Olivia Boucher, 10, rides her horse inside a new indoor arena at River Valley Ranch Saturday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Dollars & Horse Sense

Kim Samitore dreamed big when she envisioned building an indoor arena on her family's Central Point horse ranch off Old Stage Road.

Five years, two births and a lot of persistence later, Samitore and her husband, Matt, have seen the project come to fruition on the 55-acre River Valley Ranch they share with her parents, Jim and Carol DeKorte.

"Five years ago when our family bought the property, I said I'll have an indoor arena," Samitore said Saturday, while showing off the newest element of the horse-boarding, instruction and training facility. "It was an expensive project and came in over budget."

Still, she's not complaining about the end result, a 72-by-122-foot indoor arena that gives her year-round training capability.

"I used to have to shut down around Thanksgiving and then wait to open until late February or March," Samitore said.

Now, she has the quintessential all-year training ground. That was evidenced Friday when a group of 14 4-H riders came calling after they were turned away from their usual workout grounds at the Jackson County Expo.

"She said you can ride here as long as you clean up afterwards," said Stacia Neilson, a Scenic Middle School eighth-grader.

River Valley Ranch is almost a home away from home for Neilson and Cayla Stone, both 4-H riders, who care for and clean up after the horses boarding in the neighboring red barn.

"This is where the horses live and where they are every day, so they're more relaxed," Stone said. "At the Expo, the horses get a little excited. A bush over there might be a mountain lion to them, or a garbage can might scare them because they're not used to it."

Working with the horses, Neilson and Stone have learned equine quirks and personalities.

"They know if we know if they're on their best behavior or not when other people are around," Neilson said.

Whether it's because the price of horses has fallen in recent months or girls will simply find a way to ride a horse, the 4-H club has grown.

Stone's pasture pet, Coco, acquired for $1,000 a couple of years ago, should now fetch more on the open market because of its training.

Horse economic dynamics vary from locale to locale. In this area, the demand has dwindled.

"Even though the price is low, people still aren't buying," Samitore said. "There are a lot of horses that are really, really cheap. Then they jump to about $6,500 and there's not much in between."

Horses that have typically ranged between $2,500 and $5,000 aren't available.

"What people ideally want is an 8-year-old gelding, 15 hands tall and bomb proof — nothing bothers them and they're not spooked," Samitore said. "They want to pay $1,500 for them. I could sell a horse like that all the time, but they're hard to come by."

The sales price, however, is just the down payment when it comes to horses.

"It costs $100 to $200 every month just to keep one at your own house," said Samitore, who charges $265 monthly for horse boarding and maintenance, excluding vet and trimming care. "You certainly can't maintain a horse monthly for what you spend on a car."

Nonetheless, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Jackson County has the second-highest horse population in the state behind Clackamas County, with nearly 5,200 head as of 2007. That number, however, may decline in the near future.

"This is the time of year when sales pick up," said Carol Dombrowsky, a lifetime member of the Jackson County Horseman's Association. "But a lot of breeders have not bred their mares this year, because there is no market."

While youngsters rode and older folks admired the new arena, she wondered whether equine owners will continue showing their horses because of the associated costs.

"I was concerned we wouldn't have entries last year at a show we put on at the Expo, but we got 85," Dombrowsky said.

Samitore plans to put on a show at the Estramado Arena on Galls Creek outside Gold Hill later this year.

"The cost of getting to shows is a little cheaper because of gas," Dombrowsky said. "But so many things can happen."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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