This month, the Maryland Horse Industry Board and the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) debuted “Hoofbeats Through History: The Southern Maryland Historic Horse Trail.”
A new heritage “trail,” Hoofbeats through History is a self-guided equine tour, a network of destinations highlighting the important role horses have played in Southern Maryland – and you don’t need to be on horseback to do this trail!
The self-guided tour includes sites where cavalry camped during the Civil War, early stage coach routes, a Pony Express path, plus plantations and manor houses dating back to Colonial days, when horses pulled carriages and plowed fields. Several sites exemplify Southern Maryland’s role in the Thoroughbred racing industry, and others showcase Maryland’s state sport (jousting) or foxchasing. At several destinations, visitors can examine centuries-old equine-related artifacts unearthed in the area.
The website is worth checking out – even if you are not planning on doing the tour! It includes descriptions, stories, photos, hours and directions for the key sites, online galleries of documents and articles, and an interactive map. In addition to the history piece, the website lists Southern Maryland Horse Discovery Centers. Discovery Centers are licensed stables which have applied for and been accepted into this unique MHIB marketing program. To qualify as a Discovery Center, licensed stables must welcome people of all ages and experience levels into their barns to learn about horses in a friendly and knowledgeable environment. The website also lists riding trails, active working horse farms, stables and equine-related events that encourage visitors to enjoy some modern-day horse fun.
“The Southern Maryland Historic Horse Trail supports SMADC’s ongoing mission to promote the horse industry in Southern Maryland, as well as all farms throughout the region,” said Susan McQuilkin, marketing executive with the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC). SMADC played a key role in creating the Southern Maryland trail, with funding from the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB). The Southern Maryland Trail is the second regional trail to be completed as part of MHIB’s larger Maryland Historic Horse Trail, a network of heritage trails across the state. Photos, anecdotes and other historic information collected for this regional trail will become part of a state-wide archive of equine history.
McQuilkin contacted potential sites and interviewed locals in horse-related fields while collecting data for the trail. “It’s been so fascinating to see these interesting anecdotes and stories unfold, and to realize how much horse history we have here,” said McQuilkin, who is also an enthusiastic horsewoman in addition to her role with SMADC. “We expect that anyone with even a passing interest in horses will enjoy seeing Southern Maryland from this perspective, and I think many people who haven’t had much experience with horses may be moved to go to one of our Horse Discovery Centers or current stables and actually interact with horses, whether to ride or watch a demonstration or show.”
“We expect this newest Historic Horse Trail will draw visitors from across the state and beyond,” said Ross Peddicord, executive director of the MHIB, a program of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. “Maryland has this great horse history, going way back to the 1600s, and it was all just slipping away, disappearing. The Historic Horse Trail is an attempt to document that history and make it easy for visitors to access it and enjoy it, and maybe introduce them to the active horse culture we have today.”