First published in the December 2022 Equiery

This month’s letter is brought to you by our immediate past President and current Treasurer, Neil Agate.

Dear all,

As former President and current Treasurer of the Maryland Horse Council (MHC), I was asked to present this letter to our members to explain a recent action of the MHC Board of Directors and to add my perspective on why it was necessary.

In September, our Executive Committee proposed, and the Board of Directors approved, the first membership dues increase in over 10 years. This was not something we did lightly as we all know that these are uncertain economic times, and we understand that we are all seeing increased costs in everything we do.

MHC’s costs have gone up significantly in the last 10 years. We were faced with the choice of either cutting back on the member services we provide or raising our membership dues. The Board felt, strongly, that not only should we continue to deliver for our membership, we should look for ways to expand the services we provide. The Board also felt strongly that we need to continue to compensate our employees appropriately even as cost of living increases and inflation take their toll.

I think it is important to recognize that while this is a moderate increase in our dues, the value of your Maryland Horse Council membership has increased much more dramatically in the last decade. Here’s how:

• MHC’s primary mission is to represent and support every facet of the Maryland horse industry, especially with legislators in Annapolis. In the last 10 years, our presence in Annapolis has increased significantly. Our Government Relations Committee is key to this function. Its hard-working members review every bill, every year, that could have anything to do with horses in Maryland. Committee members meet with legislators and present testimony when needed. There is no other group in Maryland that does this work on behalf of all aspects of our large and diverse industry. To aid this work, a portion of the membership dues goes to support our PAC, which is a critical tool in our lobbying toolbox. An increase in dues translates to an increase in PAC funding, and therefore increased influence of our PAC and of MHC.

• Since we purchased The Equiery in 2018, a home-delivered subscription has been included as part of all MHC memberships. The Equiery is a powerful communications tool, and it provides an extremely effective way to keep our members updated on everything horse related in Maryland. The Equiery is a lean organization staffed by a small group of incredibly dedicated professionals who constantly go above and beyond to produce a high-quality publication. At our current levels of distribution, The Equiery breaks even and contributes a small amount to MHC operations. Perhaps more importantly, The Equiery is the primary way that we keep our members informed and communicates our message to the greater Maryland horse community.

• Our committees allow MHC members to collaborate and build relationships around specific interests and are the heart-beat of MHC. In addition to the Government Affairs Committee, the Business Networking Committee, and the Farm Stewardship Committee, we have newly established (or resurrected) committees such as the Trail Stewardship Committee, the Equine-Assisted Services Committee, and the Maryland Sport Horse Committee. The committees help MHC stay ahead of the game by constantly expanding our service and audience. Our committees help us reach more horse people in more ways. In that same vein, we have recently introduced a new monthly podcast (Saddle Talk) and this, along with our soon to be released new website, will help us make our work even more effective.

I hope you will agree that MHC provides value that exceeds the cost of your membership. Please help us spread the word about MHC and, if you have the time, please join us on a committee to help us deliver even more value to our members. Your input and ideas will help the Maryland Horse Council serve our community and lead the way for years to come.

Starting on December 1 the membership dues will be:
• Individual Membership – $50/year
• Industry Professional – $125/year
• Association – $125/year

If your membership expired in 2022, you may renew at the old rates until January 1, so get your renewals in by December 31!

With best regards,
– Neil Agate