There was a lot of horsing around in Annapolis Tuesday, as a more than hundred representatives of Maryland’s diverse horse industry gathered to lobby legislators for an array of horsey priorities.
Thoroughbred racing and the gambling that goes with it has often been the focus of the General Assembly, but leaders of the $1.6 billion industry have formed a coalition to emphasize the broader interests of the horsey set.
Maryland has about 80,000 horses on 587,000 acres — 10% of the state’s land and 25% of its farmland, more horses per square mile than any other state, the horse industry claims.
Maryland Horse Industry Day certainly grabbed the attention of the Hogan administration, with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford kicking off the event. Five cabinet secretaries attended or spoke at an evening reception, along with a number of legislators.
“The governor talks about [the horse industry] all the time,” said Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder.
Budget Secretary David Brinkley has been riding since he was a boy, and still lives on a Frederick County farm with horses. “What we learned is our interdependence in agriculture,” Brinkley said, from feed and hay to fencing.
Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings told the group, “I’m closer to horses than anyone else in the legislature” — literally. The bedroom of his house on his Baltimore County farm sits above a stable for 12 horses, which he thought was a great idea until the kicking of the horses kept him up at night.
Jennings once ran a feed store, and his wife is an “equine nutritionist.”
The legislative priorities for the horse industry include promoting and maintaining open space, revitalizing horse racing, protecting animal welfare and supporting equine operations as an agricultural business.
The people representing the industry ranged from equine veterinarians like Dr. Kathleen Anderson, president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, to Miss Maryland High School Rodeo Queen Madison Iager and Barbara Smith, a thoroughbred breeder from Lothian. In 2014, Smith came in ninth in the annual Mongol Derby, racing Mongolian ponies in a 1,000-kilometer race in Mongolia.