by Kimberly K. Egan and Corinne M. Pouliquen (first published in the December 2021 Equiery)

Winter is upon us. The days are short. It’s the season of shaggy horses, frozen water troughs, and rosy cheeks. It’s the season of thanks, of giving, and of hope for the future.

Maryland horse people have a lot to be thankful for. The industry continues to weather the COVID pandemic surprisingly well. The number of licensed stables is up over 30%, and lesson programs and boarding operations are at capacity. Interest in our sport continues to grow as more people look to the outdoors for recreation and exercise. The state is working to expand access to our public lands and to embrace the economic power of outdoor recreation.
Our industry made international history this year with the inaugural Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill, one of only seven equestrian events of its kind in the world; and with two Maryland-bred winners at last month’s Breeders’ Cup in Del Mar, California, otherwise known as the Olympics of Thoroughbred racing.

The General Assembly passed two significant legislative bond bills to increase capital funding for equine facilities – one for $500,000 for Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Howard County and one for $100,000 for Graham Equestrian Center in Baltimore County. The General Assembly also added equine-assisted therapy programs to the list of services eligible for reimbursement under the Maryland Veterans Administration’s Animal Service Program, and banned the sale of any cosmetics tested on animals.

Most importantly, Maryland horse people are blessed with the joy and privilege of sharing our lives with horses. Their powerful muscles and soft noses teach us more about compassion, grace, and humanity than any human teacher ever could. From them we learn the true meaning of selflessness, and trust, and responsibility. We are nothing without them.

We invite everyone to spend this holiday season treasuring our horses and celebrating the light they bring us. There’s a reason the winter is replete with festivals of light – whether it be Hannukah, Diwali, Christmas, or Kwanzaa — whether we celebrate the harvest and the blessings of the year just passed, or the miracle of the winter solstice and the promise of the year to come.

Stay warm and stay safe. See you next year!