By Emily Baker

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD Emotions ran high Tuesday as boarders of Fort Hoods stables and post officials met to discuss proposed renovations of some stables and the possible closing of others.

Boarders of West Fort Hoods Montague Stables, composed of 24 stalls, pleaded with the posts Directorate of Morale, Welfare and Recreation not to close the facility. Owners of horses in the 76 stalls at the Hunt and Saddle Club begged to upgrade what they consider poor renovations plans.

Col. Victoria Bruzese, garrison commander, and Nick Johnsen, MWR director, received input from about 30 people Tuesday evening on the plan to renovate the Hunt and Saddle Club with 88 new stalls and close Montague Stables because both locations have deteriorated and are considered unsafe conditions.

The proposed renovations, which are expected to cost about $506,000, currently include 10-by-12-foot stalls with three cinder block sides, 30-by-40-foot paddocks or runs bound by three-rail fences and 10-by-12-foot tack rooms with concrete floors.

Some boarders have spent their own money to repair and maintain their stalls. Sgt. Maj. Della St. Louis of the 1st Cavalry Divisions aviation brigade said she spent $1,000 to repair two stalls she rented.

This is the worst-run stables Ive ever seen, St. Louis said. And these 10-by-12 stalls, you couldnt fit my horse in there with a greased spoon and Vaseline.

The stall sizes are based on advice from Maj. Cheryl Sofaly, chief of veterinary services at Fort Hood. Sofaly is one of two equine internists in the Army and has a masters degree in preventative medicine.

She said her stall figures came from comparisons of other posts horse facilities and industry handbooks.

Along with stall size, boarders are unhappy about the proposed fence type. The proposed 5-foot, three-rail fences could hurt a horse and would not allow enough protection from children who could innocently enter a stall and paddock, boarders said.

The fence design also was based on what other posts use, Sofaly said.

There is no ideal fence for a horse, Sofaly, who owns four horses, said. Horses evolved on plains with no fence or sharp objects. This fence design is durable and visible to the horse.

Barbed wire was ruled out because horses could be injured, Sofaly said. Wood was not chosen because the upkeep is too high and because horses might chew on them or knock boards down. The current chain-link-like fence is also dangerous because horses have caught shoes in the wire.

Boarders will be allowed to add panels to the fence to fill in gaps between rails.

Renovations currently are not planned for Montague Stables because consolidating the stables into one location is more economical, Johnsen said.

Then just leave us alone, said Jinette Campbell, president of the Montague Stables advisory council, who spoke against closing the stables. The council acts as a liaison between boarders and MWR, to which boarders pay a $50-per-month rent per stall.

The Montague facility contains pastures and riding trails not available at the Hunt and Saddle Club, Campbell said.

A turnout area is in the Hunt and Saddle Clubs renovation plans.

Bruzese said boarders concerns will be considered in continuing any renovations.

I dont think we are servicing (boarders) very well, she said. We can do better. But we have a fixed pot of money. I dont get one dime out of the appropriations budget for the stables.

About $196,000 of the renovations bill will be paid by Installation Management Agency-Southwest, which funds MWR. The rest will come from Fort Hoods MWR profits.

Boarders can give input over the next set of plans once they are completed, Johnsen said. He doesnt know when they might be ready.

Im not trying to hide anything, Johnsen said. Im not trying to be evil or sneaky.

Contact Emily Baker at ebaker@kdh

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