MD horse industry has successful day of legislative advocacy

Posted: Jan. 31, 2017

A large crowd of horse industry representatives was on hand Jan. 31 for the annual Maryland Horse Industry Day, which is designed to promote advocacy for equine activities throughout the state.

The event, held for the most part in the Miller Senate Office Building, also received strong support from lawmakers who spoke of the value of the horse industry to the Maryland economy and preservation of open space.

Representatives of all aspects of the equine industry in Maryland, which leads the country in horses per square mile at 15.6, spent about five hours in the state capital to meet with individual legislators and staff members and to hear panelists discuss legislative advocacy by interest groups. At least 20 members of the state House of Delegates and Senate visited—and many of them offered comments—during the lunch hour.

Several of them were involved in legislation that authorized casino gambling in Maryland and gives horse racing a share of video lottery terminal revenue. They indicated the program has been beneficial to the industry and the state.

According to an overview from the Maryland Horse Council and Maryland Horse Breeders Association, legislative priorities include promoting and maintaining open space, revitalizing horse racing, protecting animal welfare, supporting equine operations, and promoting equine educational programs.

Among the attendees was Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who discussed the importance of horse racing in Maryland. He acknowledged there will be some financial belt-tightening in the state but said he didn’t expect horse racing to take the type of hits it has in neighboring states that also devote casino revenue to the industry.

Joanne Throwe, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, noted the importance of the equine industry to parks and open space in Maryland and said Gov. Larry Hogan recognizes that as well. Other government officials and lawmakers who spoke Jan. 31 all had some connection to the equine industry in their personal lives or their districts.

This year’s Maryland Horse Industry Day was organized by Kevin Atticks of Grow & Fortify, a Baltimore-based advocacy firm that is now assisting the Maryland Horse Council and could eventually assist in operating the organization. Atticks spoke about the need for cohesive legislative advocacy–even when lawmakers aren’t in session.

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association was represented at the event, and two of its board members—Bob Manfuso Jr. and Katy Voss of Chanceland Farm in West Friendship, Md.—were recognized for their contributions to the equine industry in the state. Manfuso and Voss bred Cathryn Sophia, winner of the 2016 Kentucky Oaks.

(Maryland Horse Industry Day photo by Tom LaMarra)