Open land is disappearing at a rate of 6,000 acres per day, according to the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource.
There is no greater threat to the equestrian community than the loss of land. We need land for pasture and hay, for raising foals, and for our horse sports, including (but not limited to) trail riding, eventing, foxhunting, driving, and that most Maryland of all equestrian sports, steeplechase.
In Maryland, no single equestrian group has done more to preserve open space than foxhunters. Perhaps because foxhunters were traditionally landowners and farmers themselves, they seem to have understood – better than any other sporting group – that in order to preserve agriculture, it is critical to preserve contiguous productive land. It is not enough to save a patch here, or ensure a trail through there…one farm here with another farm three or five miles away. In order for farmers to farm, they must be surrounded by ag land. In order for farmers to have farm services (such as tractor repairs), there must be enough farm business for the support businesses to remain. Too many farmers these days in central Maryland must travel the distance of two or three counties in order to have their tractors repaired. This is not sustainable agriculture.
But foxhunters do seem to understand that contiguous farmland – while crucial for open space – is critical for the preservation of sustainable agriculture. For almost 100 years, foxhunters have been the driving force behind almost every large swath of open land in Maryland.
The legendary foxhunter and Thoroughbred racehorse owner, William duPont, Jr., created the diverse 5,600-acre horse park we treasure today as Fair Hill, and you will read about the history and vision for this property here. Fair Hill will soon celebrate the 100th anniversary of duPont’s vision!
Foxhunters living in the Green Spring and Worthington Valleys were the driving force behind the creation of the Valleys Planning Council, Inc. in the 1960s, one of the first such groups of its kind to focus on rural planning (as opposed to urban planning). VPC begat the Land Preservation Trust, Inc. which was established (mostly by foxhunters) to invest in ensuring that properties in rural Baltimore County stayed rural through the purchase of easements. LPT begat Shawan Downs, Inc., the investment for its purchase coming from foxhunters. As a direct result of the vision and planning of this community of foxhunters, 30,000 acres in northern Baltimore County have been preserved over the last 40 years – a unique accomplishment on the East Coast. Click here to read about how one foxhunter in particular, Green Spring Valley Hounds Joint Master Ned Halle, is to be thanked for much of this recent success.
Foxhunter Naomi Manders was honored in September by the Maryland Horse Council with the Pumphrey Memorial Award for her work preserving equestrian access in Montgomery County trail easements. “Indeed,” notes Ron McNab (president of Trail Riders of Today), “no one has done more for equestrian trail riders in Montgomery County than Naomi Manders.”
Naomi was the equestrian planner for Woodstock Equestrian Park, which is in the hunting territory of the Potomac Hunt Club, and is a founder of the Equestrian Partners in Conservation (EPIC), upon whose board she still serves.
EPIC was founded just a few years to preserve the equestrian heritage and rural character of Montgomery County by conserving and protecting natural resources. The chairman of EPIC is another foxhunter, Michael Rubin, who has worked with public and private land/farm preservation programs and institutions to preserve over 3,000 acres of land in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is also the founding chairman of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance.
It may surprise some to learn that Hanoverian breeder and Combined Training judge and technical delegate Suzanne Quarles is herself a former foxhunter. She and her husband Steve have now preserved into perpetuity Some Day Soon in New Market (click here).
Meanwhile, on the northeast side of Baltimore, the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club members are the driving force behind The Manor Conservancy. Founded in 1993, The Manor Conservancy has been instrumental in protecting over 17,000 acres in the Monkton, Manor and White Hall areas by organizing and accepting easement donations, assisting landowners in selling development rights, and locating buyers to purchase threatened land.
In total, these individual foxhunters and groups of foxhunters have been responsible for the preservation and conservation of over 50,000 acres in Maryland.