The Maryland Department of Agriculture has received a $700,000 Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watershed Grant to help owners and operators of small-sized equine operations in Central Maryland with pasture and manure management. The 2002 Maryland Equine Census found this region has among the largest concentrations of horses in Maryland.

“Small-sized horse operations often are outside the traditional agricultural outreach efforts and many of our financial assistance programs,” said Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson. “The grant will help us bridge this information gap. We’ll be able to offer technical and financial assistance to horse owners who may not know how to tap into the expertise available with the goal of further protecting soil and water quality.”

The recreational segment of the state’s horse industry is growing quickly. Local agriculture groups have identified the need to address horse pasture and manure management as part of the Maryland Tributary Strategies as a high priority. The three-year grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with matching funds, will provide for equine outreach specialists, funds for on-farm best management practice cost share, workshops, pasture walks, and other education and technical assistance. Examples of best management practices include watering troughs, manure storage structures, sacrifice lots, and stream fencing.

With more than 87,000 animals, Maryland horses rank second in livestock population behind poultry. Across the state, more than 200,000 acres are used for exclusively for horse pasture, with equine operations taking up more than 600,000 acres, or more than 10% of Maryland’s land mass.

Partners in the project are the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension and Equine Studies Program, the Horse Outreach Workgroup, Maryland Department