New Director Takes Reins at Carolina Horse Park
By Kirsten Ballard
Bold Minstrel, a horse who competed in the 1964 Olympics, was known for his astounding 7-foot-3-inch jump.
Now he is forever suspended in a picture on the Carolina Horse Park Wall of Fame. Bold Minstrel is the only horse on the wall so far, joining 11 riders in the celebration of local equestrian greatness.
The wall is the first project of new executive director Nick Ellis, who believes in preserving the image and reputation of the area's rich equestrian history.
"I think it all comes back to them," he said with a gesture toward the wall. "The people who started the tradition."
On the wall are pictures capturing equestrian greats of past and present: Dick Webb, Dooley Adams, Mickey Walsh, Mike Plumb, Denny Emerson, Dave Kelly, L.P. Tate, Patty Heukeroth, Joe Darby, Ginny Moss, Bill Long and now, Bold Minstrel. Ellis is leading the efforts to cement the tradition of the local equestrian community and to expand the Horse Park's event calendar.
While Ellis appreciates and plans on preserving the history, he still sees the opportunity for CHP to modernize the facility's operations.
"You know what?" he asked as he leaned over his desk. "It's 2012."
Ellis is no newcomer to the >facility. > He has served on the board since 2008 and assimilated easily into his new job as director starting the beginning of May.
Larry Smith took >Ellis' >chair on the board >when Ellis became director. >
"I wasn't completely ready to retire," said Ellis.
He spent his career working with pharmaceutical companies in Raleigh. After moving to Southern Pines, Ellis became heavily involved in the equestrian community, eventually becoming a CHP board member. So he followed the progression from board member to executive director.
Now Ellis has lofty goals for Carolina Horse Park. >
"I like to get my hands dirty," he said. "My job, the key priority, is that we need to run efficiently, and we need to do the best with the operations we have."
CHP hosts 11 trials and six events, including the annual Stoneybrook Steeplechase and Southern Pines Horse Trials 1 and 2.
Ellis isn't quite satisfied with CHP's performance with horse shows. After being an exhibitor himself for more than 30 years, Ellis knows a bit about showing horses. He believes bad experiences forever taint a rider's opinion of a place and a good experience creates lasting loyalty.
"We could do better with horse shows," Ellis said. "We need to get up to par."
Wall of Famer Patty Heukeroth completely agrees with Ellis' vision.
"I think it's a great idea," she said. "He's doing the right things."
With 192 horse stalls and arenas for races, trials and driving events, CHP has the room to serve multiple customers at a variety of events.
"The public just needs to know," said Heukeroth. "What he's doing here is great."
Ellis reminisced about competing during his college days. Competitions were hosted at Little River and elsewhere.
"Those places have gone condo or golf course now," Ellis said. "We need a place we can compete."
Ellis believes that CHP is that place. He likened it to a hospital system. In large metropolitan areas, there are four to six hospitals. Eventually each one has the same MRI, X-ray and CAT scan equipment. Logically, they merge and specialize. But according to Ellis, no other place in the Southeast has this level of facilities. > "CHP has good footing, mild weather and a strong tradition," said Ellis.
Right now the park runs approximately 152 days out of the year, but Ellis wants to expand that.
"At 200 days you are just beating the place up, but we can do more (than 152 days)," said Ellis. "I'd like to bring other events in."
Recently CHP >hosted the Girl Scouts Jamboree. After the spring shows are done, Ellis would like to see events like a summer concert series and Fourth of July fireworks display.
"Carolina Horse Park is not any horse show facility," he said. "We want it to be special."
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