Want to know the plan?

After much debate and planning, on 15 September 2016 the Waitsburg Fairgrounds Committee approved a plan to bring forward to Waitsburg City Council on September 20th. The plan proposes a renovation of the existing horse facilities at the Waitsburg Fairgrounds as well as construction of new riding arenas and amenities. It also explains in minute detail pasture management strategy, poo policy, and pest control-- being horse people, I expect you are the very few that might actually be interested in that sort of thing. 

The design and facilities plan were developed incorporating feedback from horse people who participated in a survey in the spring, altered to accommodate the conflicting needs and space requirements of active community groups, as well as giving consideration to the City of Waitsburg who owns and maintains the fairgrounds property.

Primary activities include:

  • Recreational facility for equestrians to ride, attend riding clinics/seminars, and compete at small local-level schooling shows and competitions.
  • Coordination with 4-H, FFA, and other organizations to ensure that kids have access to recreation, mentoring or learning opportunities related to horses and livestock, as well as avenues for club fundraising at local equestrian events.
  • Horse hotel/Short-term layup facility that would serve southeast Washington for equestrian travelers, horses with emergency health needs (founder cases, recovery from injury or surgery, etc) who require stall rest/convalescence and a level of care not available at any local facility. Critical care and infectious disease cases would be out of scope for this facility. 
  • Year-round boarding facility for a handful of locals.

Our goals are threefold:

  1. Provide a horse-friendly environment where dedication to the welfare of the animals is priority. 
  2. Create a resource that our community can be proud of, owned and operated as a co-operative by the people of Waitsburg.
  3. Make Waitsburg a desirable destination for traveling horse people and equestrian tourism by creating a horse facility of exceptional quality, and offering events that draw people to our town.

The proposal will be heard by Waitsburg City Council on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM, 20th September 2016 at the Lion's Club Building at the Fairgrounds. Please come and show your support.

You can download a PDF version of THE FULL PROPOSAL HERE. THIS ABBREVIATED DOCUMENT will be presented to City Council.

If you have any feedback or questions, I'd love to hear from you, and will post any relevant Q & A on this page. Please use the form below:


Name *

Q & A:


There is not enough room for horse trailer parking. My trailer is a modest 18 feet. But those who travel and compete have trailers almost 50 feet long with living quarters. Without appropriate parking space no one will come. You can make or break an event with no parking just a thought.  

-Glenda Barron


That's a great insight, Glenda, and something we've been discussing amongst ourselves as well. Frankly, having enough people show up to *have* a parking problem is a problem I would love to have, but we certainly don't have the parking capacity for more than small clinics at this time. I pull a 35' gooseneck myself and recognize the limitations. 

In the Fairgrounds Committee we've discussed several options, including:

  • Improving the city owned area along the play fields on College Avenue for parking
  • Better utilizing the available city land on the east side
  • Moving the arenas to a different location on grounds to increase parking
  • Speaking to adjacent farmers to see if there is the opportunity for land lease or sale for that purpose.

Currently the only electrical/water hookups are available on the west side of the grounds for RV hookups and the spaces are quite modest, as are the restrooms and showers, which has been another topic of discussion. Keeping the arena in proximity of the stables is important, as is keeping horses and traffic separated as much as possible for safety. We'll continue evaluating our options and work together to find a good solution. Thanks so much for speaking up!




Suze: Thank you for your leadership and hard work on this important project. I have one very small pice of input. For the last several years I have been feeding a colony of cats out of one of the stalls. the cat colony has been important from the standpoint of keeping rodent population under control. I have about 10 cats in the colony, some friendly - some not). Please let me know the impact of your plan on the colony. I will do whatever I can to help. Again- thanks for your work on behalf of Waitsburg.

-John, Waitsburg Hardware 


John, thanks so much for reaching out! I'm not apposed to having a barn cat or two but the impact on the cats in this particular colony would depend on a few factors:

  • Are they spayed/neutered?
  • Have they already been receiving regular health care for fleas/ringworm/heartworm, etc and are in good health?
  • Do they use a litter box? We wouldn't want feral cats having access to spray or defecate on the horse's food sources, or damage expensive tack or equipment, or create a stinky environment.
  • Are friendly enough to handle or are they a safety risk to humans and horses?
  • Are they already savvy to negotiating around horses? If they startle a horse and are underfoot they would be at risk of getting seriously injured.
  • Have they been sharing water sources with wildlife? If so, they'd be a health risk to the horses for EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis) which is an infection of livestock by contamination of water and food sources by wildlife.

Another consideration is that the horse area will be fenced with no-climb to prevent wildlife from getting to the horses or tainting their food and water supplies. If cats are in that perimeter, they wouldn't easily have access to get out and hunt. My guess from what you are describing and the few cats that I've caught glimpses of is that we'd want to work together to make sure they're healthy, rescued and re-homed to a safer location where possible. Let's get together and talk if this proposal is passed and see what we can do.




Proposal looks great. Someone has obviously put a lot of thought and work into this. One thing I didn't find in my quick read was an arena monthly usage rate for haul-ins. The mentioned $10-20 per individual use may be prohibitive for someone wanting to use the covered arena on a regular basis (e.g. 3-5 days per week) but not board. At the individual use rate, someone using the arena 4-5 times per week will be paying in the range of those boarding. Assuming that boarding space will be rather limited and possibly wait-listed, and assuming that those not choosing to board may also have financial reasons for not doing so, incentivizing additional haul-in use would serve to increase draw and revenues from a population that would not otherwise use the facilities.

-Sonya Glaus


Thanks, Sonya! You bring up a good point that wasn't addressed in the original document, and I've added this bit to the final doc, thanks to you. 

"Use fees will be determined collectively by members of the cooperative, balancing the need for accessibility and competitive rates with operational financial requirements. It is expected that co-op members will enjoy discounts on use of the equestrian facilities, and there may be potential for co-operative members to exchange facility access for clearly defined, approved, tracked, and necessary labor."

Basically, I want it to be accessible to all, with incentives for our co-op membership to use it regularly, and clear paths available to those who might not normally have the financial means to use it regularly, whether that's haul-in or stable use. Another way to reduce cost might be to have time slots reserved for inexpensive group rides in addition to reserved exclusive use. Ultimately, co-op members will be the ones looking at operational costs and deciding what the rates or fees are. Monthly haul-in rates can be a part of that. Super helpful feedback! Thank you.




 Hi, I am concerned with the fact that you a eliminating a portion of the race track. I know that most of you believe that horse racing will never return, but I am an optimist and believe it will. Taking out any portion of the track will be the nail in the coffin of legal pari-mutuel racing in Waitsburg. Please reconsider this as another venue that will bring in revenue to Waitsburg as it has in the past. I have strong roots in Waitsburg and hate to see our history not preserved.

-Lisabeth Huston


Hi Lisabeth. Thanks for taking the time to post and for sharing your feelings about this very sensitive matter. You aren't alone-- I've heard a lot of talk about the track, horse racing, and how much the community would love to have it back. I'm sorry that I never had the chance to see it-- it sounds like it was an amazing community event. I've spent a lot of time talking to people much more knowledgable and more in the know than I, both here in Waitsburg who put on the event, and who work in the industry on the west side where racing is still going strong. The dwindling population of racing horses, trainers, economics, and pressures that the Washington State Horse Racing Commission are under make it seem pretty unlikely that racing can come back anytime soon, but you're right-- you just never know.

What I can tell you with absolute certainty is this: The Waitsburg Fairgrounds will never pass inspection in its current state. The buildings are run down, the fencing is out of code, the Grandstands need a major overhaul to be able to have even one person on them much less a crowd. If you really want racing to come back, help get the fairgrounds ship shape, so when the opportunity comes, we're ready for it. When and if there's an opportunity to bring racing back, we can collaborate to make sure that you have full access to the stalls and space you need to have for that weekend's event. Specific to the changes to the track, I've been told that the small piece of rail that's proposed to come out isn't required to race, and we can always move fences and put in what we need when the time comes. 

In the meantime, let's get the Fairgrounds back in shape and build something that benefits the people of the community now, directly, and support the other horse sports that are currently still going strong in this area. Thank you for listening.



You should attempt to contact the American Pony Club (USPC) to see if they would be interested in hosting events here-you may not have the area for steeple chase events.

-Lynn Martin

A: Thanks, Lynn! I agree-- it would be great to have them involved, and even greater if our Waitsburg kids had a chance to participate in that club. Thankfully, Alexa Maine who is deeply involved with the Walla Walla (USPC) chapter, was one of the first and most enthusiastic responders to the survey back in the spring, and lined out the specs they would need. You're right-- I think steeplechase/CX is probably off the table in the current footprint, but something fun to consider building out in the future. Thanks for taking to time to make sure we are involving that group!



I would like to know how this is going to affect the current pig barn facilities. Currently several families that would not be able to show 4H or FFA take advantage of the current facilities. Many horse people do not like and don't want to be around pigs/pig facilities. How are you going to make that work in coordination with current activities that take place. Has anyone talked to current 4H leader or the FFA advisor?

-Christy House

A: Hi Christy! I'm really glad you reached out. I was the lady at the grocery store asking for a chance to speak with you after you made it through the fair events. To my knowledge, Kevin has been the only person with connections to FFA/4H who has attended any of the Fairgrounds meetings to date. There are three parts of the plan that have potential to impact the pigs:

  • We're hoping to paint the west/north and south sides white to match the rest of the buildings during the work party and potentially do some plantings on the west side in the spring.
  • Depending on the final layout, the animals would receive the same security gate protection as the rest of the horse area and might be in sightline of a security camera depending on their placement. I'm concerned about the situation that happened last summer with the pigs being let out without water, and want to ensure that there isn't a similar situation with the horses which is why there is perimeter fencing in the plan. All families needing access would be given a pin-access code to come and go as they please. 
  • I'd ask that the slaughtering of any animals be done offsite.

From my perspective, the more diversity of animals the better, and the point of this plan is to bring more opportunities to kids, not less. Farrel McWhirter Park in Redmond, WA does an exceptional job of mixing their horse program with a little farm/petting zoo. I'd love to see something like that get going. As far as horse people not liking pigs, that's probably true, but pig people might not like horses either. They'll just have to learn to get along. Both are contained in separate spaces. After the renovation, there will be a few stalls in Barn B where we can put any guest horses who find the pigs too exciting with turnout on the west side of the facility.


Waitsburg Equestrians Survey Results

4 March 2016 8:26am through 19 March 2016 11:00a.m.


The survey was designed to better understand the needs of our local community of equestrians. Specifically, the intent was to identify what types of riding disciplines they participate in, what facilities they have interest in using, what types of events they would like to see and/or participate in, and how that interest is likely to be supported by volunteerism, fundraising, and membership efforts.

Focus Group:

Horse people reached through Facebook campaign or e-mail who self-identified as living within 10 miles of Waitsburg, or who were from the area and willing to trailer in to ride at the Waitsburg Fairgrounds. Facebook campaign was surfaced (“reached” in Facebook terms) to 943 people, received 92 post clicks, and had 38 reactions (like, love), with 12 shares. E-mail was also sent to local horse people as well as key community members who could be counted on to help spread the word.

Those campaign efforts resulted in 108 people going to the online survey page (hosted at http://www.dukeandremington.com/waitsburg-equestrians), where they saw the full survey form and this message:

“The City of Waitsburg is working on a plan to revitalize our Waitsburg Fairgrounds. If you are a horse person and live within 10 miles of Waitsburg, or would gladly travel to Waitsburg for horse activities, we'd love to get your thoughts! Please fill out the survey below:”

Of those 108 page views, 24 people completed the survey.

Two active local horse people who use both Dayton and Walla Walla Fairgrounds facilities regularly but do not use the internet were contacted offline and given paper versions of the survey to complete, for a total of 26 surveys completed.


We have a diverse group of equestrians who participate in a wide variety of equestrian sports. The largest poll segment lists “trail riding” as their primary riding activity, followed by an equal division between a variety of Western and English disciplines, with Dressage and Barrel Racing being the top two. This diversity speaks to the need to develop adaptable ground and versatile facilities which can be enjoyed by all. While only two people identified a primary riding discipline which involve cattle, 50% enjoy some form of cattle work (Cutting, Ranch Sorting, Roping, or Working Cow Horse) as a secondary riding interest.

Our riders invest in their horsemanship, with more than half being active competitors, another 15% aspiring to compete, and nearly 3/4 participating in clinics, lessons, or ongoing training. Members of the Blue Mountain Riders, Walla Walla Pony Club, Valley Girls Barrel Racing Association, and Blue Mountain Dressage & Combined Training participated in the survey and several expressed interest in utilizing the facility for their club events. This suggests the need to design the equestrian area to support learning opportunities, competitive events, and bodes well for drawing people from a variety of different equestrian social networks from outside the area to come participate in events.

The largest facility need is clearly adequate riding arenas, with 96% requesting a Covered Arena, followed closely by an All Weather Outdoor arena, 61% would like a Warm-up arena (note the strong correlation to competitive riders), 42% would like access to a Round Pen, and 32% a Dressage Court. The inability to use the existing Don Thomas Building due to poor footing or lack of access was also a trend in the Comment section. Half of the polled also requested access to riding trails which introduces an intriguing use and opportunity for the surrounding area. Other amenities desired by >15% of the riders include Wash Rack, Arena Mirrors, Jumps, Roping Chutes, and Grazing/Turn Out areas.

42% of people polled would explicitly like to have horse boarding options (Short Term, Full Board, or Lay-up) available, and the percentage jumps to 69% if you include people who requested RV hook-up and Dry Camping which would seem to imply an overnight stay requiring some sort of stabling for their horses.

100% are willing to lend their support through at least one of the following: volunteerism, fundraising efforts, and/or membership or use fees. 81% expressed willingness to do all three.

Below are the survey results by percentages, and comments from participants:

What is your primary riding discipline? * (one answer allowed)

  • 31% Trail Riding
  • 19% Barrel Racing, Dressage
  • 4%     English Equitation, Eventing, Gaming/Gymkana, Reining, Roping, Vaquero, Western Pleasure Show, Working Cow Horse
  • 0%     (No responders) Combined Driving, CX, Drill Team, Endurance, Fox Hunting, Hunter/Jumpers, Parade, Para-Equestrian, Polo, Ranch Sorting,Saddle Seat, Show Jumping, Vaulting

What other riding do you enjoy? (multiple answers allowed)

  • 35%     Ranch Sorting
  • 27%    Trail Riding
  • 23%    Roping
  • 19%     Dressage, Gaming/Gymkhana, Hunter/Jumpers
  • 15%    Barrel Racing, Parade
  • 11%    Cutting, English Equitation, Eventing, Reining, Show Jumping, Vaquero, Western Pleasure Show, Working Cow Horse
  • 8%     Combined Driving, Drill Team
  • 4%    CX, Endurance
  • 0%    (No responders) Fox Hunting, Para-Equestrian, Polo, Saddle Seat, Vaulting,

Do you compete? *

  • 58%     Yes
  • 27%     No
  • 15%     Not currently, but plan to in the future.

Do you participate in lessons, ongoing training, or riding clinics? *

  • 73% Yes
  • 27% No

What facilities would you like to have access to in Waitsburg? *

  • 96% Covered Arena
  • 92% Outdoor All-Weather Arena
  • 61% Warm up Area
  • 50% Trails
  • 46% Wash rack
  • 42% Round Pen, Arena Mirrors
  • 38% Short-Term Horse Care (vacation care, visitors)
  • 35% RV Hookup, Dry Camping
  • 30% Dressage Court, Roping Chutes
  • 27% Emergency Lay-up Stabling
  • 19% Jump Standards, Mounting Area, Self-care Boarding, Grazing/Turnout Areas
  • 15% Cross Country Course
  • 11% Club House, Full Service Boarding, Hot Walker, Race Track

Would you be willing to contribute volunteer hours to have access to these facilities? *

  • 92%  Yes
  • 8% No

Would you be willing to help with fundraising to have access to these facilities? *

  • 88% Yes
  • 12% No

Would you be willing to pay a membership fee or use fee to have access to these facilities? *

  • 96% Yes
  • 4% No

What types of activities would be fun for you to participate in? *

  • 88% Arena Riding
  • 77% Riding Clinics
  • 42% Lessons, Rodeo Events, Schooling Shows
  • 38% Kids Events
  • 31% Ropings
  • 27% Competitive Showing, Other
  • 23% Relays,Hacking out
  • 19% Races

Would you like to join our emailing list to receive information and stay involved in this project? *

  • 85% Yes, please.
  • 8% No thanks.
  • 7% N/A

What else would you like us to consider?

  • Patti Jo Amerein: “ This is a wonderful idea!”
  • Sandra Farley: At this point in time the indoor building is not available for equestrian use. This is frustrating when a local facility is not available for its original intent.
  • Sonya Glaus: “Primarily interested in working equitation and ranch sorting. Have daughters interested also in jumping and barrels.”
  • Jody Hill:  “I am president of the Blue Mountain Riders. On our March 7th meeting I presented your request to our club. The comments were as follows: The current arena is too small for horse events and drill team activities so a new arena would need to be built. We would enjoy bringing our horse activities to your facility given it had adequate room for the many activities our club enjoys. The driving group has been searching for a safe place to work our horses under cart. Trail obstacles, horse soccer matches and cowboy racing would also interest us.”
  • KC Kuykendall: “I would like to see a public/private partnership developed in the form of a Waitsburg/Touchet Valley Horse & Livestock Club (501C3) that could manage the portion of fairgrounds dedicated to equestrian/livestock events; fundraising, membership fees, & volunteer coordination; events and grounds maintenance. Equestrian facilities could include some limited number of stalls for boarding plus stalls for hall-in events; washrack, roundpen, small enclosed riding pen for lessons, lunge-line work, and confined ground work, as well as a larger outdoor arena (150'x250' metal panel arena with turn-back pen/chute) for use for team roping, team penning, barrel racing, sheep trials, gymkana's, shows, and clinics). Non-equestrian live stock facilities would support an already strong 4H and FFA community and events. Other portions of the fairgrounds could be dedicated/reserved for uses other than horse/livestock, including public arts/entertainment events, sports, private gatherings, sustainable agri-business activities including bee-keeping for honey, community garden, cider press, composting, custom wine/beer making, craft making, etc.”
  • Michelle Long: “A few random thoughts. *15 years ago the 4H club had a fenced 100x100 arena on the infield in front of the grandstands. It was dirt but the Lions club put a water line over so they could water it. *Competitive Trail Riding is pretty big in the area. A few permanent obstacles would be nice.*Walla Walla has a nice indoor, but it is booked up and quite expensive. Their outdoor lacks decent footing. They have decent stabling. *Dayton has both an indoor and outdoor but neither has been maintained very well. The indoor footing is dirty/dusty and doesn't hold moisture well. The stabling is limited. *What the area could use is a great all weather outdoor. Our fairgrounds are in a beautiful setting and we have a stabling that while it needs some work isn't that bad. We have a great central location that could draw from (and used to) Lewiston/Yakima/Tricities as well as the valley. *I would love to see this facility put back to work for the community. I have show experience as both competitor and management (USEF/USDF recognized shows) and would be willing to help in anyway to make this happen. Then I wouldn't have to haul 30 miles to work my horse!”
  • Cindy Standring: “I used to have a trail course, dressage arena, and jumps set up at my place. It was always fun. Easy to keep up and maintain. Since I moved to my new farm I don't have time anymore. Just trail riding.”
  • Linda Vannoster: “The current indoor arena has very bad footing and really not a safe facility. The race track was one of the best in the state for starting young horses to race, but has been let go. The barns are trashed pretty much and not safe. The area inside the race track would make a great arena if the irrigation could be reworked.”
  • Suze Wood: " I would love to have an equestrian facility available locally that's on par with other facilities I've boarded and ridden at including stables, covered riding arenas with professional footing, trail access, and the standard amenities that create an optimal healthy environment for horses and their riders. The lack of riding facilities in Waitsburg mean that local riders have to trailer nearly 50 miles round trip to have access to an decent indoor arena. The fairgrounds has so much potential to serve the needs of our area's horse community as well as drive equestrian tourism through clinics, events, and competitions. I'd like to explore various funding models (co-op, non-profit, private/public partnerships and fundraising) to determine how to make equestrian use of the Waitsburg Fairgrounds sustainable and benefit our community."