by Carrie Hull, Equiery Publisher & MHC Executive Director (first published in the February 2020 Equiery)
By the time you read this letter, the entire horse community in Maryland will have come together to attend the Maryland Horse Industry Day in Annapolis. In 2019, we had a record turnout and I only imagine this year to be even larger! In fact, as of press time, there are nearly 160 RSVPs already including the following confirmed speakers: Sec. Kelly Schulz, Dept. of Commerce; Sec. Joe Bartenfelder, Dept. of Agriculture; Sec. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, Dept. of Natural Resources; Sec. David Brinkley, Dept. Budget & Management; and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, past Past President of the Maryland Horse Council. We are proud to have such support of the horse community in Annapolis.
This Horse Industry Day is particularly important as our Legislative Committee has recently reconvened for its weekly meetings, for the duration of the three month session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. In these meetings, we discuss any bills that could possibly affect the horse community. These are often agricultural bills, but we also discuss a number of other areas that affect the community and industry such as taxes, labor and employment regulation, etc.
This year, the Maryland Horse Council is particularly proud to propose two equine welfare bills. In the Fall of 2019, several members of the Legislative Committee had meetings with potential sponsors for a number of different initiatives in the interest of the horse community. These initiatives were compiled as a result of a legislative survey to members in early June (Join the Maryland Horse Council today at join.mdhorsecouncil.org).
Once we found sponsors that were on board with some of these initiatives, we all worked together to make sure the bills were drafted with acceptable language. By the time The Equiery is published for February, we will have completed our first hearing in the House Environment and Transportation Committee for HB 9, Maryland Horse Industry Board – Breeding Stables and Horse Establishments – Definitions. This bill requires that pleasure and sport horse breeding stables now also be licensed by the Maryland Horse Industry Board. The bill was conceived by membership and industry partners as a way to help identify the small number of irresponsible breeders, such as those who have been behind the large seizure of horses for abuse and neglect that have occurred in recent years.
On a somber note, many readers of The Equiery and I mourn the recent passing of Teresa Butta. She had a transformative impact on my life at a very young age. In fact, I was her first Dressage student! My twin sister, Katie Hull, and I had two of Teresa’s ponies. Katie rode Speckles, a POA, through the Short Stirrup division. I fondly remember going back to Teresa’s barn to visit Speckles when we knew her time here with us with limited. It was a true mark of Teresa’s compassion and love of horses. Speckles spent many years on our farm and Teresa cared for her in her retirement until the day she left this earth. Blind in both eyes and years since we had seen her, Speckles remembered our voices. You could tell that visit was just as important, if not more, to this 30-something year old pony, as it was to us. We must remember the horse-human bond is not one-sided and horses deserve the compassion, care, love, and security every single day of their life. Sadly, Redzy, my pony that we bought from Teresa was taken from us too soon due to colic, but I cherished every day with her.
If we are very lucky, we get to have that horse of a lifetime. The one horse (or pony) that we love more than absolutely anything, and for me, this was Redzy. She was the gentlest and kindest horse I’ve ever encountered. She was my best friend and my confidant.
We talk so much about the horse-human bond and why it is critical for us to save these majestic animals because of their healing powers. For the sake of brevity, I will try to keep this short, but my wish is for everyone to experience the magic of horses. Our equestrian community, peers, competitors, recognize our common bond: the horse and the effect the horse has had on all of our lives. We must, though, continue to support our human-horse heroes, like Teresa Butta, who can impact the lives of our most vulnerable four-legged friends. She was a selfless advocate for all animals.
As I compose this letter, I reflect on a visit yesterday with the TRF Second Chances program, led by Sarah Stein, another human-horse hero. Sarah invited us to attend a graduation ceremony for one of the inmates in their program. It was amazing to witness these men describe the impact horses have had on their lives in just the short three to six months they have been involved in the program. Horses truly have a remarkable healing power. The inmates articulated so clearly how these six retired Thoroughbreds taught them patience, respect for others and themselves, and gratitude. I was extremely honored to present the graduate, Chris, with a one-year individual membership to the Maryland Horse Council. He is excited to pursue a career in the horse industry.
Remember, we can all make a difference, and it is not only our responsibility to protect our horses but also those humans dedicating their lives to these magnificent animals and sharing them with all of us that are either new to the horse world or multigenerational horsewomen and men.
Horses and people who love them change and elevate lives. I write from experience and much gratitude.