By TIM THORNBERRY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Horse lovers of all ages and disciplines seek events, competitive and otherwise, to quench their thirst for working with the animals. For that, Lakeside Arena, located on the Franklin-Woodford County line in central Kentucky, is giving them all the “water” they can stand.
The farm is host to monthly equine events that bring in thousands of enthusiasts from all over the region and eastern part of the country. Bruce Brown owns Lakeside, which is situated near his Thoroughbred boarding operation known as Fairview Farms.
He and his wife grew up showing horses, and realized there weren’t many show venues around when their children became old enough to participate. “This wasn’t meant to compete in any way with the Kentucky Horse Park or the state fairgrounds, but those were the alternatives,” he said. “This was a diversification of our Thoroughbred holdings and we knew the needs here, so that’s how we got started.”
The arena has now grown to cover 108,000 square feet with two indoor arenas measuring 130-by-227 feet, with about 200 stalls and the capability to set up another 100. As with everything, the economy has been a factor in all sectors of the state’s horse industry, but Brown said the winter tournament show season has been up.
“Some aspects of horse showing are holding strong. I think it’s because there are less people hauling on a national basis than what we used to see, but there are more people, at least in this area, still wanting to show so they are staying closer to home, and I think that is helping us,” he said.
Brown explained many horse riders today want a consistent place to show that keeps them out of the weather, and those people will travel to get to those venues. That was what he had in mind in building Lakeside.
“Basically, the attributes that we looked for in a facility, if we were going to load up and go someplace, is what we wanted here and we didn’t have any in the central Kentucky area,” Brown said.
And with different organizations, including the Bluegrass Winter Tournament Assoc. (BWTA), Brown said it has been good to watch them grow by having a place like the arena to come to throughout the year. Quarter Horse and hunter-jumper organizations, along with reining groups and collegiate equitation teams, also take advantage of the facility.
Lakeside has been in operation since 1999, building quite a reputation in this part of the country, so much that Brown said the facility is busy about 40 weekends a year – which is a good thing considering the money it takes to operate such a place. But his philosophy is to keep it comfortable so people will keep coming back.
Brown, who comes from Ohio, knows how popular the horse industry is in Kentucky, be it show horses or Thoroughbreds.
“I don’t think people know how diversified the breeds are in this state. There’s a huge Saddlebred group, Arabians, Quarter Horses and a lot of different disciplines,” he said. “And we get a lot of people in the Thoroughbred industry that do reining or jumping or ride Saddlebreds as their avocation. There’s a big crossover. They do it both for their living and recreation.”
Many of the organizations that participate in events at Lakeside do so with young or new riders. Todd Walker, along with his wife, Alison, members of the BWTA, own and operate a training-boarding Saddlebred operation in nearby Scott County. Todd Walker said having a place like this is ideal to bring new riders.
“This gives riders the opportunity, over the winter months to practice and get better,” he said. “This place is climate-controlled so we don’t have to face the elements, and it just a wonderful facility.”
Walker said coming to Lakeside and participating puts riders in a horse-show atmosphere without going to an actual horse show, many of which are held in the summer months in outdoor arenas.
He also noted many of the new riders aren’t necessarily young, but those who have always wanted to try – and maybe fulfill a childhood dream.
The last BWTA event hosted nearly 40 classes giving many riders a chance at competing and learning the basics of showing their horses.
“This provides a fantastic first step for new riders,” Walker said. “I think the future of the horse business is good, but this, the academy classes for new riders, gives them a chance to show without owning a horse, and I believe that’s a wonderful thing because it gets more people involved in the horse industry and that’s good for the business.”
To contact Lakeside for information or to schedule an event, email lakeside firstname.lastname@example.org or call 859-489-4885.