by The Maryland Horse Forum | Strategic Planning Committee Edited by the Maryland Horse Industry Board Members and Staff, Maryland Department of Agriculture Staff and the Maryland Horse Forum | Strategic Planning Committee

On August 6, 2009, over 300 leaders from the Maryland horse industry met at The Showplace Arena and Prince George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro to outline the issues currently facing the industry, and to strategize how to economically significant industries.

Census and economic impact data collected over the previous decade have clearly indicated that the Maryland horse industry is an integral part of the State?’s economy and landscape. Maryland is home to approximately 100,000 horses, and has more horses per square mile than Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and California, or any other State in the country. These horses are kept on more than 200,000 acres of open space; and when this acreage is added to the number of acres associated with hay and grain production, there are 685,000 acres in the State that provide for the health of the horse industry. This acreage equals approximately 10 percent of Maryland?fs land area used to support horses. In addition, the total economic impact of the horse industry upon the State comprises $1.6 billion annually, 28,800 jobs, tens of thousands of individuals involved directly with the industry and millions of spectators. Maryland depends on the horse industry, and the future of the industry depends on the decisions that our leaders will be making in the coming years.

The forum was organized into nine sessions, each of which covered a specific topic related to the industry. The highlight of the afternoon was a keynote address by Maryland Governor Martin O?fMalley in which he stated that ?gOur heritage, our spirit, our economy, our land and our jobs ?| all of those things are strengthened and enriched by the presence of the horse through the centuries, and are no less significant today. The work done today to shape the direction of the horse industry is central to its future viability and prosperity, in turn keeping tens of thousands of jobs, enhancing the enjoyment of citizens of all ages, preserving hundreds of thousands of acres of land and contributing over a billion dollars to the State?fs economy.?h Within each session professional meeting facilitators directed the discussion. Those in attendance discussed the issues facing the industry and worked together to form recommendations that could resolve those issues.

The following is a synopsis of the recommendations identified within each of the forum sessions:

The success of the Maryland horse industry depends largely upon the individuals that are employed within it. With that in mind, the recommendations from the session are:
~ Improve industry interaction with the available domestic labor force
~ Develop and increase educational training for the workforce, including vocational and high school programs, and offer horse industry specific Spanish and English classes
~ Work towards making workmen?fs compensation insurance more affordable to small businesses
~ Simplify the process of hiring foreign workers through the use of on-line resources that would allow employers to easily verify workers?f employment authorizations
~ Utilize State agencies and the University of Maryland to offer training on hiring foreign labor
~ Better publicize State and federal information on workers?f rights in horse industry related businesses

Zoning and Land Use 
The equestrian community needs to ensure that the policies created by local planning and zoning authorities are compatible with the realities of horse keeping and horse businesses. The primary recommendations are:
~ Members of the horse industry should align themselves with the interests of other segments of Maryland agriculture in keeping with the Maryland General Assembly?’s view of equine activities as agricultural in nature (Annotated Code of Maryland, Article ?| Agriculture, ??2?|702.1).
~ Simplify access to information on regulatory requirements and benefit programs at both the state and local levels
~ Create a single source of information about current programs and requirements
~ Document useful suggestions for zoning and permit requirements for use by the horse industry and local officials in crafting programs and regulations

Promoting and Marketing the Horse
Both State and private entities must improve marketing for the benefit of the entire equestrian community and for the State of Maryland as a whole.

Of all of the forum sessions this one elicited the largest amount of recommendations.
~ The State legislature and the Governor should establish a Maryland Horse Park, and have the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB), the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) work towards that end
~ The State legislature and the Governor should establish a Livestock Import/Export Quarantine Center at the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), and have the MDA, the MHIB, the Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA), BWI and DBED work towards that end
~ All relevant State agencies including the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA), State Highway Administration (SHA), MAA and Maryland Port Authority should help to improve the marketing of Maryland as a horse state at all ports of entry and exit
~ Funding for the MHIB should be increased through a ?horse tag? similar to the ?ag tag;? or through earmarking funds from the lottery or slots
~ Interested stakeholders should band together to create a 5-year strategic marketing plan for the horse industry in Maryland
~ Racetracks should increase marketing of their facilities availability for non-racing functions, partner with non-profit causes, provide more spectator education on how become involved in racing as owners, and increase outreach to corporations to use racing facilities during live racing times as conference facilities
~ The MDA should continue to work with the horse industry through the MHIB, and the Office of International Marketing to expand marketing efforts
~ DBED should undergo a complete evaluation of how it serves the horse industry and adopt the successful practices in other states and countries
~ DBED should use the quality of life value of the horse industry to attract high profile corporations to base their headquarters in Maryland
~ The Offices of Tourism and Sports Marketing should use the handful of high profie equestrian sporting and spectator events in Maryland (such as the Fair Hill International, The Legacy Chase and Columbia Classic) as another draw for tourism
~ The Office of Tourism should promote Maryland as a destination state by helping to market stables offering guided trail rides, horses for rent and equine-oriented bed and breakfasts, and working with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to promote Maryland trails and camping with a horse
~ The University of Maryland (UMD) should create an Equine Research Center at BWI as a part of the Maryland-Virginia Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
~ UMD Extension should work with the Maryland State Department of Education to adopt, as part of its standard curriculum, the Black Stallion Literacy Program
~ All relevant State agencies should have funding dedicated to improve, redesign and increase the quantity of the visual displays at BWI to improve the awareness that Maryland is a ?horse state? for arriving travelers
~ All relevant State agencies including the SHA should work with the MHIB to create a coordinated state-level signage effort, to promote public equestrian facilities, breeding farms, equestrian parks, spectator events and any equine operation in a land preservation program
~ Maryland county tourism offices should offer seminars to local horse businesses to help them understand what their local tourism office can do for them, and should coordinate horse farm tours, etc.

Legal Matters, Liability and Insurance

Protecting horse businesses from the threat of litigation is a key concern of the industry due to the unpredictability of horses themselves, and the unavoidable dangers of the farms or stables in which they are kept. Many equine businesses cannot afford the cost of a prolonged court case, or even the high cost of insurance for simply protecting their investments from unexpected (catastrophic) loss. Some suggestions to mitigate these issues are:
~ Maintaining Maryland?fs Contributory Negligence standard is of utmost importance
~ Studying the costs and benefits of an Equine Limited Liability statute
~ Encouraging horse businesses to implement measures to protect their operations, including the use of signs, waivers and business documents
~ Increasing the education by horse businesses to the public about horses and the inherent risks involved
~ Measures should be taken by the industry to reduce insurance rates, including but not limited to formulating uniform best practice standards and adopting them

Vision for the Future of Maryland Racing 
No sector of the Maryland horse industry has received more attention than the racing sector. Whilst some of that attention has been negative, the passage of slots legislation could enable the racing sector to regain its national prominence. Its future will depend greatly on the political and industry leaders who can impact its direction and the thoughtfulness, forward thinking and spirit of cooperation they employ in directing the industry. A few of the suggestions to lead Maryland racing into the future are:
~ Leaders in the racing sector need to enlist the assistance of Maryland government agencies and professional public relations firms to develop a unified, widespread and effective marketing and promotional plan for Maryland racing, which must include the Maryland Bred Program
~ All members of the Maryland racing sector along with allied state government partners (i.e. DBED) need to increase efforts to establish a more positive image for Maryland racing to increase its fan base and viability for the future
~ Racetracks owners and operators need to reinvent racetrack facilities on many levels including changing to a one-stop entertainment destination model, upgrading quality of facilities and using the most current technologies ~ Increase efforts and funding are needed to promote and educate spectators and racing sector members about the health and welfare of the racehorse
~ Given the diverse and unique challenges facing the racing sector of the Maryland horse industry, it is strongly recommended that a day-long Maryland Horse Racing Forum be initiated to more thoroughly discuss the issues and identify solutions

Trails and Public Lands
Although topics related to trails and public lands are diverse, there seemed to be a common thread from both government and members of the horse community. Each felt a need to identify the stakeholders and work constructively to improve the shared use of our trails and our access to public lands, and to do so while maintaining good stewardship of our natural resources.

Some of the recommendations are:
~ Trail users and government agencies should work together and listen to each others?f concerns in balancing our use of natural surface trails while maintaining good stewardship
~ Encourage Maryland State Parks, Forests and all relevant Maryland land conservation programs to establish a working user?fs Advisory Group for Maryland State Parks, Forests and Maryland greenways
~ Work with the DNR to expand horse camping opportunities at Maryland State Parks and at existing sites at Fair Hill and Cedarville. Improve overnight camping amenities such as showers
~ Work with the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission to open a few more horse campsites and/or to permit travelers to camp overnight while on travel through Maryland
~ The DNR in coordination with the MHIB and the DBED should establish an online listing of public and private horse camping facilities, bed and breakfast locations that offer horse boarding and other facilities that offer overnight boarding
~ The DNR and the counties should provide equestrian trail maps on-line in PDF form and downloadable GPS Exchange Files (GPX files) for upload to personal GPS units
~ Construct sustainable trails and prohibit riding under wet conditions in order to reduce the problems with over-use and erosion
~ Institute ?Adopt-A-Trail programs throughout the State where clubs or individuals agree to maintain a trail, park or portion of a greenway
~ Federal, State, and local agencies should institute a policy of building low-cost natural surface trails alongside paved trails
~ Adopt new strategies to keep horseback riders and mountain bikers off natural surface trails when they are wet including installing signs at trailheads
~ All trail-using groups, whether horse-related or otherwise, should become more organized and cooperate together to better represent their interests. This can be done by identifying and creating a list for the stakeholder groups of natural surface trails, and making this list available to the stakeholders
~ Make informal alliances with other users of natural surface trials. Agree to exchange information on pending concerns and trail maintenance days. Join forces to request easements when access to our parks is being jeopardized by new development
~ Identify advocates on the local level to work with their county Parks and Zoning Boards and keep equestrians and allied groups aware of important issues

Going Green 
Given that 94% of Maryland is located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the horse industry must focus its attention on implementing the best management practices, and promoting itself as an important part of open space preservation that will buffer run-off into the Bay. Some ideas include:
~ The industry along with experts from UMD and Soil Conservation Districts should continue to work together to increase the adoption of best management practices by members of the industry
~ Improve methods of communication between conservation experts and the industry to relate the newest scientific finds to those who need the information
~ Survey and assess the need for composting facilities, and if feasible, offer manure composting sites around the State
~ Work with vendors, such as SWEBO, on the leading edge of technological changes in the processing of horse manure
~ Identify funding for equine operators implementing the best management practices. Create a database of available grants, educate horse farm operators on how grant programs work, and work directly with farm operators to determine which programs are economically feasible for them
~ Understand that the process of ?greening the horse industry? will be a long and complex process that will require a re-evaluation of current programs, with respect to their size, structure, funding and scope

Infrastructure and Competition Venues

The main focus of the session was to identify the needs of the industry for infrastructure and competition facilities.
~ Throughout the forum members of the horse industry overwhelmingly believe that the Governor should have the MSA, MHIB and the DBED move forward with locating, and beginning construction of a Maryland Horse Park as outlined in the 2005 Maryland Horse Park Feasibility Study
~ Industry members noted an inadequate number of facilities and inadequate support for existing public equestrian facilities such as the Prince George?fs Equestrian Center
~ The industry supports the creation of an import/export center at BWI airport as outlined in the 2006 Mid-Atlantic Animal Import Center Feasibility Study

Unwanted Horses

The issue of the unwanted horse is a national issue and is not a new problem. It is perhaps one of the most controversial topics currently impacting the horse industry nationwide. Some common ground on this issue was found and the following recommendation was developed:
~ Gather industry groups together, including the MHIB?’s Equine Health Advisory Committee and the MHC’s Equine Health and Welfare Committee to identify solutions on the unwanted horse problem
~ Offer educational opportunities aimed at reducing the number of unwanted horses; increase the availability of resources on the unwanted horse issue
~ Promote successful horse adoption programs