by Kimberly K. Egan, MHC Co-President
Summer starts this month and some of the youngest members of our community look ahead to three months of fun with horses. Summer camps get under way. Horse-crazy children everywhere spend as much time as they can with their favorite lesson horses at lesson barns and riding schools.
Riding schools are the bedrock of our sport and Maryland is unique among our neighboring states for the sheer number of riding schools where professional instructors and trained lesson horses are available for lessons to the non-horse owning public, and for the variety of opportunities they offer to students of all socio-economic backgrounds and interests. This issue of The Equiery pays homage to those special programs, and those special lesson horses that teach everyone so much.
The entry level pipeline of new riders furnished by these lesson programs is one of the reasons the horse industry in Maryland is so healthy and so large. It is so healthy and large, in fact, that no one organization can keep it all straight and functioning smoothly. Enter the Maryland Horse Council and the Maryland Horse Industry Board.
The Maryland Horse Council and the Maryland Horse Industry Board – What’s the Difference?
Many people confuse the Maryland Horse Council (MHC) with the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) and vice versa, but we are not the same organization and we do very different things.
MHC – which is us – is the trade association representing all sectors of the horse industry in Maryland. Our core mission is to represent the equestrian community before state, county, and local governments, and to support the existing industry through education and networking. We are a tax-exempt, nonprofit entity, with dues paying members. Our members are individual horse owners; boarding and lesson barns; riding students; businesses that support the equestrian industry in Maryland; breed, interest or discipline associations or clubs; and anyone with a love for horses.
MHIB, on the other hand, is a commodities board within the Maryland Department of Agriculture, and it is responsible for licensing commercial stables and helping to market, and thus grow, the Maryland horse industry. MHIB administers the Horse Discovery Center program and is pulling the laboring oar on the 2024 Maryland Horse Census. MHIB is a governmental entity.
MHC and MHIB do, however, work closely with one another. The legislation that created MHIB requires that MHC have a seat on the Board of MHIB, and our officers and directors participate in almost all of the Board’s working committees. Our two organizations are currently working together on several new initiatives.
First, the Chairman of MHIB, Jim Steele of Shamrock Farm, has appointed a new Horse Industry Marketing Committee to take on the job of promoting our world-class equestrian facilities across the region, across the country, and across the world. The committee has applied to the Maryland Office of Tourism for a $250,000 grant to create a comprehensive branding and marketing effort to promote the Maryland Horse Park System, which we hope will drive national and international audiences to Maryland’s equestrian tourism destinations. MHC has a seat on this committee and will participate in the process of approving the projects for which the grant funds will be used.
Second, as part of that branding initiative, Governor Hogan is leading an equestrian trade mission to France and Ireland this summer. Ireland and France have robust international marketing campaigns, and Ireland in particular has done a masterful job branding Irish Thoroughbred flat racing and steeplechasing.
Another piece of the new international marketing campaign is an MHIB trip to Menorca in the Spanish Balearic Islands. Menorca has a storied harness racing tradition, and the hope is that the Maryland and Menorcan harness racing communities can work together to brand harness racing as a tourist attraction.
Third, MHIB has created a new Western Riding Committee and has tasked that committee with nurturing and growing the western disciplines in Maryland. MHC has a seat on that committee as well, and we hope to bring the western disciplines further into the larger equestrian community and help support western businesses.
And lastly, now that the decades-long effort to bring the Maryland Horse Park System into fruition is done, MHIB has created a Maryland Horse Park Affiliates committee to create the guidelines MHIB will use to add additional venues to the system. MHC will participate in that committee work as well.
Our collaboration with MHIB is an important part of our work, and luckily enough, it is also a ton of fun.
Corinne M. Pouliquen and Kimberly K. Egan are the Co-Presidents of the Maryland Horse Council. You can reach Corinne at email@example.com. You can reach Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.