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2002/05/09


More Than A Horse Lover's Haven by Tom Burris The Mississippi Horse Park Agricenter and Fairgrounds is Starkville, Mississippi's premier location for equine, livestock, educational and spectator events. The multi-use facility is cooperatively owned by Mississippi State University, Okitibbeah County and the city of Starkville. The 100 acre multi-million dollar facility has a 69,000 square foot AgriCenter arena (250'x137'), adjacent covered open-air arena (140'x 150'), three barns, 315 stalls, 5/8-mile all-weather harnass training track and a 1,300 square foot conference room. The Horse Park is located within 300 miles of major surrounding cities: Memphis, Jackson, Mississippi, and Birmingham, Alabama. The AgriCenter arena has a 2,500 person capacity on bench-style seating. Additional seats are added on the arena floor for concert events. The arena is heated during cold winter months and well ventilated during the summer months to provide both spectators and competitors with climate comfort. In combination with the covered open-air arena, which serves as a warm-up area for equine events, there is never a need for competitors to be out in inclement weather. There are three covered barns supporting 315 stalls, complete with wash racks. Not to mention a bevy of portable pens and stalls which are set up according to the needs and nature of the event. The AgriCenter arena is complete with a fully enclosed return pen for rodeo events, making it unnecessary to take up valuable arena floor space. The Horse Park sits adjacent to the MSU agriculture and livestock pastures and is able to fully access the benefits of 24 hour vetrinary care compliments of the MSU Vet School. The Horse Park was visited by over 37,000 people in 2001 and had an over impact of $680,000 to the area. In addition to planned events, 330 people used the arena and facilities for unscheduled training. Among past and upcoming events are rodoes, barrel races, bullriding, cattle and livestock sales, fairs, motocross and concerts. It was awarded the 2000 NABA Bullring Of The Year, which enabled them to earn a showing of the PBR Challenge Tour. They have also hosted the Lipizzaner Stallions and The Golden Triangle Circus is a regular event at the Horse Park. The Mississippi Horse Park serves more than just enterainment needs. It is also an educational and service oriented facility. It is a prime facility for the university's Western equitation classes. Special classes are held for school aged children during weekday outings. Wood Majic exposed over 9,000 children in one week to variable aspects of forest production and management. A similar program, called School Days on the Farm, introduced 6,000 urban children to all things agricultural. The Horse Park recently hosted a training by MSU Extension Agents call "Agri-bility." Agri-bility is a program which seeks to engage disabled persons with enhanced farming equipment allowing them to return or continue to farm. The Horse Park is also host to 4H TEAM (Therapeutic Equine Activity Member). A once a week hippotherapy and equine therapy meeting which promotes physical, emotional and psychological benefits to individuals with special needs. Of course, an operation of this size and magnitude would not be possible without someone special at the helm. Bricklee Miller manages the Horse Park's operations as its Promotions Director. Although, Bricklee is quick to share the credit. "I am only a team manager. We really work together around here. We have to. If I have to help set up panels then that is what I do; or if I have to take care of electrical problems. We all contribute to what needs to be done around here." Bricklee is a life-long horse enthusiast. Her family centered around the livestock industry of Meridian, Mississippi. Her path to Starkville was not a direct one, but her frequent experiences in managing, coupled with high energy, positive attitude, and equine enthusiam have combined successfully for Bricklee. Bricklee's chief interest and passion lie with barrel racing. "I guess, I just like to go fast." she says. There are no judges and no opinions, just a timer. She spends her time mostly with colts and young horses. "That is something I like to fool with. I have always made my own. I don't buy barrel horses." At a recent weekend with the IBRA in town, Bricklee was pulling double duty. She deftly managed the operations at the Park, blown circuits, stall and trailer arrangements, shavings sales, all the while toting a nosy horse reporter around. Then it was off to the races. She posted a 17.629 on her five-year old SHREK to win the 4D in the race Friday night. Then on Saturday she mounted her old standby ANTS IN PANTS and posted a 15.770, good for a 2nd in the 2D. The following weekend it was her husband's turn. He is a roper. She was there cheering him on. There is not much time when Bricklee is not there. The Horse Park has 47 events scheduled this year, and 42 of them are on the weekends. If you would like more information on The Mississippi Horse Park you may call (662) 325-9350 or email bbmiller@ads.msstate.edu. To take a virtual tour of the facility, the website can be found at www.mississippihorsepark.msucares.com.

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