first published in the January 2023 Equiery

Happy New Year!
Although 2022 was a banner year for the Maryland horse industry – a MARS Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill presented by Brown Advisory that was even more successful than the inaugural event; the long-awaited return of the Washington International Horse Show to Maryland, and a Capitol Challenge Horse Show with a block-buster 1,800 competitors, to name just a few – January is nevertheless a time for fresh starts and new beginnings.

To that end, you will see that this issue is something of a Survey Issue. We discuss two of the surveys we conducted in 2022 – a government relations survey and a sport horse competition survey – and we also report out the results of our 2022 Membership Survey.

These surveys both confirm the relevance of our work to date and help us plan out our work going forward. In particular, the membership survey confirms that our expanded work on trail stewardship issues this past year, in particular our monthly Trail Stewardship Town Halls and our monthly Trails Stewardship columns in The Equiery, are welcome additions. We have also added an Equine Assisted Therapy Town Hall and will have our inaugural Association Town Hall in February 2023, based on the feedback provided in theses surveys.

Below is the Membership Committee’s report on its 2022 survey.

2022 Membership Survey Report
by Jane Thery & the MHC Membership Committee

The MHC Membership Committee conducted a Membership Survey in 2022 to solicit feedback from MHC members on their areas of interest and views on MHC activities.

The survey questions were drafted by then Membership Committee members Dawn Edgerton-Cameron and Jane Thery and discussed within the Membership Committee then chaired by Ashley Adams Aycock. The questions were revised and approved by the MHC Executive Committee, and the Survey was sent out in the Spring of 2022, with several reminders.

The results of the Survey were compiled, and a summary of the numerical results are presented here. Highlights from the comments are also included. Next steps include a follow-up survey to our membership later this month to help us prioritize the topics on which MHC should focus in 2023.

In view of the helpful information garnered from this Survey, the MHC Membership Committee has recommended that an annual Membership Survey be conducted to assist MHC leadership in pursuing its goal of meeting the expectations of its members.

Survey Summary
The Survey asked the following questions:

1. What type of Membership do you have?
2. Why did you join the MHC?
3. What activities would you like to see in the next two years?
4. What is the MHC already doing that you value?
5. Has your MHC membership met your expectations?

A quarter of the MHC membership responded to the Survey. In general, survey response rates in the 5% to 30% range are typical. This response rate therefore demonstrates a motivated core of members who value MHC and are willing to take the time to provide their views to MHC leadership. The MHC Membership Committee would like to thank those members who responded and provided this valuable input.

Question 1: What type of Membership do you have?
• 60.4% were Individuals
• 30.2% were Industry Professionals
• 9.4% were Associations
• 0% were Youths

Question 2: Why did you join the MHC (check all that apply)?
• 79.4% Legislative representation
•58.8% Horse industry networking
• 56.7% Equine wellness advocacy
• 56.7% Educational opportunities
• 44.3% Farm stewardship advocacy
• 35.1% Equiery home subscription
• 16.5% Free events promotion
• 15.5% Members-only events
• 9.3% Discounts on horse products
• 9.3% Discounts on Equiery advertising

Question 3: What activities would you like to see in the next two years? (open text response)
The responses to this question generally fell into the following groups, with some interesting individual ideas worth noting.

(1) On general MHC performance, members would like: more networking opportunities, better communication between members and leadership, increased visibility of the MHC in the Maryland horse community, a mix of both zoom and in-person meetings, more marketing to promote the horse community and, in addition to the valued state legislative work, some county and federal laws/regulations efforts. Diversity, including better representation of the range of different horse sports in the state, such as Western riding, was also raised as an issue to address in the future. (MHC works closely with the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB), whose mission is to market the horse industry, as well as the American Horse Council (AHC), which advocates for the horse industry at the federal level.)

(2) There was significant interest in educational events, on topics such as horse welfare, farm management, regulations, land management and preservation, veterinary issues, rescue and aftercare, and the role of non-profits. Advocacy was valued, as a watch dog to represent the horse industry in the state legislature. Advocacy for zoning, easements, and other ways to preserve equestrian lands was desired. More resources dedicated to advocacy and updates for members were suggested.

(3) Of specific topics, the most highlighted was trail riding and related issues such as access and maintenance of trails and restricting hunting in trail riding areas. Support of trails for driving was noted as well.

(4) Some new ideas emerged from the comments, such as hosting fun talks on equestrian vacations, holding the horse expo at the State Fairground again or at the Show Place Arena in Prince Georges County, and some way to assess the quality of care at boarding facilities.

Question 4: What is the MHC already doing that you value?
Most respondents highly valued the legislative advocacy of the MHC with the state legislature. Advocacy for horse welfare, including stopping horse abuse, was highlighted, as well as promoting good farm stewardship. Providing updates and information through The Equiery and other MHC communications was appreciated. Promoting the horse community in general in the state was also noted as an important role of the MHC.

Question 5: Has the MHC membership met your expectations?
• 82.5% Yes
• 13.4% Somewhat
• 4.1% No

Overall, a very positive response, with the vast majority of respondents feeling that the MHC has met their expectations. The comments in this section called for more communication between leadership and members, a greater role for members in decision-making process, the need to keep all horse sports in mind when doing MHC work, more focus on horse welfare, the concerns of horse owners and trail riders, and more information on horse activities available in Maryland.