by Frank Vespe
Once fragmented and diffuse, Maryland’s horse industry has become increasingly unified in recent years, not only within the racing segment of the industry but also across segments.
One of the first public examples of that growing unity came last August when a cadre of horse interests combined to host Horse Land at the State Fair in Timonium, a celebration of the horse that coincided with the Thoroughbred racing program during the Fair.
The next example will be this coming Tuesday, February 23, when horse folk descend on Annapolis for the second annual Horse Industry Day, which will include issue briefings, a press conference, meetings with lawmakers, and an evening reception.
“The goal is to let our public officials know that, number one, the horse industry matters,” says Ross Peddicord, the Executive Director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board and one of the organizers of the event. “Number two, we are all united around the horse.”
Peddicord will be among the speakers kicking off the day with an issues briefing, which begins at 1:00 p.m. Others on the agenda include Maryland Racing Commission chairman John McDaniel; Kelly Schulz, the Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR), which oversees thoroughbred racing in the state; and Jim Eichhorst, the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. They’ll address key issues facing the equine industry in Maryland, and how best to communicate industry concerns to legislators.
“It gives us a chance to highlight the economic impact of the horse industry, our interest in animal welfare, and how we help protect open spaces,” says Peddicord.
“We all want to say the horse industry is important to Maryland, and not just say it to ourselves,” agrees Cricket Goodall of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, another of the 14 groups behind Horse Industry Day.
Goodall is expecting a couple hundred attendees, she says, and emphasizes that the more, the merrier.
“We need a critical mass because a larger group gets more attention from legislators,” she adds.
Once armed with issue and message training, and following the press conference, the day’s participants will fan out to legislators’ offices, sharing their personal stories and industry-wide concerns with lawmakers.
“We all know how important personal connections are with legislators,” Goodall notes. “It’s good to put a face on the stories.”
The day will conclude with an evening reception honoring the 2015 Touch of Class award winners, Marylanders who received national or international recognition for their work in the equine industry. Speakers at the reception will include Planning Secretary David Craig, Agriculture Secretary Joseph Bartenfelder, and Senate President Mike Miller (D-27).
It might tough for people to put aside a day to travel to Annapolis to chat with legislators. But Peddicord believes it’s critical to the industry’s well-being.
“It’s one of the most important things you can do,” he says. “If you want public officials to know about what you’re doing and to support bills you support, you need to stand up and be counted.”
For more, check out marylandhorse.com.