4-H leader: 'The state has failed these athletes'

SALEM, Ore. - Dozens of teens hoping to compete at the State 4-H Horse Fair on Tuesday left the Oregon State Fairgrounds disappointed.

Gaming competitions - events like barrel racing and pole bending - were canceled because 4-H deemed the arena where they would take place unsafe.

Specifically, the inches of dirt that cover the arena floor were too compacted, said 4-H competitors, leaving little traction for horses.

"You're going to be turning going 35-plus miles per hour," 4-H leader Kayla Reed said. "So you need that footing and that traction for your horse to be able to perform the best way they can without falling over and jeopardizing your life."

Reed brought just one competitor to the State 4-H Horse Fair this year, 18-year-old Liana Patton.

"I took my day off from work," Patton said. "I requested time off and everything, and I can't even do it (compete)."

Patton will be too old to compete next year.

Known Problems

4-H competitors and leaders told KATU the arena where gaming competitions are held at the state fairgrounds has had issues for years.

They said gaming competitions at the 2014 Marion County Fair, held in the same arena, also had to be canceled because the dirt was not safe.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department maintains the state fairgrounds. Deputy Director MG Devereux said the department knew about problems with preparing the arena, but thought they could be overcome.

He said Parks and Rec worked through Monday night to prepare the arena.

"We know even with the challenges, (the arena) can be worked into a situation that's usable. And we thought that we had the resources and the process to do that - unfortunately, we came up short," Devereux said.