Horse Discovery Centers Attract Newcomers to Horse Industry

- FREDERICK, Md. - It was off to the races as the Maryland Horse Chase kicked off Monday morning at one of the newly established horse discovery centers. The statewide scavenger hunt is part of an initiative to attract more people to the state's horse industry.

"We are launching our new horse discovery center and that's 35 stables statewide from Western Maryland all the way down to the Eastern Shore that are opening their barn doors for the public," said Ross Peddicord, executive director for the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB).

In a statewide survey by the University of Baltimore, nearly 45 percent of one thousand households said they were interested in riding horses or being a spectator. Only 15 percent had actually done one of the two in the past year.

"We knew that between the 45 and 15 percent there are 30 percent of Maryland households, which translates into thousands of folks that are interested in horses and we want to engage them," Peddicord said.

The discovery centers serve as a jumping off point for anyone who has interest but doesn't know where to start. It's also a way to keep the horse industry financially sustainable.

"We have hay people and riding academies. We have all sorts of other industries that feed into it," said Hope Birsch, owner of the Maryland Saddlery. "So, it's really a deep and incredibly viable industry in our state." 

"It really means a big overall economic impact to the state as a whole," said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder.

But it's not just about the business, horse trainers across the state want to share the joys and benefits that come with riding horses.

"Horses are amazingly empathetic creatures. They will reflect what you are feeling," said Debra Nissen, owner and coach at New World Stables in Frederick County.

And it's that connection and new friendship that horse enthusiasts hope everyone can experience.

Thirty-five out of the state's 770 licensed stables were certified as horse discovery centers. Below is a list of the stables in the area:

New World Stables – Frederick, Md.; 301-717-4894
Misty Peaks Farm – Smithsburg, Md.; 301-416-0744
Cedar Rowe Lusitanos Equestrian Fitness Center – Rocky Ridge, Md.; 301-447-6240
Peaceable Pastures – Fairplay, Md.; 301-582-9420

Click here for a complete list.

The Maryland Horse Chase scavenger hunt runs from April 6 to April 26, click here to register.

CONTEST DETAILS: Those who participate in the Horse Chase will comb the state, earning points by completing 75 simple horse-related photo, action and text challenges at the 35 physical locations and online. There is also the opportunity to earn points by answering bonus challenges. Participants who earn the most points will be able to redeem them for nearly 130 horse-themed prizes. All participants will also receive free admission tickets to the 2015 Maryland Million on October 17.

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