June 30, 2016 : By Melissa Skinner
When he was hired as executive director of the Liberty University Equestrian Center last August, Jim Arrigon was given the opportunity to expand the facility to accommodate the growing men's and women's equestrian programs.
"I've built facilities before but nothing like this," said Arrigon, the national secretary for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) since 1991. He has coached nearly three dozen national championship riders in his career, mostly during his 15 years spent at Miami of Ohio. "This is a much larger scale than anything I've worked on before. (Liberty's administration) has let me design everything, right down to the details, so it's been terrific."
Located on 380 acres on Liberty Mountain in Campbell County, Liberty's University's Equestrian Center has recently made structural additions, transforming it into one of the largest venues of its kind in Virginia.
The existing outdoor ring was expanded and covered to provide a 300-foot by 120-foot indoor arena, which is now the second largest collegiate indoor riding arena in Virginia. The new arena features a state-of-the-art ventilation system and Euro-fiber surface that will provide horses with a footing ideal for riding and jumping events.
"We hand-selected this Euro-carpet textile that has carpet fibers and little chunks of rubber in it, so it's a little bit springy and when mixed with a special type of sand, is a little bit softer on their feet," Arrigon said. "It's like creating an artificial surface that's better than the natural surface. The carpet fiber holds it all together so it doesn't shift under your feet. It stays really solid."
|After construction is complete, Liberty University's Equestrian Center will have the second largest collegiate indoor riding arena in Virginia. (Photo by Mitchell Bryant)|
In addition to the indoor arena, Liberty added a new outdoor arena of the same dimensions, as large as any collegiate ring in the Commonwealth, nearly doubling the university's riding acreage dedicated to equestrian. The outdoor arena also has lights for nighttime riding.
Formerly, riding teams had to take turns practicing in one outdoor riding ring. This semester, with nearly four times as much riding space available, Arrigon and Western Riding Coach Lauren Eagles can hold practices simultaneously.
"(The new rings) are going to give us a really nice place to host shows, and it will open up our campus for a lot of people from the outside to come to the shows that we host here," Arrigon said. "It'll be a good outreach for Liberty into the community."
Liberty is also adding a third barn nearly identical to the one added in 2014. The new barn will be equipped with stalls to board the 25 team horses and will also include locker rooms and team rooms for the riders as well as coaches' offices. It will be completed this fall, increasing the number of stalls available to 52 in the main barn complex and 78 total on the farm.
With these new additions, Liberty's equestrian program will be the third largest in Virginia, with 35 equestrian team riders, 20 student boarders, and potentially 18 students in new kinesiology classes.
|The new 300-foot by 140-foot outdoor riding ring at the Liberty University Equestrian Center will feature lights. (Photo by Mitchell Bryant)|
While it will not host any IHSA events this school year, Liberty will use the facility to stage Virginia Horse Shows Association and Southwest Virginia Hunter-Jumper Association events open to the public starting this summer. Starting this fall, Liberty will host some JV shows for its beginner riders.
Liberty's Hunter Seat teams will shift from Region 5 to Region 4 this fall. Rather than traveling to southern Virginia and North Carolina, riders will compete against schools to the east, including Mary Washington, Richmond, VCU, William & Mary, and Old Dominion.
Arrigon added that he is excited about plans in place to develop a therapeutic riding program for military veterans or police officers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) early next year. The program will utilize retired horses and professional trainers as well as volunteer counselors.