spend $40,000 for a horse and a rig to take to a horse show, it's pretty tough to go out on a sandpit in the weather and warm up," said former Horse Committee Chairman Ed Harvill.
But all that's about to change. Today city, county, and agricultural leaders broke ground for a new warm-up arena just north of the existing Ag Center. Once the 7,000-square-foot space is completed, the horse committee expects it to bring more horse shows and competitions to town.
"It's been a long time journey. There's been a lot of people who have worked very very hard, but we are so proud to have this facility in Wichita Falls," said Wichita County Commissioner Barry Mahler at the ground-breaking.
The $64,000 for the arena were actually raised back in 1999. The Horse Committee held a Pony Express re-enactment, carrying letters into Wichita Falls from locations 60 miles away.
"We said, 'Ok, when you break ground for the stall barn, we'll be there with the check,'" Harvill said.
That money has been invested in CDs, waiting to pay for the stall barn. But after 12 years with no stall barn plans panning out, the committee instead donated it's cash to foot the bill for the warm-up arena.
Revell, who's also the coordinator for this weekend's A&M Horsemanship School, says riders will have more space to calm a misbehaving horse and prevent dangerous situations.
"It'll make events run more smoothly. It'll be a place where riders not in the ring can go and warm up their horses and be prepared for as soon as their class is called in the ring," she said.
Depending on the size of the event, she says they even use the warm-up area as a separate show arena, if necessary. The County Extension Office is hoping to have the arena completed by August 1st.