FARMINGTON — With about 35,000 horses in Maine, the Maine Farm Bureau Horse Council is here to help horse owners and the state’s equine industry.
That was the main message Council member Paul Ripa of Farmington shared with those attending a Horse Owner Workshop held Wednesday at Farmington’s Aubuchon Hardware Store.
As a local dealer for animal feed, the store holds informational workshops for animal owners, including a recent poultry workshop, Manager Brenda Fronk said.
The equine industry, according to a Farm Bureau study, supports an estimated 5,700 jobs and has a $364 million impact on the Maine economy annually. The industry not only includes pleasure, race and work horse owners but also other horse related service providers such as veterinarians, farriers, jockeys, boarding and rehabilitation facilities and racetracks.
The Council seeks legislation to help horse owners, Ripa said. Their work means horse owners do not have to pay taxes on horse feed, and a proposal to require a stabling license for those with more than five horses was stopped. The Council also sought to repeal the “damage by animals” law that would have held horse owners liable for damage or injury caused by their horses and the group, with a full-time paid lobbyist, is working to stop low-level military training flights over Western Maine where pastured horses can be frightened, he said.
The Farm Bureau has formed a Maine Equine Welfare Coalition whose members include a lawyer and veterinarian, he said. The intent of their task force is to help educate new horse owners on how to take care of them, assist those who have horses but have fallen on hard times because of unemployment or medical issues, and the third purpose includes issues surrounding those who know how to care for their horses but don’t, he said.
While the group plans to focus on the first two missions, leaving the third up to the legal system and state Animal Welfare officials, its role still includes assisting the state and towns with transportation, foster care and feeding assistance.
“We’re here to take the pressure off people,” he said.
The owners of quarter horses, Ripa and his wife, Melinda, operate Blue Mountain Quarter Farm in Farmington.