(Part 1 and part 2 of this editorial first appeared in the June 2011 print edition of The Equiery.)
Has the Maryland horse industry hit a tipping point? (To find out what is a “tipping point,” please see yesterday’s column.) Yes, if the energy and activity of both the Maryland Horse Industry Board and the Maryland Horse Council are any evidence.
As we noted in yesterday’s column, the number of new initiatives and the number of enthusiastic, capable and committed volunteers is impressive. Something is in the air.
Whatever this something is, it should make those who have been toiling away over the last two decades, laying the foundation for this sudden, frenzied industry building activity, very proud.
What is notable is that there have been, essentially, only one or two major accomplishments per year for the last twenty-five years, but now, in 2011, the list of accomplishments for just one year is going to exceed the list of accomplishments for entire decade. Have we hit the tipping point? Read on!
The Maryland Horse Council is Rockin’ & Rollin’
As he enters his second and last two-year term as president of the Maryland Horse Council, Steuart Pittman has fired up a whole new contingent of energetic and engaged Maryland horse people. And while his passionate commitment to community organizing may throw out red flags to the more right-leaning members of our community, no one can deny his effectiveness at recruiting can-do members.
The two-hour May 17, 2011 MHC meeting was not adequate time for the presentation of 11 special activity committee reports and the routine business required. Some of the leaders of the more established committees graciously waived their presentation time and submitted their reports in writing, leaving more time for the more involved presentations of the enthusiastic new committees.
Over 70 horse people drove thru torrential rains (and subsequent rainbows) to reach the Show Place Arena at the Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro. Early arrivals were greeted with food and drink provided by King Construction and had the opportunity to tour the new covered arena (still) under construction. For a routine quarterly meeting of the Maryland Horse Council, with no headliners and no controversial issue to raise passions, 60 leaders from across the state is impressive.
Understandably, the Canterbury seizure was an ongoing topic of conversation. On hand to field questions were Days End Farm Horse Rescue’s Kathy Howe and Brooke Vrany and the Humane Society of the United State’s Stacy Segal.
The Maryland Fund For Horses
In one capacity or another, this publisher has served on the executive committee of the Maryland Horse Council for almost twenty years, and for those two decades it has been a dream of those both past and present serving on the committee to establish some sort of charitable arm for the betterment of horses. Now it seems that it might become a reality.
Vicki Carson (Full Moon Farm, Finksburg), who is the coordinator of the Unwanted Horse Project, and MHC vice president Jane Seigler (who recently retired after she and her husband, Paul Schopf, sold Reddemeade Farm & Equishare) have drafted articles of incorporation and bylaws for the new entity “The Maryland Fund for Horses.” Because this will be a charitable 501©(3) entity, technically it will not be a part of the Maryland Horse Council, but MHC will embrace the fund as its charitable cause.
The fund will raise money for the initiatives established by the Unwanted Horse Project as well as channel funding to MHC member equine rescues and sanctuaries. Initiatives include gelding clinics, a Governor’s Week for Responsible Horse Ownership in Maryland, studies on the numbers of horses relinquished by their owners, and options for unwanted horses.
The new organization’s mission statement is as follows:
– To promote the health, safety and welfare of equines in Maryland;
– To educate equine owners and caretakers about issues affecting equine care and management;
– To educate landowners where equines are kept on issues affecting farm management and stewardship of the land;
– To promote collaboration within the equine industry for the benefit of equines in Maryland;
– To improve the lives of Maryland’s equines by providing education and outreach to the general public about responsible equine ownership, equine welfare issues and the value of equines to the state and to their own lives.
The nascent nonprofit is currently in need of attorneys willing to provide pro bono counsel.
In addition to the establishment of a charitable arm, MHC leaders past and present have also wanted to establish a Political Action Committee which could raise and distribute campaign funds for political candidates. This would likewise fulfill MHC’s mission of lobbying and representing the community’s interest in Annapolis. It is not easy to start raising money and giving it to candidates. There are all sorts of ethics rules and financial disclosure requirements, and in short, MHC must set up yet another semi-independent organization to bring this idea to fruition. Former MHIB Executive Director Rob Burk has been tapped to lead this effort, and plans are moving forward to make this a reality before the next election cycle.
Caveat: The fact that MHC is finally acting on many long-term goals should not in any way diminish the accomplishments of prior MHC administrations, which laid a strong foundation and make MHC’s current accomplishments possible.
Ross Peddicord reported on the current marketing projects being conducted by the Maryland Horse Industry Board, including Decanter, the cleverly named “wine and horses” event hosted by the Maryland Wineries Association at Pimlico. Christy Clagett (Larking Hill Farm, Harwood) reported on how the original “Save Maryland Racing” ad hoc committee morphed into a passionate committee to promote all equine activities in Maryland.
Leslie Diamond (Annapolis) showed a draft version of a public awareness video she is creating to showcase the Maryland equine industry.
Finally, Ellie Trueman gave a sneak peek of the 85-page marketing initiative she drafted for the ad hoc “Maryland Horse Industry Marketing Committee,” which, in addition to herself, includes Ross Peddicord, Steuart Pittman, Karin DeFrancis (The Preakness), Carrie Everly (Maryland Jockey Club), Rob Burk and your publisher, Crystal Kimball. Ellie Trueman’s marketing agency, Trueman Communications, has helped to launch and/or develop many well-known brands in the horse industry such as Ariat, Dover, and Nutramax. In the mid-1990s, the national horse industry used her marketing plans to establish the Horse Industry Alliance, but the timing was not right for an all-industry effort.
But maybe now, here, in one small geographic region, the timing IS right for a multipronged effort to unite and grow the horse industry. The committee intends to set measurable growth goals for all industry sectors for the next five years.
Save The Horse Farms! Save The Horse Farms!
A dramatically named committee, one envisions armies of mounted equestrians charging into municipal buildings across the Free State to “free the horse farms” from the tyranny of zany zoning codes and perplexing permitting processes. Alas, the reality is much drier and more academic, and at times sputteringly and astoundingly stupid.
Nevertheless, some intrepid horse farm owners in each county are tackling “city hall” with aplomb, allowing themselves to be test cases to see how the process really works in each jurisdiction, sharing the experience with others in their particular communities, and then dedicating themselves to changing the process so that the others who come after them will have an easier time.
Frederick County has led the way with their success story of 2010. After farm owner Elizabeth Winters, while trying to build a second indoor arena on a second farm, discovered quite by accident that some new (and by now renowned as being “wacky”) zoning codes had been enacted, the equestrian community in Frederick County got behind her and worked with various elected leaders and government officials and got the zoning codes cleaned up.
Likewise, inspired by the success of the horse farm owners in Frederick County, Debbie Sharp is dedicating her pursuit of permits for her “As Yet To Be Named Farm” in Baltimore County to bettering the process, and is keeping the members of MHC informed of the different phases of her adventure. She is bound and determined to improve the system.
Both Chris Aist (a member of the Annapolis Recreation Advisory Board) and Steuart Pittman (whose Dodon Farm is in Anne Arundel County) reported that Anne Arundel County is extremely anti-horse in both its zoning codes and its permitting processes. They noted that indoor arenas are allowed in Anne Arundel County, but only if they are used for storing equipment and not for riding. There are a lot of fancy equipment sheds in Anne Arundel County! Horse farm owners are expected to have something of a turning point with the county on June 15, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, Montgomery County officials have decided that their zoning codes are too complex, and so they have hired a firm from Austin, Texas to redraft and streamline its codes. To ensure local input into the process, the County Planning Board appointed a group of community representatives, architects, developers, and other land-use specialists to review, recommend, and provide feedback on new ideas and to propose direction for the zoning code rewrite. MHC vice president Jane Seigler was asked to represent the farm interests, which she agreed to do, and she is working hard to adequately represent all farmers, not just horse farmers, in this process.
Save The Horse Farm Committee chairman Valerie Orman valiantly continues to fight the good fight in Prince George’s County to preserve the rural tier and to ensure that the county considers horses to be agricultural, just as the state does. Working with Valerie in this effort and on the Task Force are Harry Ketts (At Last Farm, Acquasco), Dorothy Troutman (Glenwood Farm, Upper Marlboro), and Erica Lancaster (Bowie). In October 2010, the Prince George’s County Equine Industry Task Force recommended a Zoning Bill (CB-92-2010) which passed to amend the definitions of agriculture and agritourism; to add definitions for equine activities and equine facility, and to permit these uses in certain residential zones.
Two salient pieces of advice came out of the various county reports:
1) Quite often, the permitting office and the zoning office are not on the same page or are not using the same guidelines;
2) Many zoning offices and/or permitting offices establish regular (usually monthly) meetings with organized interest groups, such as builders or developers, to discuss issues of concern; rarely do they ever meet with farmers to discuss their concerns and issues, so the horse community should consider working with the government to establish such routine meetings.
Healthy Pastures = Clean Waters
Nutrient Management consultant George Maurer gave a detailed presentation on his proposal to collaborate with MHC to obtain federal grant monies for an outreach effort for horse farm owners. The 3-yr project will provide horse farm owners with information about conservation best management practices as well as provide help with conservation planning and installation of conservation practices (i.e. fence horses out of streams and maintaining a health grass stand). The grant will be submitted to the Chesapeake Bay Small Watersheds Grant Program in early June.
Grace and Savannah Fulton and Tate Shaw gave a presentation on behalf of a group of young equestrians on how they thought they could help grow the Maryland horse industry. The young riders were delighted to learn that youth are already included on the Board of Directors for the Maryland Horse Council, and pledged to be active on a variety of projects. The young riders were encouraged to move forward on developing their own projects and initiatives.
Ron McNab gave a truncated trails report, after which the meeting adjourned. Attendees lingered for quite a while afterwards, networking and socializing.
MHC vs. MHIB – What’s the diff?
The Maryland Horse Council is a private umbrella association for all horse organizations, farms, businesses and horse people in Maryland; MHC can lobby and is funded by dues, sponsorship, and fundraisers.
The Maryland Horse Industry Board is a public entity, created by statute (that was lobbied for by MHC), housed at the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and funded through a the feed fund, a refundable assessment on every ton of processed feed sold in Maryland, which works out to 15 cents for each bag of feed. MHIB oversees the Stable Licensing program.
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