Youth ride high in arena

John OÕConnell/Capital Press Kimberlyn Fehringer practices cutting in her personal indoor arena in American Falls, Idaho.

Facility provides training options for daughter, other riders

By JOHN O'CONNELL

Capital Press

AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho -- Chris and Heather Fehringer have always gone to great lengths to foster their daughter Kimberlyn's interest in rodeo.

When she was young, the American Falls farming couple made a weekly 200-mile round trip to Menan for her breakaway roping practice. When the commute grew too time-consuming, they had a private indoor arena built for Kimberlyn in their backyard.

With steel construction and thick insulation, the arena provides a place for the community's youths to practice rodeo skills and train for 4-H year-round. The Fehringers, who raise potatoes, alfalfa and wheat, also make a modest supplemental income through arena user fees. A daily pass costs $10 per rider or $20 per roper; monthly passes are $120 for riding or $140 for roping.

In 2003 they hired Pro Builders in Pocatello to build the 90-by-175-foot structure at a cost of about $100,000. It has a small office by the front entrance with a loft overlooking the expansive dirt floor, dimly lit by two rows of large, overhead lights. Metal corral fencing lines the walls.

"For us it wasn't from a business standpoint so much as an investment for her future, and also for our property. It adds value to our property," Chris said.

Counting 4-H, about 40 youths train in the facility each year, and it's become the venue for high school rodeo district cutting finals.

Some die-hards practice there twice a week. Kimberlyn trains every night. In seventh grade, she won nationals in breakaway roping. She's also been to nationals in high school rodeo and won state penning and team roping titles.

On most days, the arena bustles with cows, horses and aspiring rodeo competitors from 3 to 9 p.m. Chris teaches roping. Heather offers instruction in barrel racing. Todd Fitch, a horse trainer from nearby Arbon Valley, teaches cutting. Family friend Linc Whitnah provides cattle for training purposes.

The discipline practiced on a recent Thursday afternoon was cutting. The object is for the horse and rider to anticipate a cow's next move and react in time. Fitch shouted instructions for Kimberlyn, a senior at American Falls High School, and junior Rochelle Whitnah as they took turns guiding their horses to block the paths of scrambling cattle.

The Fehringers are not alone among southeast Idaho farmers and ranchers in having a private rodeo arena. Fitch has a smaller indoor facility for training horses.

"It keeps me out of the weather," Fitch said.

Half a mile from the Fehringers, Bill Vickers, who grows hay, owns a 120-by-220-foot insulated facility -- the main selling point when he bought the property. His wife uses the arena to practice a precision horse competition called reining.

"It requires almost year-round riding and keeping your horse fit and practicing," Vickers said. "There are a few (arenas) around. You don't see many new ones going up because they are so expensive. The new ones I have seen in this part of the country are fairly small."

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