The 2019 Horse Forum Report is out and study groups are being formed! Below is a summary of the report. To read the full summary, click here:

Executive Summary
The Maryland horse industry is a vibrant and robust economic driver in the State of Maryland that encompasses a diverse array of people, land uses, businesses, and equestrian activities. Like many agricultural industries, the Maryland horse industry faces a multitude of challenges that may, if unaddressed, pose a significant threat to the future prosperity and growth of the industry. Therefore, every five years, the Maryland Horse Industry Board along with its industry partners, hosts a one-day statewide open forum to bring together representatives from all sectors of the industry to devise strategies to counter current issues facing the horse industry.

This year’s event, the 4th Maryland Horse Forum, was held on August 8, 2019 at Goucher College and had over 250 people in attendance. A pre-forum survey of Maryland horse industry participants helped identify the most pressing issues they felt needed to be discussed which included 1) participation, promotion, and education, 2) horse-keeping and welfare, and 3) land use, legislation, and liability. The following is a condensed summary of the key issues, proposed action items, and suggested follow-up from the twelve discussion sessions at the Maryland Horse Forum.

Participation, Promotion and Education
Key issues:

  • There is a general feeling of concern by horse industry participants that the general public sees the horse industry as either elitist, expensive, hard to access, abusive, and of little consequence to the state.
  • More needs to be done to communicate the significance of the horse industry as it relates to Maryland’s economy, cultural and historic heritage, and health and well-being of its horses and human participants.
  • Information specifically related to the care, management, and enjoyment of horses is in many places and hard to find on the internet.
  • Need to update the 2010 Maryland Equine Census to address the current numbers and broken down by counties

Action items:

  • Increase promotion efforts clarifying the value and significance of the horse industry to create a more positive opinion by the public
  • Create a one-stop online information resource in regards to care, management, and enjoyment of the Maryland horse.
  • Increase promotion of existing youth horse programs to increase youth participation in the industry
  • Encourage more organizations and businesses to develop internships as a way to recruit and train the future workforce.
  • Engage in efforts that preserve and protect The Preakness Stakes in Maryland

Follow up:

  • Assigned to the Maryland Horse Foundation, University of Maryland Equine Studies, Maryland Horse Industry Leadership & Marketing Roundtable, comprised of more than a dozen industry organizations that meets informally most months, as well as other interested parties.

Horse-Keeping and Welfare
Key issues:

  • There continues to be a great deal of horses in need of transition to new owners
  • The cost of keeping horses is increasing and horse ownership is becoming less of an option for more people
  • Education and planning resources regarding end of life decisions for horses is lacking
  • More needs to be done to reduce catastrophic injuries to racehorses

Action items:

  • Develop a robust and wide-ranging network of participants willing to help a horse in need of transition
  • An industry-wide initiative should occur to prepare the entire industry for handling disease outbreaks and natural disasters along with existing emergency response teams in MD. Within this plan, large equestrian venues with high horse traffic (racetracks, fairgrounds, show complexes) are encouraged to develop biosecurity plans. In addition, a broad industry-wide communication strategy should be developed between private horse owners, equine businesses, and public equestrian facilities in regards to disease outbreaks/emergencies
  • The Maryland Jockey Club is encouraged to be more transparent in the efforts they are currently engaged in to ensure racehorse welfare
  • Support a statewide effort to streamline animal control laws regarding abused and neglected horses is needed

Follow up:

  • Assigned to the MHIB Welfare Committee, METS, Beyond the Wire, Maryland Racing Commission Safety Committee, Equine Welfare Committee, MD Fund for Horses and other interested parties

Land Use, Legislative and Liability
Key issues:

  • Loss of farmland and recreational open spaces to development for non-agricultural uses drives up prices of farmland, eliminates equestrian activities, and keeps new horse farm owners from starting equestrian businesses in Maryland.
  • Making a living in the horse industry is become more difficult due to horse care costs including horse and farm insurance
  • Horse owners need a better understanding of what resources are currently available to them regarding land preservation, zoning regulations, and legislative topics
  • Lack of consistency across county in relation to laws regulating practices related to horse husbandry land preservation, zoning regulations, and legislative topics

Action items:

  • Increase incentives and regulations to keep farmland being used for agricultural purpose
  • Improve education and outreach regarding land preservation programs and zoning regulations
  • Enhance education and outreach in equine business management to increase profitability
  • Increase communication of horse industry needs through annual horse industry day in Annapolis and local grass roots efforts
  • Continue to stymie laws allowing Sunday hunting
  • Work with insurance providers to bundle rates for participants in the Maryland horse industry
  • Elimination of redundancies in stable licensing between county and state programs
  • Explore ways to lower insurance costs for farm and business operators

Follow up:

  • Assigned to the Maryland Horse Council, Maryland Horse Breeders Association, the Maryland Jockey Club, lobbyist representatives and other interested parties