Victoria Horseman's Club members want to keep city lease

Sonny Long

Sept. 15, 2012 at 4:15 a.m.
Updated Sept. 16, 2012 at 4:16 a.m.

Kasidy Sheeran doesn't want to lose the Horsemen's Arena, where she grew up watching her mentors, such as Brittany Pozzi, a two-time world champion barrel racer, perform.

Kasidy Sheeran doesn't want to lose the Horsemen's Arena, where she grew up watching her mentors, such as Brittany Pozzi, a two-time world champion barrel racer, perform.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

Six-year-old Avery Bartay doesn't hesitate when asked what she likes about riding horses.

"It's fun and I can feel the breeze in my hair," she said, smiling.

That smile quickly fades when asked how she feels that the Horseman's Club Arena might not be available for her to ride her horse - 21-year-old Jewel.

Avery covers her face with her hands.

"Last night was the first time I told her about it and the tears came a falling," said Avery's mother, LaSher Bartay, the second secretary in the Horseman's Club. "She got really sad."

"We wouldn't have a place to ride or practice," said Bartay. "She enjoys getting together with other kids. They have a ball. There's more kids in this town that do this sport than people realize. That's our only facility in this town."

An item on Tuesday's agenda for the Victoria City Council proposes a resolution calling for the termination of the lease agreement between the city and the Horseman's Club.

The lease expires Dec. 31, 2014.

Karen Sheeran, 42, rode in the arena as did her mother, Diana Stevens. Her daughter, Kasidy, rides there now. Sheeran's mother-in-law, the late Sandra Sheeran, also rode there.

Sheeran said the arena is not only part of numerous families' legacies, but the town's history as well.

Two-time world champion barrel racer Brittany Pozzi, who has won about $1.5 million in her career, rode in the arena. World champion roper Joe Beaver rode in the arena, Sheeran said.

"It's a historical part of town and we hate to see it abandoned," said Sheeran. "To us, it's no different than some of the older buildings in town."

The Victoria Horseman's Club has been in Riverside Park since 1953.

Kasidy, 13, has been riding horses all her life.

"Mom said I started riding right out the hospital," Kasidy said then laughed. "I won my first buckle in that arena when I was 4."

Losing the lease on the arena would be devastating, Stevens said.

"These kids learn a lot from this equine facility," she said.

Kasidy agreed.

"It teaches me to be responsible," she said. "It also keeps me out of trouble because I spend so much time with the horses. It also teaches me that you win some, you lose some. Life lessons."

Katherine Barnes, 21, has also ridden in the arena all her life, excelling enough to win scholarships from horse competitions while in high school.

"My parents got a horse for my older brother. He didn't ride it, but I did when I was about 3," Barnes said.

"That's the first arena I fell off in. It's a good arena to fall off in," said Barnes.

Unless the Horseman's Club remedies some of the problems at the arena, no more first falls will take place there if the resolution passes Tuesday.

Doug Cochran, Victoria's Parks and Recreation director, said the Horseman's Club has been informed numerous times what violations at the arena constitute breaches of contract.

According to the resolution on Tuesday's agenda, those breaches include providing a plan for improvements of the restrooms, maintaining the fences, concession stand, and bleachers as well as electrical connections not being up to code.

The resolution also states that current fees charged for using the arena do not match the fees set out in the lease agreement.

In addition, according to the resolution, the Horseman's Club also has not provided the city a list of revenues and expenditures for the concession stand.

"We're doing as much as we can to bring in money to make repairs. We don't get any help from the city," said club secretary Sarah Parsons.

If the resolution passes, the club would have 30 days to fix all breaches of the contract.

At least two Victoria city councilman contacted by the Advocate think terminating the lease is going too far.

"Termination seems extreme at this point," said Councilman Emett Alvarez. "I have been visiting with members of the Horseman's Club the past couple of months. I want to continue to work with them to address the issues. I would like to give them some more time and see what can be done."

Fellow councilman Paul Polasek also would like to work things out with the club.

"Personally, I think when you take a look at our agreements with other entities we are asking this group to do too much," said Polasek. "I want to create a new lease agreement and take some of the burden off this volunteer organization. I want to work with them to bring the arena up to city standards."

Members of the Horseman's Club say they plan to attend Tuesday's meeting to plead their case.

"We want them to see our side. As it says in our mission statement, it's for the youth," said Sheeran. "With a little help from the city, we can make that place grand again."



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