After 27 Years, Equiery Publisher/Editor Crystal Brumme Pickett Retires

Crystal Brumme Pickett
Equiery Founder
Publisher/Editor 1990-2017 Photo by Isabel J Kurrek

Happy New Year, Equiery fans, followers, readers and clients!

When the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2018, the Maryland Horse Council officially became the new owner and publisher of The Equiery. The January 2018 Equiery was the last issue to go to press under my stewardship, and to say the end of 2017 was  bittersweet is an understatement.

1990: A Foal is Born
I was 24 and Mercedes Clemens was 23 when we shared a moment of frustration followed by the eureka moment. Each of us was looking for a new stable; each was frustrated that, in 1990 at the dawn of the information age, there was no central source of Maryland equine-business information. We realized that if we needed the information, others did too, that we were immediately struck with the vision of how to solve what was clearly a common frustration. And thus was born The Equiery: “equi” the Latin root for horse; “ery” the Latin suffix for “a collection of” and for “a place to buy and sell.” We created a new word, we trademarked it, and we were off to the proverbial races. That was September.

By December 1990, our first issue of 12 pages was in almost every tack and feed store in central Maryland. In that issue, we pledged “to be your guide to finding anything and everything having to do with horses in Maryland …if you can’t find what you need in an issue of The Equiery, call us and we will find it for you!” It is January 2018, and the pledge is the same.

In our first issue, and in this 315th issue now in stores, we offered the free listing services for Coming Events and Riding & Boarding Stables. Then, there were 43 stables in three counties; in this issue there are 838 stables in all 23 Maryland counties and Washington DC.

Over the years, we have had the privilege of knowing and serving thousands of customers and tens of thousands of readers.

As I prepare to turn the reins over, there are so many things for which I am grateful.

I will forever be grateful to the kind and wise souls who owned and managed all those farms I visited in those first few years. Every one of you was gracious and supportive of the concept. Some of you advertised, others became contributors – all became fans, followers and faithful readers. Thank you.

Since 1990, The Equiery and I have crisscrossed Maryland thousands of times, met the most amazing horses and fascinating people, seen beautiful farms, and marveled at innovative businesses. Advertisers became clients, colleagues, friends, confidants. Thank you for your faith and for allowing me to help you grow your business.

The Equiery and I have traveled the globe with Marylanders, both figuratively (via our Marylanders who travel abroad) and literally.  Because of The Equiery, I have encountered or crossed paths with folks I would have not have met otherwise.

From the beginning, The Equiery and I have been fortunate enough to have been mentored or cheered on by the best in the equestrian publishing world, legends, including, but not limited to Peter Winants, Margaret Worrall, Rich Wilcke, Ross Peddicord, Tim Capps, Susan Harding, Rob Banner, Cappy Jackson – and more. “Thank you” is an understatement; “undying gratitude” is more apt.

Because of The Equiery, I have made lifelong friends, expanded my family circle, found my farm, discovered my equestrian passion (foxchasing) and have enjoyed a life not to be taken for granted: no matter how challenging, frustrating or heartbreaking, every day spent in the Maryland horse industry is a unique privilege.

The Way We Were
In 1990, there was no “world wide web,” no Google, no social media. A mobile phone was a cordless landline or a black bag toting the iconic “brick” analogue cellular phone.  Fax machines were a novelty eschewed by tradition-bound owners of horse-related businesses. Most retailers still wrote sales tickets by hand and totted inventory with a pencil. The first Equiery was produced on a Mac Plus; we had a fax and an answering machine. We were state-of-the-art!

In 1990, the horse world was fractured. Each sport, breed, increasingly isolated in its solitary silo. The State of Maryland saw publicly owned equestrian facilities as a burden, a perq for the privileged. Show and event organizers were looking to other states for sites; top trainers were migrating elsewhere.

In 1990, Maryland’s traditional Thoroughbred breeding and racing community had the only publishing resource, which was (and still is) owned by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. In the 1990s, we saw the stalwart Maryland Horse migrate into the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred to better serve its membership. That migration paralleled the growth of The Equiery, as we sought to encompass the remainder of the equestrian community outside of the MHBA umbrella. The two publications continued in tandem, ultimately developing an outstanding working relationship.

Other than flat and harness racing, equestrians had no presence in Annapolis. There was no Maryland Horse Industry Board. The Maryland Horse Council was less than a dozen scrappy, strong-willed and opinionated individuals with a vision. Rich Wilcke, Beverly Raymond, Debbie Rollins-Frank, Gretchen Mobberley, Hank Shirley, Elizabeth Madlener, Dorothy Troutman, Sandra Crow, Shirley Geis – some gone from us too soon to see their vision come to fruition. On behalf of the horse world, thank you.

The equine programs at our land grant ag-school had virtually disappeared. It took a pig/cow guy (Tom Hartsock) and a cow/horse guy (Malcolm Commer) a great deal of vision and grit to lay the foundation for the University of Maryland Equine Studies Program, now thriving under Dr. Amy Burk.

The tide began to turn; the industry started to come together.  We made progress on regulations at the Departments of Ag and Natural Resources. Thank you, Tim Capps, Sol Goldstein, and others. By 1998, the Horse Council had successfully moved through legislation that created the Maryland Horse Industry Board.

As we entered the new millennium, the Horse Industry Board began to get its feet under it, thank you Greg Gingery.  In the early 2000s, the Horse Council pushed through the Feed Fund legislation, which provided funding for MHIB.

With two major legislative achievements under its belt, the Horse Council really began growing, establishing a long range plan in 2005, expanding its mission, increasing its membership and racking up more accomplishments. Kudos to MHC presidents LuAnne Levens, Mike Erskine, Steuart Pittman and Jane Seigler!

Once the funding mechanisms were in place for the Industry Board, it too began to have an impact on the industry, with equine census reports, economic impact studies and state-wide forums. Thank you, Rob Burk.

Throughout the 2000s, with the growing influence of MHC and MHIB, we began to see the needle move. The Equiery recorded and reported every accomplishment, keeping you informed the entire time. In 2011, in these pages, I pondered whether our industry might be at a “tipping point.”

Now Here We Are
In 2018, the answer is a resounding yes! Tipping point, turned a corner, flipped a page – or just exploded – pick your term, the free state horse industry is reinventing itself and growing like mad. I marvel at the new activities, creative businesses and innovative outreach programs!

If 1990 was the dawn of the digital age, 2018 is the high noon of the digital communication revolution. Internet and Google have made printed directories and classified sections obsolete; clunky computers are now sleek smart phones, faxes have yielded to Facebook, handwritten sales tickets unnecessary with virtual wallets. Print to dot-com to social – it’s a new media world!

I am in awe of how the little ragtag group of true believers has become a sprawling, dynamic grassroots-driven, legislatively tenacious, and fiscally sustainable Horse Council, now truly living up to its moniker as “THE umbrella association for all horse organizations, businesses, farms and people” in Maryland. Wow.  MHC has helped to define – and in some cases change – the regulatory definitions that affect our industry and community, primarily in the Department of Agriculture, but elsewhere in government as well. MHC has had a consistent and persistent presence on numerous legislative issues of concern to our community. And every year the variety of equestrians involved expands and grows. Obviously, you will learn more about MHC’s projects and programs in this and future issues of The Equiery.

And then there is the steam engine known as the Horse Industry Board – doing exactly what we envisioned it doing, but doing so in a way that far exceeds anything we imagined: Discovery Centers, Horse History Trails, Horses for Courses School Curriculum, The Touch of Class Awards.  On January 20th, we will celebrated the 20th anniversary of MHIB.  Thank you, Ross Peddicord and Jim Steele.

I am so proud of what our community and industry has accomplished. It has been such a privilege for The Equiery to have played a role in Maryland’s equestrian journey over the last almost 30 years.

Chapters Close
As these exciting new chapters in Maryland’s horse world unfold, we quietly turn the page on those chapters concluding. In these pages, I have said goodbye to more mentors and friends in the last 12 months than in any single year since founding The Equiery: friends Marion Scullin, Jane Toal, Tater Pruitt and Rick Quinalan; mentors and sounding boards, Tim Capps and Sol Goldstein – your absence still brings tears to my eyes. Client Paul Novograd, whose creativity and zest for life helped, somehow, to keep it all real. Anne Moe, Equiery colleague, but also one of my first friends after moving to Howard County in the early 90s.

Frankie Pardoe. More than a friend, more than a mentor, not quite a mother – or perhaps, yes, Frankie was the mother of my “Equiery-self.” Her artwork graced numerous Equeiry covers those first few years, giving our fledgling publication a sheen of sophistication that belied its young age. There is more; suffice it to say that the arc of both my professional and personal life were profoundly and irrevocably touched by Frankie.

When each tribute was complete and sent to press, and the tissues cleared, the same thought would echo in my head: “It’s time. It’s time for me to go. It’s time for someone else.”

Turning The Page
2018 is going to be an exciting year!  Launched with a Film Festival and celebratory parties, Marylanders still made their annual migration in January to Timonium, but this time for new adventures.

Road-trips to Pennsylvania are being planned. Show owners Bob Dobart and Denise Parsons expect the combined, bigger-than-ever Horse World Expo to possibly be a record breaker.

Educational institutions such as the University of Maryland and Goucher College are continuing to expand opportunities for aspiring equine-industry professionals.

Fair Hill is poised to host the world’s next 4 or 5 Star CCI.

And The Equiery will enter a new chapter under the stewardship of the Maryland Horse Council. The time is right for a fresh vision that can leverage the emerging digital media opportunities with the dynamic growth of the industry in general and the Horse Council in particular. Under the leadership of president Neil Agate, who specializes in digital technologies for business communication and has a degree in accounting, and with the input from talented and knowledgeable advisory committees, The Equiery will be able to grow and evolve in unexpected ways. There will be new opportunities for The Equiery’s wonderful staff to stretch their wings; there will be increased marketing opportunities for Equiery clients. Don’t be surprised to see videos, podcasts and more before the end of the year!

Thank you, Maryland horse people. Thank you for embracing The Equiery and making it yours. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve you.

Time to go ride my horses. I’ll see you out and about!

Crystal Brumme Pickett
Publisher/Editor 1990-2017