Is Carroll Going to the Horses? CARROLL COUNTY

November 01, 1993

Carroll County is experiencing a population explosion -- not just in people, but in horses. The University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service just released a report showing there are five times as many horses in the county as there were just seven years ago.

Carroll now is home to 10,163 horses, according to the survey conducted by Malcolm Commer Jr., a livestock economist with the Extension Service. That compares to 2,658 in 1987, when the U.S. Department of Commerce conducted its last agricultural census. Although the methodologies of the two counts differ and make strict comparisons of the numbers difficult, horse ownership has undoubtedly climbed dramatically.

This startling statistic confirms the equine explosion that many people have noticed in the last several years. Farms may be disappearing in Carroll along with some types of farm animals -- notably cows, sheep and pigs -- but there always seem to be horses grazing in the fields. Apparently, people who are moving into the country buy horses to retain the agricultural ambience amid the inexorable suburbanization of the land.

Not only do these people seem to buy horses for appearances, Carroll's horse owners also seem to use their steeds for recreational purposes rather than for breeding or racing. The most popular equine activities are trail riding, showing and dressage, according to the report. (Jousting may be Maryland's state sport, but fewer than 1 percent of Carroll's horse owners participate in that activity.)

Even though people own horses for leisure, there's nothing laid back about the boom they give the local economy. Mr. Commer estimated that Carroll's horses generate about $56.9 million in economic activity -- about $5,600 per horse. Of that amount, about 19 percent, or $11 million, is spent in Carroll County. He also estimates Carroll's horses created 1,379 jobs for humans.

Carroll's horse owners said the most critical issue they have to face is the loss of open space. They may recognize that the decline of farming has increased the number of horses, but they also know further development and sprawl will ultimately affect their ability to keep horses. We hope horse owners can become a force with farmers in protecting Carroll's open space.

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