Tucked away in the Clinch River Valley in the town of Dungannon lies Scott County, Virginia's greatest manmade asset - the Scott County Horse Park.
The Scott County Horse Park recently completed its fifth showing season, and Scott County Regional Horse Association President Sherry B. Hilton reported record crowds for the year. The Park’s first "Bull Riding" event had almost 1,000 participants and spectators packed into the 12.46-acre complex this August.
The 2011 competition season featured nine shows with an average of 300 entrants per show. Of those 300 participants per show, Hilton said 78 percent reside outside Scott County.
"The majority of riders come from Tennessee, followed by Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia," she explained. "All of these competitors have family who travel with them to shows. They spend money in our region that translates into good tourism dollars."
Hilton is a relatively new equestrian. Once she purchased her first horse, she was hooked. It was this love of riding that led Hilton and her fellow equestrians to form the Scott County Regional Horse Association. On a cold January day in 2004, 97 people showed up at Keith Memorial Park in Nickelsville for an informational meeting on forming a horse association.
The loose-knit group all loved their horses and trail riding and all agreed they were tired of traveling out of the county and out of Virginia to show their horses. Without a park of its own, the horse association held its first show at Bunny B Stables in nearby Kingsport, Tenn. The event just happened to be the same week as Fun Fest, Kingsport’s nine-day family festival, and the first Scott County Regional Horse Association Show became the "unofficial" Fun Fest Horse Show in 2004.
Two years later, the Scott County Regional Horse Association had raised enough money and gained the support of the Scott County leadership to lease the 12.46 acres in Dungannon, which at that time was owned by the Scott County Economic Development Authority. Sponsorships and membership involvement enabled the Association to purchase the land three years later and build the Park’s show ring and other needed outbuildings. A Tobacco Commission grant in 2011 helped the park develop campsites complete with electrical hookups, a bath house and bath room facilities. The Horse Park has a concession stand, but Hilton explained it is run by local charitable organizations.
"We have a full kitchen and we invite local churches or charities to come in and provide the concessions," Hilton explained. The Association also works with regional organizations and, each year, works with the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail Association to provide riders for re-enactments at the Wilderness Road Blockhouse at Natural Tunnel State Park.
The last show of each season is traditionally "Riding for a Reason," in which proceeds from the event are donated to a local charitable organization. As horse enthusiasts, the group also provides assistance to Small Miracles in Kingsport.
The Association is additionally heavily involved in Youth Programming and provides a family atmosphere at the Horse Park. Classes shown at Scott County Horse Park include Model, Go As You Please, Trail Racking, Performance, Saddlebred and Juvenile.
Hilton and the Scott County Regional Horse Association continue working to make the Scott County Horse Park bigger and better. "There is a lot of potential here in terms of tourism dollars, and we hope to be the springboard for an entire series of riding trails in Scott County." The Association is working with the Spearhead Trail Authority to help develop a network of trail riding paths.
At the top of the "want" list is a horse barn that would give out-of-town participants a place to house their horses overnight.
Hilton is grateful for the community support received for the Scott County Horse Park. She stressed no tax payer dollars were used in the construction or operation of the Park.
"We run the Horse Park like a business. Everything we make is reinvested back into the park." The Association does receive $5,000 annually from the Virginia Horse Industry for promotion of the Park and its shows and development of youth programs.
"This is really a community effort. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with everyone working together."
The Scott County Horse Park holds shows April thru October, and is available year-round for rental. Riders are also encouraged to bring their horses to practice in the ring anytime during the year. For more information, visit the website at http://www.schorse.org/. The 2012 Show Bill will be available in Februarycomments powered by Disqus