When entering Unity from the west on Route 139, one might overlook a weathered horse-riding ring on Prairie Road, just before the raceway.

To help change that, new fencing and signs are in store for the 40-year-old venue. The ring has recently undergone a major transformation thanks to a grant from the town and much help from the community.

Kathye Monroe of the Unified Riding and Driving Club has been the motivating force behind the movement to restore the riding ring. She was responsible for securing the grant and also for coordinating volunteers.

For the last 28 years she has managed the ring and recalled how it has not been easy to operate on such a modest budget.

"I usually buy the first set of ribbons (myself) because we start with no money," Monroe said about the prizes awarded.

She also plans to make and sell burned-wood plaques to hang along the fence, to promote businesses and as a way to raise money for the ring.

The small horse shows hosted at the venue bring in money to pay for future ribbons and any remaining funds go to members who have family battling cancer. When Monroe's husband was diagnosed with cancer the riding group came together and raised $3,000 toward his expenses.

"If we can help someone," Monroe said, "that's what we're going to do."

She said there is a level or personal interest as well. "I've had horses all my life and it's been kind of a dream of mine to make this (ring) nice."

"The town surprised me," she said.

"A couple weeks after I put in the application, I was here fixing the fence, trying to make it work for another year, when I was told to go to the Selectmen's meeting where I found out the grant had been approved," Monroe said.

Some of the improvements include a new fence, metal gates which were donated, sand, gravel and new signs that will soon direct people to the horse ring, boat launch, walking trails and a little-known wildlife refuge.

The driveway leads to a parking area near the riding ring and then to a boat launch on Sandy Stream. From there, a trail meanders along the stream's edge to a signpost that marks the entrance to Sunkhaze National Wildlife Refuge, a 58-acre preserve adjacent to the horse riding ring.

The work started immediately, according to Monroe. The grant was approved Monday, May 7, and the check was received Wednesday. The lumber was delivered May 11 and almost all the fence post holes were dug by the next day. Most of the new fence post and rails were installed before the weekend was over, she said.

Local builder Mark Lessard, who volunteered his time, was able to secure materials for an $800 discount and did most of the "heavy lifting," Monroe said.

As part of the updates, the riding ring will formally get an address to register with the town. This will be a big help when giving directions, Monroe said.

"The town wanted it to look decent. It's the first thing you see coming into Unity," she said.

In an email message to The Journal, Unity Selectman Penny Sampson said, "An improved horse show ring is an important part of Unity's economic development.

"Not only do they support the local stores and restaurants, it helps the hardware store with feed and equipment sales, farmers that produce hay, farriers, local horse trainers and lessons at local equine centers … good stuff all around!"

With all the support for the project, Monroe said, "It has been a very humbling experience."

The Unity Ring will have its first youth show Saturday, May 26. Admission is $30 for members and $35 for non-members. The show will be an all-day affair with food, refreshments and anyone 18 years old or younger who owns a horse can compete.

For information on the Unity Ring and upcoming events, check out facebook.com/URDCAuctions/.