During the most inactive time of my entire life, due entirely to surgeries and broken bones, I have an extraordinary amount of time to explore some other events in the horse world, most people would consider boring events occurring around me. But they are far from boring, if you pay enough attention. Last year I was incensed over certain membership increases, so I delved into those organizations to explore reform. That still continues, and along the way I have re-discovered other organizations and the links between them. Luckily for me, I live in Maryland. I understand the small size of our state and the issues we have and how we have to be careful with in comparing the size of our industry patterns with say, California.
I started attending MD Horse Industry Board Meetings. Ours in Maryland has evolved over the years into a relatively small but focused group of horsemen representing all aspects of life among horses from over 35 different disciplines/lifestyles we offer in Maryland. Ten years ago I tried these meetings and walked away several times with a headache. Today, either my maturity and experience caught up with me or the meetings are actually really productive. Keep your ‘eye rolls’ at bay for a minute, believe me, I have had many over the years, but it is hard to deny inspiration and ideas can arise from a gathering of eclectic horse people, either for your own business, or for other organizations we shovel our money over to each year.
I like where our current MHIB is heading, there is a clearer picture presenting itself about how to connect the web of people involved in horses, and bring in fresh, new faces into our world, and keep the horse business a valid industry in our State. We need all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds to contribute to the future of horse sports, on all levels right? And provide options. There is a lot to be said for people burning out from one discipline, only to discover over 30 alternatives to keep them involved in horses. This may seem inconsequential to you at the moment, but your best friend maybe getting really, really tired of keeping her boarding/lesson facility afloat, want to sell and get out of it entirely, and may not know about the Horse Discovery Program offered which can revitalize a lesson facility with an influx of beginner riders. Adding that farm to the tour, along with a rescue donkey, might just be the answer she needs and you could be the one to offer that suggestion.
There are also parallels coming from within the meetings which could be compared to the USHJA and USEF. It is funny we all are looking for the same thing….. sport growth.
I hear rumors about other states reluctant to evolve, or push for licensed stables and public operations, but I can’t help feel that if we were all moving forward together, we would be waking up to less and less reports of animal neglect on farms across the nation. I know I would be happy to never, ever hear of a Peaceable Farms (Virginia) situation again, or last years Jessica York’s herd in Bangor, Maine which sounds equally messy. There are hundreds of ugly situations all over the country. Maybe if we were all checking on each other a little more frequently, these situations would become non-existent, and we would have less or no need for the ASPCA, PETA, or the Humane Society. How nice to be able to put those jerks out of business. However, I digress.
Sparking ideas is a legitimate reason to keep networking. I learned about the most exciting new circuit developing from an idea Patte Zumbrun has for young riders I can hardly contain my excitement for. This fall she is starting a new association similar to the structure of ANRC, but for high school students. The Horsemanship test is part of your overall score; shows will be provided, and a championship at the end of the year. What an incredible solution to the vast canyon IEA has left with barn owners struggling to provide horses for the ‘Ten Minute Rider’. I am personally a strong opposer to the IEA, I don’t support any equine activity in which the only requirement is the purchase of an outfit, and horses are considered disposable or somebody else’s problem at the end of the day. In my eyes, it is ludicrous, as well as dangerous, and not enough of those riders continue in the industry. This other proven model will broaden opportunities for young riders in different financial brackets, and open the doors for them professionally down the road, essentially grooming our future professionals from the beginning if Pony Club is unavailable to them. Some amount of philosophy is needed in all careers, equestrianism is no different, and it is a relief to see people unafraid to test new boundaries. I hope to follow her progress with enthusiasm.
Military. Maryland is apparently the place to be for Wounded Warriors. I find it dumbfounding there are over 20 stables offering programs to veterans, and thriving in this state. 20! That in itself is pretty incredible, and as far as I know there aren’t too many USEF Recognized Horse Shows raising money for veterans, so these programs are surviving on grants and private donors. Imagine if just 5 horse shows donated a tiny portion of their proceeds to these stables, what it could do for the veterans who served us so we can even have the freedom to run horse shows. Imagine if 10 people reading this called some of those programs and asked if they needed an extra hand or water bucket, halter, or hay…
Hospital horses. Pet Therapy is one of the most effective ways to engage people and sadly one of the most under used tools in society today. What if you had a way to help brighten just one person’s day but no idea how to make that happen? Using your network might allow a few patients young and old to see more than the bedroom walls for an hour a month or more. Maybe an invitation to the Capital Challenge Horse Show might garner enough donations to make this little guy stay busy year round. Watch the video, just watch. http://www.wbaltv.com/mini-horse-dog-help-patients-kids-cope-in-maryland/32420142
Find them on FB and like this photo of our mascot Violet if you love horses! Share this photo with a friend who wants to SHARE our love of horses! Meet Violet on 4/24! — feeling in love at The Big Purple Barn.
Film Festival. If you haven’t heard of Harry & Snowman I don’t know what to do with you or even guess what you have been doing with your life. And if you haven’t seen it, here is your chance. The Senator Theatre in Baltimore is hosting the final screening before it goes public on Wednesday May 11th. There are 700 seats in the Senator Theatre. It is part of the Winners Tour of the EQUUS Film Festival, and a Spring “Barn Night” might become your best idea yet, if you post a sign in your barn saying “WE ARE GOING TO SEE HARRY & SNOWMAN MAY 11TH!!!!!!!” DO it, not since the Black Stallion has there been a horse movie like this. Details are being finalized but you can basically see 2 or 3 films (some short) for $15 a ticket, or be included in the VIP reception for $50 and MEET the filmmakers. You should be there. Find the MHIB Facebook page for info.
Jousting. Yep, our state sport. Seriously though, what could be more fun than trying to poke a stick through a ring at 20-30 miles an hour? Heath Ledger made jousting sexy as hell in A Knights Tale, but few people know what it really entails unless you have been to Medieval Times or the Renaissance Festival, there are actually tourneys all over the State and all summer long, starting with one on May 7th in Glen Arm! Just for fun I googled the sight, and discovered there are over 150 riders doing this. Holy Crap. I must see this. www.marylandjousting.com or video: https://youtu.be/eTxkGlGfMmE
Steeplechase. We can’t get enough of Spring racing in our state, and back to back weekends full of horse racing and pink and green popping up all through the Valley, which the MD Hunt Cup is considered the holy grail of trophies to hold up in the air the final weekend in April on the famed horse farm of the Martin family. It’s ridiculous and dangerous, but sure is fun. Some of these events host pony racing, (a lot less dangerous and more fun) which eventually bleeds over into the Shetland Pony races held at Washington International in the fall, a huge delight to crowds attending that event. Like seeing them at those big shows? Support them in the spring, too! www.usponyracing.com
Polo: It’s everywhere, but essentially Ladew Gardens is the place to find a lot of Polo, especially Fridays and Sundays, and July boasts a fundraiser for Shock Trauma (useful hospital for riders) called the Ronny Maher Benefit Polo Match. Good times, tix here www.ronnymahermemorial.org.
Those are only a few examples, and people are involved with dozens more, Mounted Police, Arabbers, Therapeutic Riding, Eventing, Pony Club, Foxchasing, The State Fair, Horse Shows, Dressage, Rodeos, Calvary, Assateauge, breed shows, Racing, Special Olympics, and every thing else you can think of.
Change any preconceived notions about the MHIB, visit the site, look at the schedule, see what opportunities are available for you or children you know. There is so much more coming in the future we will all benefit from. If you are in the 49 other states, get motivated to make your Industry Board forward thinking. Create a model which can be used nationally for every discipline, for every horse, for every rider. It is about getting involved.