Md. horse industry reps meet, discuss plan at forum
(Editor’s note: Lesley Porterfield is the president of the Giddy Up 4-H Club and the junior leader of the Woof Pack 4-H Club in Calvert County, Md.)
BALTIMORE — For the past 15 years, horse farm owners, educational outreach facilitators, health professionals, advertising executives, college students, academic professors, 4-H members, and international businessmen have come together to guide the growth and development of Maryland horse industry.
The Maryland Horse Forum is a quinquennial event (occurring every five years) that engages people involved in all aspects of Maryland equiculture to discuss current industry issues and challenges and to identify and recommend potential solutions.
This immersive event not only helps the Maryland Horse Industry Board formulate a strategic plan for the next five years, it enhances and strengthens the network of horse professionals across the state.
The most recent Maryland Horse Forum was held on Aug. 8 at Goucher College.
Issues presented in breakout sessions were selected from topics recommended earlier in the year by horsemen and women from across the state. They were categorized into three broad topic areas: Horse-Keeping and Welfare; Land Use, Legislature, and Liability; and Participation, Promotion and Education.
Attendees participated in discussions of topics including protection and use of recreational riding space, equine insurance and risk, and public perception of the horse industry.
One of the most popular sessions was “Recruiting and Retaining the Next Generation,” where participants were asked to share ideas for two different education-based goals: To increase the general public’s interest in the Maryland horse industry, and to provide opportunities and support to young people seeking careers in the industry.
With these goals in mind, forum members considered ideas such as free horsemanship lessons at Maryland Horse Discovery centers, a mobile Maryland Horse Council classroom, expanded outreach programs to non-rural and urban parts of the state, scholarships for equine-focused higher education, and a centralized directory of internship and employment opportunities in all aspects of the horse industry.
Underscoring the importance of attracting young people to the industry, the Forum engaged five college and high school students interested in equine careers as scribes for breakout sessions.
These future professionals provided a unique perspective in session discussions, as well as served an important function in recording Forum proceedings.
Maryland’s role in the international equine industry was also highlighted at the Maryland Horse Forum.
Over lunch, participants received an update from Tom Kelso, Chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, about improvements to Cecil County’s Fair Hill International Eventing Center.
The Fair Hill course is being renovated to host a prestigious five-star eventing competition, making Maryland one of just two states to hold both a five-star eventing competition and one of the three races comprising thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown (Kentucky is the other).
Additionally, the Maryland Five-Star at Fair Hill will become one of only seven five-star competitions in the world.
The Maryland Horse Forum is a unique event that brings together horse people from all walks of life and gives them a voice and a stake in the future of Maryland’s horse industry.
The Forum also strengthens and celebrates the partnership between the equine community and its governing body as together they strive to address important issues and find meaningful solutions for Maryland’s horses and horse lovers.
The work accomplished at the event will be compiled into a report to provide guidance to the governor and the horse industry itself as they look to the future.
The report will be available to the public in late 2019 through the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Horse Industry Board website.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925