The Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) is one of only about a half dozen state equine commodities boards in the country.
The organization was founded in 1998 as an outgrowth of the State’s Riding Stables Inspection Program that began in 1968.
MHIB receives no government funding although it is housed in the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) building in Annapolis and is a program within MDA.
The organization is an example of a private/public partnership.
MHIB is totally funded from private equine industry sources. Monies are accrued from the annual licensing fees paid to MHIB by the state’s approximately 600 licensed lesson, boarding, rental and rescue facilities and from the Feed Fund Assessment program. Every time a Marylander buys a bag of horse feed, 15 cents is voluntarily contributed by feed manufacturers to help fund MHIB projects and initiatives.
MHIB has three primary functions:
1-Regulatory: to license and inspect the state’s commercial lesson, boarding, rental and rescue facilities that solicit business from the public.
2-Advisory: to brief the Maryland Department of Agriculture and other state officials on issues regarding the Maryland horse industry
3-Promotional: to market, bring awareness to and help grow the state’s equine industry.
The 12-member board members of MHIB meet monthly, either at MDA headquarters in Annapolis or at various farms, licensed stables or equine events around the state.
There are six subcommittees dealing with major MHIB initiatives:
- Health Advisory Committee: This committee is comprised mostly of equine veterinarians who meet bi-annually to discuss horse health issues.
- Marketing Committee: The committee, which includes MHIB members and a broad cross-section of representatives from all over the state, meets monthly, either face to face or by conference call, to discuss and execute projects that are outlined in MHIB’s 5-Year Strategic Marketing Plan.
- Budget Review Committee: Comprised of four MHIB members, they meet with the Executive Director on an as-needs basis to discuss the operating budget and set monetary priorities for MHIB initiatives.
- Events Committee: This committee makes recommendations to the Board as to which events board members will officially attend and support throughout the year.
- Grants Committee: Once a year, the grants group meets to assess annual grants applications and make recommendations to the board about who will receive MHIB grant monies.
- “Touch of Class Award” Committee: Starting in September 2011, MHIB makes a monthly award to horses and people in the Maryland horse community who achieve national and international prominence. The committee makes recommendations to the board, which then approves each month’s award winner.
The three main annual initiatives are:
- Renewal of Licenses and Stable Inspections
- Collection of Feed Fund Assessment fees and keep feed manufacturers abreast of MHIB projects
- Awarding of Grants
Maryland Horse Park Feasibility Studies
- In 2011, MHIB hired the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) and Crossroads Consulting to conduct Phase I of a Feasibility Study to see if development of a Maryland Horse Park is still viable. Previously, in 2006, extensive studies and plans for a Maryland Horse Park at a projected cost of $120M at the Naval Academy Dairy Farm in Gambrills, MD. were dropped because of political considerations. At the 2009 Maryland Horse Summit, which brought together approximately 300 Maryland equine community leaders, attendees asked MHIB to continue to pursue the Horse Park project.
- Phase I of the study, which was built on the foundation of the 2006 plans, was completed in June 2012. Results will soon be announced.
- Phase II of the Feasibility Study is projected to start this fall, once again in conjunction with MSA and Crossroads Consulting. Phase II will conduct detailed, exhaustive and in depth analysis and recommendations based on the findings of Phase I of the study.
Development of a Branding/Messaging Campaign for the Md. Horse Industry
- After the 2009 Md. Horse Summit, an ad hoc committee was formed by interested Maryland horsemen and women to discuss and write a 5 year Strategic Marketing Plan for Maryland’s equine industry. In 2011, the ad hoc committee presented its plan to the board of MHIB. The board approved the plan and merged the ad hoc committee into an expanded MHIB marketing subcommittee.
- Among the recommendations of the plan is to develop a branding and messaging campaign to unite the state’s equine industry under one unifying theme. The common theme among the state’s more than 200 equine organizations is the bond, and the love, between humans and horses.
- In December 2011, MHIB took part in the Schaefer Center for Public Policy Survey (U. of Baltimore) of 1,000 Md. households. The idea was to gauge the potential and current market of the horse industry in Maryland. The survey showed that 44.5 percent, or nearly 1 in 2 Md. households is interested in riding horses or attending horse events as spectators. Currently, 14.8 percent, or approximately 1 in 7 Md. households have family members who either ride or attend horse events as spectators. The study showed there is a huge potential market (about 30 percent of households surveyed who indicated an interest in horses, but currently do not participate) and is the basis for an aggressive marketing campaign.
- Starting in February 2012, the marketing committee started holding brainstorming workshops to develop a central tag line or message for the campaign. The group finally narrowed the search to three choices: “Heart Beats Start with Hoof Beats”, “Find A Horse. Find A Friend.” and “Partner With a Horse. It’s Real.”
- The target audience for the campaign is newcomers and re-entry folks—people who are totally new to horses, but don’t know where to go to become acquainted with horses or to ride, or who might have ridden once or twice, but lost interest.
- The goal is put “more seats in saddles and more seats in seats (as spectators at equine events).”
- After testing the three messages at a series of events, the almost unanimous choice among non-horsey folks was “Find A Horse. Find A Friend.” Although established horsemen and woman feel comfortable around horses, non-horse people expressed a fear of these large animals. To combat this fear, they liked the idea of a horse being depicted as a more friendly animal, such as a dog or other companion animals.
- The message will be expanded to also consider choices of other phrases such as: “Find A Horse. Find Adventure.” “Find A Horse. Find Confidence.” “Find A Horse. Find Your Inner Cowboy”, etc. each with different visual images.
- Graphic depiction of these messages is currently being designed for print, online and MHIB booth materials and for giveaways at the Md. State Fair.
- The campaign will start organically, without huge fanfare, as a soft launch at the Fair and at events throughout the fall. Reassessment will then be made as to the theme’s effectiveness
- The campaign mirrors a similar campaign expected to be launched this fall by the American Horse Council. MHIB hopes to work in conjunction with AHC on this marketing campaign.
MHIB Website Development
- The MHIB website is currently under re-design and hopes to be launched shortly. New formatting will make it easier for more timely content changes.
- A more user friendly website is needed in coordination with the launch of the new marketing campaign at the State Fair. Folks will need a central site to go to find out information about Md. horses.
- Development of a Loyalty Club called “Horse Pals” online and at events. Horse Pals members will enjoy exclusive offers, discounts, invites to special events such as tours of select farms and Licensed Stables, and other benefits.
Publication of a Licensed Stable Directory
- The major cornerstone of the new marketing campaign is follow-through material for folks that become interested in horses through the marketing campaign or by other means. Currently MHIB has a listing of approximately 600 licensed stables, arranged by county, on its website, along with a phone number. But there is no comprehensive guide to tell both newcomers and veterans where to ride, board or rent a horse as well as state horse rescue operations.
- MHIB made the decision to publish its first “Official Guide to Maryland’s Licensed Stables”, which will include an inventory of the services and amenities at each of nearly 400 licensed stables who initially chose to participate. The full-color, nearly 100-page guide will be published with 5,000 print copies and will also be online on the MHIB website. The information will also be incorporated on the “Maryland’s Best” website. In addition, plans are to develop an online web-map of the licensed stables on the MHIB website. The print guide will also have 12 maps with detailed location of each stable.
- The Guide will be the “go-to” directory used to point people to places where they can interact with horses, become acquainted with them and learn to ride.
MHIB participation at 26 Maryland Horse events
Since January MHIB has participated in a series of events with a booth or presence at Horse World Expo, the Md. Horse Council “Horseman of the Year” dinner, the Delaware Horse Expo, the Mid Atlantic Equine Therapy conference, the Md. Jousting Association annual meeting and dinner, hosted the “Night of Champions” event at the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore, had a booth at opening day at Pimlico racecourse, the Timonium Elementary School Health Fair, the Decanter Wine Festival, which MHIB helped initiate in 2011, inauguration of a new “Horses in Cinema” film series at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring, Lady Legends day at Pimlico, hosted a 12-person delegation from China at the Preakness, attended the “Ride For Life” dressage event at Prince Georges Equestrian Center and the St. Margaret’s jousting tournament in Annapolis.
Upcoming events include: being part of a Maryland delegation to visit the Ordos International Horse Festival in August in China; having two booths at the Md. State fair, a tailgate at the Capitol Polo Club “Green Cup” tournament, attendance at the Md. Horse Council barbecue, the Howard County Grand Prix, Shawan Downs Legacy Cup, the North American Mounted Police Equestrian Games, the Maryland Million, Fair Hill International, the Capitol Challenge Horse Show, the Washington International Horse Show and the Lisbon Horse Parade.
Touch of Class” Awards Program
Since its inception in September 2011 through July 2012, the winners so far include 22 people and 12 horses, all national or international champions, from 12 different Maryland counties (Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince Georges and Washington counties) who are involved in 11 varieties of horse sports—Thoroughbred racing, 3-Day
Eventing, Endurance Riding, Western Barrel racing, show hunters, Standardbred racing, steeplechasing, Arabian racing, therapeutic riding, Dressage and jousting.
MHIB will publish a year-end brochure called “Stars of the Maryland Horse Industry” highlighting the first year of “Touch of Class” award winners.
Publication of a Md. Horse Trails Map, similar to BikeMaryland. Funding request has been submitted to MDOT grants program to help fund the opublication.
Development of a Md. Horse history committee to start cataloguing Maryland’s illustrious horse history, gathering information and developing a Maryland Horse History Trail.
Hold two workshops tentatively planned for Winter 2013:
Licensed Stable Workshop/Conference: to discuss issues relevant to operating licensed stables in Maryland, including possible development of Certified Experience Centers at Licensed Stables across the state where new riders and equine aficionados can go to learn about horses
Premier Events Workshop/Conference: to discuss ways of marketing Maryland’s premier horse events in a coordinated, statewide packaged way to try to achieve maximum potential and turnout
Development of youth programs in a statewide school network, using IEA (Interscholastic Equine Association) as a base and expanding into elementary, middle & high schools and taking horses to kids.
Revisit the 5 Year Strategic Marketing Plan after Year 1 to assess where we are and start recording measurable results.