Back in the saddle


Herald Writer

BRIER – Allie never takes off her shoes or coat, which poses a problem for the stubborn 17-year-old, who goes running four times a week.

Especially since the track is a dust bowl in summer and a mud bowl in winter.

But beginning today that will change when the Brier Community Horse Arena reopens.

Allie, Ruth Carroll’s 17-year-old mare, should trot home after her workout sporting a shiny coat and spotless shoes. The arena’s dusty surface, which made it a dirty business to go riding, was removed and replaced. Instead of kicking up a cloud of dust, Allie can kick up her heels.

Thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Snohomish County Department of Parks and Recreation to the city of Brier, the horse arena’s old covering of woodchips is gone. In its place, a granulithic surface of compressed rock and sand, designed to be dust-free, was laid three-inches deep over a base of crushed rock, said Susan Ernst, a Brier horse owner.

The new surface should make the 100- by 215-foot arena accessible to equestrians year-round.

Since 1995, the horse arena has been unusable in winter, said Ernst, a member of the Brier Horse Network, which maintains the arena. Built in 1983, the arena was constructed on city property by volunteers. Garage sales, bake sales and donations paid for the arena.

The original sand-base surface, which also generated dust, was replaced in 1989 by four truckloads of wood chips. But after five years, the chips had begun to crumble, badly. It was dust in the summer and mud in the winter.

By 1995, neighbors were complaining about the mess. Horse clubs packed up and took their saddles elsewhere.

In the meantime, the Brier Horse Network, with 70 members, began lobbying the county council for grant money to resurface the arena.

The arena provides an important focus for the city, said Kathy Dittmar, another Brier horse owner.

"The Brier area was founded in 1965 as a horse community," Dittmar said.

On weekends at the arena, instructors give lessons in horsemanship, and veterinarians conduct horse clinics. Kids ready their geldings and mares for 4-H competition. Riders play games on horseback, such as barrel racing or pole bending.

And spectators, young and old, line the fences.

"People come up and pet your horses," horse owner Peggy Dare said.

Members of the Brier Horse Network and county officials celebrated the reopening of the arena Tuesday night with music, food and horses. The arena had been closed for three weeks while being resurfaced.

In the last year, it’s undergone other improvements as well. Last fall, a Brier Eagle Scout, Brett Irvine, organized a work party to replace the structural posts and rails, Ernst said. The drainage system also has been improved.

Use of the arena, located across from City Hall, on the corner of 228th Avenue SW and 29th Avenue W, is free. Volunteers level the surface once a week.

Members of the network ask only that horse owners, like dog owners, pick up after Dobbin.

"We added two new barrels and a manure fork," Ernst said.

You can call Herald Writer Janice Podsada at 425-339-3029 or send e-mail to

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