National Parks mean $212.7 Million for Maryland

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 6,615,155 visitors to national parks in Maryland spent $212.7 million dollars and supported 2,689 jobs in the state in 2013.

“The national parks in Maryland attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” Lisa Mendelson-Ielmini, acting regional director, said. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way.  This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and a big factor in our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Who has that Touch of Class?

Spellbound and his connections

Spellbound and his connections © Teresa Ramsay

On May 31, the 13-year-old pony from Glenwillow Farm in Jefferson (Frederick County), Spellbound (pictured left), was honored with a Maryland Touch of Class award from the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB). Trained by Kim Stewart, Spellbound holds the title as the nation’s Large Pony Hunter Champion by the U.S. Equestrian Federation and won the Grand Pony Hunter Championship at the May 2014 Devon Horse Show (PA).


Don Prinicpe’s connections © Val D’Ambrosio

Don Principe (his connections are pictured below), a 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion standing at Hilltop Farm in Cecil County, received the Maryland Touch of Class award on June 23 in the Tea Barn at Fair Hill. This is the third time a Hilltop stallion has been honored with a Touch of Class award, previous winners being Royal Prince (2012) and Qredit (2013). Don Principe is owned by Maryanna Haymon (Columbus, NC). He is currently ranked as the nation’s leading sire of dressage horses by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

The award is named after the Maryland-bred Thoroughbred mare Touch of Class (registered with the Jockey Club as Stillaspill), who won two gold medals in the 1984 Olympics; it is given in recognition of the national or international achievements of Maryland horses, horsemen and horse businesses.

Gubernatorial Candidate Anthony Brown Vows to Protect Racing Revenue

Anthony Brown and Ken Ulman dominated the Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on June 24, defeating Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur.

Both Brown and Ulman are known to the Maryland racing industry.

According to the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, “Brown worked as a hot-walker
Read the rest of this entry »

Walk on Washington

 On Wednesday, June 18th, six flat-shod Tennessee Walking Horses gaited their way to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to show support for the PAST Act.

Denise Parsons, Benny, Megan Blanco, a staffer for Senator Mary Landrieu's Animal Welfare team, and an intern, also from Sen. Landrieu’s office (photo courtesy Ken Siems Pro Shots)

Denise Parsons, Benny, Megan Blanco, a staffer for Senator Mary Landrieu’s Animal Welfare team, and an intern, also from Sen. Landrieu’s office (photo courtesy Ken Siems Pro Shots)

Prevent All Soring Tactics  Act, or (PAST Act H.R. 1518/S. 1406) will end “soring” among the small sector of the Tennessee Walking Horse, Spotted Saddle Horse and Racking Horse groups who use the tactic to produce the “big lick” gaits. Practices include dressing the front legs of the horses with caustic chemicals to make them sensitive so they will lift their legs higher.  This legislation will also eliminate heavy shoes and stacks (tall wooden “pads”) and other “action devices,” and it will eliminate the failed self-regulation programs that currently exist and put that regulation into the hands of the USDA for better enforcement.

Included among the selected six supporters were Marylander Denise Parsons and her Walker, I’m Royal Flash, a.k.a. Benny, a multiple year-end award winner who participates in versatility events such as gaited dressage and trail obstacle classes in addition to the traditional English and Western rail classes. Benny is a registered Tennessee Walking Horse and is one of Denise’s favorite trail companions.

Another prominent Maryland horseman was among the demonstrators: former U.S. Senator Joe Tidings (D). Senator Tydings was the author of the original Horse Protection Act, which passed in 1970. Additional speakers included Congressman Ed Whitfield, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressman Steve Cohen.  According to Denise, the day was “flawless; all six horses were amazing, they never took a wrong step, even in the middle of downtown DC, not a single spook or even a twitch despite all the commotion including a motorcade with sirens blaring.”

U.S. Senator Joe Tydings (D-MD) with American Horse Council Executive Director (and Marylander) Jay Hickey (photo courtesy AHC)

U.S. Senator Joe Tydings (D-MD) with American Horse Council Executive Director (and Marylander) Jay Hickey (photo courtesy of AHC)


The selected six were joined by about 60 dedicated volunteers from all over the country.  Local and national news organizations picked up the story, including an ABC affiliate, USA Today photographers, and a PBS team.

The legislation is endorsed by virtually every major horse association in the country, including but not limited to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the American Horse Council.  The passing of this bill is also supported by the majority of TWH owners and is cosponsored by the majority of the house and senate, but has not been brought to the floor for a vote, despite its bipartisan support.

The Maryland Horse Council was one of the first state horse councils to formally join the effort to support PAST. However, according to Denise, “Congressman Andy Harris is the last holdout in Maryland, as he has not yet cosponsored the bill.  We really need his support, as he is a Republican.  We need eight more republican cosponsors to get the majority of the Majority and force it to a vote.  Any pressure anyone can put on him would be great.”

May Timonium Thoroughbred sale brings in $19.6+ million; Maryland-breds increased by 13%


The May 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale sold 329 horses sell for a total of $19,601,000, an increase in the number of horses over the 2013 sale – although the average sale price per horse was down from 2013.  However, among those 329 horses were 15 Maryland-bred juveniles, which sold for an average of $67,367 – 13 percent higher than the sale’s average of $59,578.

The top-priced Maryland-bred was the $180,000 More Than Ready colt bred by Sycamore Hall Farm LLC,  sold to Bloom Racing Stable. More Than Ready on the first day. On day two, a Dark Hollow Farm-bred and owned colt (Line of David-Safe Journey, by Flatter), half-brother to stakes winner Joy, sold to Gary Contessa for Wounded Warrior Stable for $100,000. The median price for the Maryland-bred 2-year-olds was $70,000, more than double that of the sale.

The Thoroughbred is the official Maryland state horse, and the Fasig-Tipton sales are often seen as a bellwether for the state’s equine industry.


Maryland will miss Jump Jockey Legend, WWII & Korean War Veteran Joe Aitcheson


R.I.P Joe Aitcheson, Jr.

Please see our Facebook page for a photo tribute to Joe, and to share your memories and/or photos.

On Saturday, May 24, Maryland lost one of her most treasured icons of steeplechase racing, Joseph Leiter Aitcheson, Jr. He was 85.

Born on July 31, 1928 in Olney, MD, he was the son of the late Joseph L., Sr. and Lillian Roby Aitcheson. Joe Sr. and his brother Whitney founded the Iron Bridge Hounds and operated Aitcheson Stables on Riding Stable Lane along the line separating Burtsonsville from Laurel, Montgomery from Prince George’s County.

Joe Jr grew up to become the winningest jump jockey ever, with 440 jump wins from 2,457 mounts over a two decade career. He won eight Virginia Gold Cups, seven Carolina Cups, size Internatational Gold Cups…just to name a few. In 1976 Joe became the only professional jockey to receive the National Steeplechase Association’s F. Ambrose Clark Award for lifetime service to the sport. In 1978, he was inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and in 2006 was named Maryland Horseman of the Year by the Maryland Horse Council.

Joe was also a veteran, serving our country in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1952, serving in both World War II and the Korean War. He attended the University of Maryland where he played football. 
Read the rest of this entry »

Derby/Preakness Champion California Chrome off to Belmont

Click here to read “Heresy or common sense? MJC President proposes new Triple Crown schedule.”

Saturday, May 17 was a great day for Maryland racing–and a great day for Maryland-connected California Chrome. Two weeks after capturing the Kentucky Derby (G1) by 1¾ lengths, the California-bred three-year-old colt received yet another heads-up ride from jockey Victor Espinoza on his way to a 1½-length triumph over Ride On Curlin in the 139th running of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) to the enthusiastic approval of a record crowd of 123,469.

California Chrome-Lorde

Kentucky Derby winners California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza cross the Preakness wire and are off to Belmont! MJC Photo

A strong 1-2 favorite in a field of 10, the chestnut with lots of chrome broke alertly and gained stalking position behind early pacesetter Pablo Del Monte. After Ria Antonia, the lone filly in the field, made an early move to challenge the pacesetter heading into the first turn, California Chrome settled in third around the turn and on the backstretch. Social Inclusion, the 5-1 second betting choice ridden by Luis Contreras, made a move outside California Chrome heading into the far turn, prompting Espinoza to ask his horse for some run. The favorite swept past the pacesetter on the turn into the homestretch, engaged to his outside by Social Inclusion, and spurted away in early stretch, never to be challenged again.

California Chrome crossed the finish line clear of Ride On Curlin, who rallied from far back under Joel Rosario to finish second, 6½ lengths clear of Social Inclusion. The running time of 1:54.84 for the 1 3/16 miles of the Maryland Jockey Club’s signature race was the fastest since Big Brown was timed at 1:54.80 in 2008.

Chrome’s 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman: “He broke great and had a perfect trip. I was so happy when I saw where he was able to set him. Right now he’s really on his toes and doing good. He’s a remarkable horse to come back in two weeks and win.
Read the rest of this entry »

Heresy or common sense? MJC President proposes new Triple Crown schedule


Maryland Jockey Club Tom Chuckas proposes new schedule for the Triple Crown; will it fly? (MJC Photo)

We know the routine without even thinking about it.

Since 1931, the Kentucky Derby has come first, then Preakness and then The Belmont Stakes.

Prior to 1931, there were eleven occasions in which the Preakness was run prior to the Derby, and twice in which both were run on the same day. The Belmont has been contested before the Preakness eleven times. But, since 1931 it has been Derby, Preakness, Belmont.

Since 1969, the Derby has been the first Saturday in May, The Preakness is run two weeks later, and the Belmont Stakes three weeks after that.

It’s written in stone, isn’t it?

Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas is looking to bust that stone tablet. Is this heresy…or common sense and about darn time?

At his annual post-Preakness media session on Monday, May 19th, Chuckas discussed his proposal to change the date of the Preakness Stakes and the date of the The Belmont in order to allow more time between each meet–for the welfare of the horses. Chuckas is proposing that the Derby retain its first Saturday in May position, but that the Preakness would run the first Saturday in June, and the Belmont the first Saturday in July, giving the horses a full month to recover between races.

Will this increase the odds for creating Triple Crown horses?

In 60 years, from 1919 to 1979, there were 11 Triple Crown Winners. Roughly one a decade. There has not been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, 36 years ago.

It is a widely held belief in the horse industry that the Triple Crown schedule is just too grueling and the gamble too great on which to risk a good horse who could have a long racing career ahead of him. Why risk it? (Contrary to some media portrayals, most horsemen love their horses.)

Chuckas seems to agree–and seems to be leading the charge within the industry for change. “I respect tradition but I also think tradition cannot impede the growth or betterment of the industry,” explained Chuckas. “The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years. It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it.” Only three horses from the May 3 Kentucky Derby competed in Saturday’s Preakness.

“But this idea is not just for the Triple Crown races,” continued Chuckas. “We have an obligation to the public to put our best racing on the table when the world is watching and we are not doing that. We could promote a Woodford-Dixie-Manhattan series for older turf stars and Triple Crown filly series with the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan and Acorn. All those things are possible but is going to demand a collaborative effort between the parties to make this happen.”

Chuckas said he will work with officials at Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Association.


Miller and Busch receive Horse Council Awards; Governor signs Western MD Sunday Hunting Bills

Mike Miller

MHC president Jane Seigler and Maryland Senate president Mike Miller

On Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch were presented with the Maryland Horse Council’s 2014 Leadership Awards in Annapolis at the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

MHC President Jane Seigler and Legislative Committee Chair Steuart Pittman presented the awards in front of over 50 horse people during the Horse Council’s quarterly meeting. The awards were given in appreciation of President Miller’s and Speaker Busch’s leadership in the Maryland General Assembly, and their willingness to give a thoughtful ear and respectful consideration to all of the issues presented to them by Horse Council, most notably in this session the issue of expanded Sunday deer hunting.

Mike Busch

Maryland House speaker Mike Busch and MHC president Jane Seigler listen as Frank Boston explains how Speaker Busch supported MHC during the 2014 legislative session.

With the help of senate and house leadership and lobbyist Frank Boston, MHC was successful in defeating efforts that would have increased the number of Sundays for deer hunting in Southern Maryland.  Unfortunately, efforts failed to stop the expansion elsewhere, and yesterday Governor Martin O’Malley signed the two bills authorizing expanded Sunday hunting in Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett Counties. While there has been a steady march of additional Sunday deer hunting on private land hither and thither throughout Maryland since 2003, this is the first time Sunday hunting has been expanded to include public lands.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Department of Natural Resources continue to insist that these laws will help them control excessive numbers of white-tailed deer, and that they are “unlikely” to use all of the Sundays granted in the legislation, and are “unlikely” to use their public land option.

We will see.

Watch for a report on the MHC quarterly meeting in an upcoming issue of The Equiery.


Protecting the Privacy of Nutrient Management Plans

From the Maryland Farm Bureau

On Monday, May 5th the Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case concerning the release of Nutrient Management plan information that dates back to 2008. Maryland Farm Bureau has been involved in this litigation on behalf of our members in an effort to preserve the intent of the confidentiality provisions of the 1998 Water Quality Improvement Act.

The 1998 law was the result of compromise on all sides. Our side compromised by agreeing to bring all farmers under the nutrient management requirement, rather than just target livestock operations, as is the case in other states. In return, the legislature agreed that the program would be regulated by the Maryland Department of Agriculture rather than Environment and that nutrient management plans that are submitted to MDA would be kept confidential.

In 2008, the Waterkeeper Alliance filed a Public Information Act request with MDA to gain access to NMPs. Maryland Farm Bureau intervened in court to prevent the release of identifying information. The court ruled that farmer data was confidential. In 2010, the Waterkeeper Alliance filed a follow-up PIA demanding the NMPs and requested the Court hold the Secretary in contempt for not releasing the documents. Farm Bureau went back to court, won a temporary injunction, and argued the finer points of the PIA and NM laws. The Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals both provided a ruling favorable to Farm Bureau. The Courts ordered that names and identifying information must be redacted from most material released by MDA.

The Waterkeeper Alliance continued to appeal the case to the highest Court in the State. Last Monday, Valerie Connelly and MFB attorney Maggie Witherup (of the Gordon Feinblatt law firm) were at the Court of Appeals in Annapolis for arguments in the final stages of this Nutrient Management/PIA case. Based on questions from the judges during the proceedings, the primary issues under consideration are the length of the confidentiality protection and the documents and data at MDA that are protected.

The Waterkeeper Alliance, previously represented by the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic, was represented Monday by the Environmental Integrity Project out of Washington, D.C. A ruling in this case is expected before the end of the year. Maryland Farm Bureau will continue to work to protect the confidential business plans of our members.

Click here to learn more about the case.

Click here to listen to oral arguments; select case no. 87 on May 5th.