Watch out, Bossie: New survey shows Carroll horses are gaining on the cows

January 02, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,University of Maryland Extension ServiceStaff Writer

Carroll County, the land of -- horses?

Although the county's bucolic nature is often associated with the dairy cows that dot the landscape, a recent University of Maryland survey found that horses are catching up in numbers.

The seven-county study, paid for with $2,500 per county in state money matched by the jurisdictions, focused on horses kept for pleasure rather than racing. It estimated that Carroll has 10,163 horses.

Maryland's Agricultural Statistics Summary for 1992 counts 15,900 dairy cows in the county, a number local agricultural experts believe dipped in 1993. The last U.S Department of Commerce agricultural census, which counts by a different method, found 2,658 horses in 1987.

"It really was an eye-opener to show us the tremendous size of the pleasure horse industry in Carroll County," said county extension agent Robert Shirley. Mr. Shirley, a horseman for more than 50 years, works with the county's 4-H program and therapeutic riding program.

"While you drive around and see an awful lot of places with one or two horses, it doesn't register as the tremendous number of horses we have in Carroll County," he said.

In the seven-county region, Dr. Malcolm Commer Jr., an agricultural economist with the University of Maryland's Wye Research Center, reported an estimated 76,024 horses with 80,976 people involved in horse-related activities. In Carroll County, 8,252 people are estimated to ride horses.

Dr. Commer said Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties were chosen for the study because they are contiguous and were able to raise their half of the cost.

The matching funds came from county grants, private industry or individual donations, he said.

Surveys for the study were sent out in November 1992 to private and public stables in the region. Data were compiled and analyzed after September 1993, Dr. Commer said.

"As an agricultural economist, I'm basically a number cruncher," he said. "When I came to Maryland approximately five years ago, I found I didn't have any good numbers to crunch. The bottom answer is that there was a very pressing need to have this kind of data."

Survey respondents were also asked how they most often used their horse. Trail riding was the most popular activity in Carroll County, as well as in the surveyed region. The Carroll response, 35.4 percent, was the highest in the area, compared with an average of 30.6 percent.

Harford County was second with 34.3 percent listing trail riding as their favorite activity.

Interest growing

"Our trails in Carroll County are getting multiple use now," said Albert "Sonny" Biddison, president of the Carroll County

Equestrian Council. The council is a volunteer group that cares for nine equestrian trails and sponsors seminars on horse ownership and care.

"The number of people showing up for rides and all keeps growing," Mr. Biddison said. "It's increasing all over the whole state."

Carroll County ranked second region-wide in showing, fox hunting, and rodeo and related events.

Harford County has the highest percentage of riders interested in showing, with 20.2 percent listing that as their favorite activity, compared with 18.2 percent in Carroll. The average was 15.4 percent.

Montgomery County, the survey showed, has the highest percentage of fox hunters, with 9 percent of the riders listing that as their preferred activity. Carroll County showed 8.4 percent of its riders interested in fox hunting, compared with a 6.2 percent average.

Howard County with 1.6 percent had the highest percentage for rodeo, with Carroll County second at 1.4 percent. The other counties and the regional average ranked rodeo at less than 1 percent.

The other Carroll numbers among the choices in that section were: dressage, 11.2 percent; driving, 1.8 percent; eventing, 3.2 percent; jousting, less than 1 percent; lessons and instruction, 9.8 percent; polo, less than 1 percent; racing, 9.8 percent, and vaulting, less than 1 percent.

The study also showed that although English riding is the more popular style in Carroll County, the percentage of riders who prefer Western style is higher than elsewhere in the region, Mr. Commer said.

English riders made up 72.4 percent of the county respondents while 27.6 said they prefer Western, he said. Regionwide, the average was 84.5 percent English and 15.5 percent Western.

Linked to trail riding

"There is a significant number of pleasure horse people in Carroll County that enjoy riding Western," Mr. Shirley said. "I'm not surprised at the high percentage. I'm more surprised that other counties did not have as high a percentage."

But James Steele, manager of Shamrock Farms, a race horse breeding farm in Woodbine, said the higher percentage of Western riders probably correlated to trail riding.

"I think the trail-riding people probably ride Western for the comfort and the ease of it," he said.

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