Marylandia patrons pet a pony. Photo by The Racing Biz.

Today Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed October as Maryland Horse Month, recognizing the abundant historic, recreational, therapeutic, and economic contributions made by the state’s horse industry. Additionally, 2020 will be the first year that all of Maryland’s premiere equestrian sporting events, including the Preakness Stakes, are held in the same month due to scheduling changes in response to COVID-19.

“Maryland has historically led the nation in creating and growing innovative equestrian-related programs, from forming the first sporting organization in the colonies, the Maryland Jockey Club in 1743, to hosting the Maryland 5 Star, one of only seven events of this kind in the world,” said Governor Hogan. “Maryland Horse Month will showcase the depth and breadth of the industry’s impact on our history, heritage, and culture.”

In support of the Governor’s proclamation, the Maryland Horse Industry Board will lead a targeted marketing strategy to highlight state-wide attractions, events, activities, trails, exhibits, and experiences with an equestrian connection. The Maryland Horse Foundation’s website, MarylandHorse.com, has been enhanced to host live streaming broadcasts, educational content, career exploration series, and behind the scenes videos with plans to expand the selection of activities and experiences in the future.

“Like many of Maryland’s other businesses in 2020, our industry has had to be nimble in unprecedented ways, including rescheduling major equestrian events,” said Ross Peddicord, executive director of Horse Industry Board, a part of the Maryland Department of Agriculture. “Preakness Stakes will be run for the first time in its 145-year history in October instead of May, joining other key equestrian events to be held during the month including the Jim McKay Maryland Million race at Laurel and the Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill.”

These events will be held without spectators, and individual event organizers will present robust virtual experiences to whet the appetite for the 2021 competitions.

The Maryland Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism has joined the Horse Industry Board and the Board’s many private-sector equestrian organizations to promote Maryland Horse Month.

“These major equestrian events typically bring in thousands of tourists, as do our world-class destinations such as Assateague Island National Seashore, home to several bands of wild horses,” said Liz Fitzsimmons, managing director of the Maryland Office of Tourism. “Expanding the general public’s knowledge of Maryland’s idyllic horse country, whether it be through driving the Horses & Hounds Scenic Byway, exploring regional historic trails, learning about an historic breeding farm established in the 1740s, or engaging in outdoor activities such as horseback riding, is what we do best. During this inaugural Maryland Horse Month, we will unveil three Maryland Equestrian Travel Collections on our VisitMaryland website.”

The American Horse Council has ranked Maryland as #1 in the nation in horses per square mile. In addition to tourism attractions, there are 38 friendly and knowledgeable Maryland Horse Discovery Centers located in 18 counties that include licensed stables, therapeutic riding program providers, and state-of-the-art equestrian centers. All provide the perfect introduction to various segments of the industry.

Follow Maryland Horse Month on social media and use #MDHorse, #MDHorseMonth, #VisitMaryland, and #MDinFocus when posting about your tour of Maryland’s Equestrian Travel Collection. For the individual events, add #Maryland5Star, #Makeit5Star, #VirtualMD5Star, #MDMillion, #Preakness, #Preakness145, #BlackEyedSusan, and #JewelToRemember.