Montgomery County 2008 Equestrian & Stable Survey

Final Report 04.01.09

Montgomery County has a rich agricultural history that is valued as a part of the county’s culture. Over the past several decades, agriculture in this area has shifted from primarily large farms to smaller farms. At the same time, the equestrian community has become a greater presence in the county and one that significantly contributes to its economic base. In 2004, Montgomery County revised the zoning ordinance to include equestrian facilities within the definition of agriculture. Doing so made it easier for equestrian businesses to operate in Montgomery County.
Since 1998, the county has reached out to the equestrian community to help them understand how best to utilize local resources available to them. The success of these efforts has been measurable, but the county’s ability to successfully bridge the gap between county agencies and the growing equestrian community has been limited. One purpose of this survey was to learn how county resources can be used to forge a partnership between horse enthusiasts and county agencies. One goal of this partnership was to implement sound agricultural principles in business and conservation throughout the county. This survey was sponsored by nine organizations, each with varied interests and goals for the survey. Collectively, these goals included a desire to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of the equestrian community, understand their needs and desire for information, evaluate the use of conservation practices, better understand how to expand existing education and outreach programs, and gauge the level of interest in agricultural land preservation programs in the county. Information gathered as a result of the survey was to be used to guide policy evaluation, improve education programs, allocate resources, and better understand our equestrian partners’ needs.

Survey results indicated that people enjoy riding for the following reasons: being outdoors, relaxation, exercise, being with horses, and spending time with friends and family. The survey confirmed that riding is a family sport that applies to all ages. Overall, pleasure trail riding was the most popular equestrian activity with dressage and eventing the top organized competitive activities. The challenge of fox chasing followed closely. These responses are consistent with the community’s desires for public facilities that support the continued growth of this form of recreation and enterprise. Survey respondents overwhelmingly supported the idea of making indoor arenas, cross country courses, and outdoor arenas available for public use, as well as increasing trail accessibility. They also would support charging a small fee for the use of such facilities within the county.

Survey results provided a wealth of useful information that will support planning and evaluation of resource allocation. It also identified new areas where further consideration may be warranted. As the county continues to reach out to horse farms, large and small, it will be interesting to learn how the county may be of assistance in helping landowners achieve maximum benefits from the use of such plans.

It was also learned that the minority of farms own or board the majority of horses. This creates two groups of clients with different needs: the few large operations with many horses, and the many smaller operations each with a small number of horses. Therefore it is important for county agencies to pursue programs specifically geared toward the needs of these two very different groups.

Horse farm owners indicated that they regularly mow their pastures, rotate the grazing of their horses, test the soil, routinely drag their fields, and often use temporary fencing for pasture management. The majority of horse farm owners temporarily store soiled bedding and pay to have it hauled away. While they support a county program to have manure picked up, they could not commit to paying a fee until they knew what that fee may be. This creates an opportunity for the county to investigate and potentially support a manure and soiled bedding recycling program.

The survey results confirm the assumption that there is a need for reaching out to the smaller home-based horse farm owner. Thirty-six percent of respondents indicated that they keep their horse at home, and these smaller horse farms appear to be increasing in popularity. For the next administration of the survey, it will be useful to target this demographic so that we can understand how to best include them in our partnership with the equestrian community.

In the mean time, the county will continue to reach out to horse farm owners and riders through continuing education efforts and building good will. The knowledge gained through the results of this survey will help the county tailor its programs and services to meet the diverse needs of this demographic. It also supports the suggestion that the county spend more time in the equestrian community we serve building relationships and sharing information with each other. The primary goal of building this partnership is to establish trustworthy communication between the partners, regular information exchanges that benefit all partners, and information sharing to achieve mutually beneficial goals. By doing so, government agencies and groups serving equestrians will be better informed and better able to serve this growing segment of the agricultural community.

S P O N S O R S

Parks

Montgomery County Parks – MNCPPC

MCA

Montgomery County Department of Economic Development

soil

Montgomery Soil Conservation District

MCEx

Maryland Cooperative Extension for Montgomery County

shovel

Montgomery County Planning, M-NCPPC

epipc

Equestrian Partners in Conservation, EPIC

CALLC

MIdAtlantic

MidAtlantic Farm Credit