A recent study finds that a new horse park remains vital to growing Maryland's equine industry and suggests linking a network of existing facilities rather than creating a large singular facility.
"Phase One of a new study conducted by the Maryland Horse Industry Board and the Maryland Stadium Authority finds that the concept of developing a horse park continues to be vital to the growth of the state's equine industry, but adds some new approaches to an initial study conducted in 2005," a news release says.
"The original study recommended building a large central facility similar to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., for about $120 million," the release says. "The new study finds that Maryland already has many of the essential components for such a park at existing facilities."
"The new study suggests," the release says, "that a horse park can be made up of a system of existing and perhaps upgraded equine facilities across the state that can be linked together and operate cooperatively rather than as strictly individual venues."
Several horse owners familiar with the study said Maryland has been horse-friendly since the Free State's founding, and they welcomed any measure to maintain a thriving equine industry.
Dale Clabaugh has been a proponent and activist in the commission of a Maryland equestrian park since the 1980s, she said, and she had hoped it would one day come to the rolling fields of Frederick County.
"I have been following the new study commissioned by the MHIB and the MSA, and I am frankly thrilled with the resurgence of interest in the matter," said Clabaugh, co-founder of the Woodvale Farms boarding facility in Frederick and the Menfelt Horse Trials.
When the revised study suggesting a network of facilities across Maryland was proposed, "I thought the idea was brilliant," Clabaugh said. "Maryland is a compact-enough state to successfully manage and coordinate such a system, and it would create both an economic boon to the various communities where the sites were located, as well as offer diversity to equine competitors and enthusiasts."
The park system could offer activities for multiple disciplines -- Western, English, endurance, trail, polo -- occurring on the same date at different locations, Clabaugh said.
Clabaugh supports a system of recognized independent facilities that would operate in harmony under a unified organization, she said.
"By utilizing a network of facilities we enhance the communities all over the state and at the same time that unity strengthens the entire equestrian community and allows it to become much greater in the whole," Clabaugh said.
"Phase Two of the study will investigate exactly what needs to be done to maximize use of the state's existing equine facilities and study the potential these facilities have for attracting national and international events, competitions, and visitors to Maryland," the news release says. "Phase Two is scheduled to begin early in 2013 and be completed by the fall."
A horse park is a step in the right direction for Maryland, said Judy Smith, who owns Good Friday Farm in Ijamsville with her husband, Tom.
"This state needs to be able to showcase its strong equine industry, and this is a step forward," Judy Smith said. "Of course, there are pros and cons to both having everything in one place, or in various locations around the state."
While some duplication in equipment, such as fencing, footing, jumps and stalls, is inevitable, the overall cost to the state should be lower, Smith said.
"This also will be a financial enhancement to the various localities by creating more 'nonhorse' revenue to various parts of the state in terms of restaurants, hotels and shops," she said.