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Outback arena gets upgrade

Hughenden in the Flinders Shire in outback Queensland has become one of the top horse performance locations in the State. A recent upgrade of the Hughenden Outback Arena has now ensured that working cow horse events can be held safely at the Hughenden Showground facility.

Built in 2009, the main purpose of the 66m x 30m undercover Arena was to ensure equestrian competitors were able to stay safe from the sun while competing and performing, as well as providing a multipurpose undercover area at the Hughenden Showgrounds.

Costing close to $300,000, funding for the Arena was initially provided by Flinders Shire Council, a State Government Sport and Recreation grant, and a Gambling Community Benefit Fund. The latest upgrades, which have made the arena fence completely ‘cow proof’, were funded by the Queensland Government’s Building Rural Communities Fund through Blueprint for the Bush.

Flinders Shire Council Sport and Recreation Officer Mel Driscoll said that the work, which was completed at the start of May, meant that there was no longer a need for the portable panels and hessian which were previously used to safely hold cattle for events, saving time before and after events, and improving visibility for spectators.

“The popularity of the Arena has increased and previously this area had not been used for cattle work but now users have seen the advantages of using it for working cow horse and horse cutting,” said Mrs Driscoll.

All six local horse groups use the facility — The Hughenden Pony Club, the Outback Performance Horse Association, the North West Equestrian Group, the Flinders Hack and Pony Club, Flinders Horse Sports, Hughenden Campdrafters Club – as well as the Richmond Campdrafters Club.

Mrs Driscoll said the use of the Hughenden Showgrounds had grown substantially since the Arena had been built: “For the first four months of 2012 it has been booked for 22 days. We’ve got more people using it than we have ever had before, and it’s growing.”

“The covered Arena definitely makes the equestrian sports more advanced in Hughenden. The sun protection is a huge advantage; there is also good footing for the horses; and there is the safety factor provided by having an enclosed space.”

Future plans for the arena include providing grandstands for spectators and lighting, and there has recently been an application by the Basalt Bash committee to host their annual ball in the venue, indicating its versatility as a community resource.