According to the Virginia Horse Industry Board the horse industry has a $1.2 Billion impact on the Virginia economy and generates 16,000 jobs. The horse industry is the 9th largest agricultural commodity in Virginia and ranks 12th in the nation for the number of horses. The part of the Commonwealth that has the largest impact from horses is Northern Virginia. Therefore, it was fitting at our last seminar while in the D.C. area we took time to learn about horses. It was also fitting that the horse person of the group gets to comment on our visit to the Virginia Tech Middleburg Agriculture Research and Extension (MARE) Center. This 420 acre farm is dedicated to equine research and teaching.
At the MARE center their research is industry focused and have a wide range of research and extension projects. When you think about a research facility you automatically think about reproductive research, muscle and bone studies, respiratory cause and effects, digestive studies, and so on and so on.
Well the MARE center has and does all of this research, however, what is really interesting about this facility is the level of student involvement in this research. In 2010 started a new and unique teaching program for undergraduates. This is a semester long program in which the students live on the farm and eat, sleep, and breathe horses for an entire semester. The program is scientific based but adds practical hands-on training to the students. This training and industry networking will enable these students to become industry leaders post-graduation.
So while we were at the MARE center I did notice that there is one thing that they were missing. DRAFT HORSES. So if you go the MARE Center’s site you will see a photo of some horses lined up on a fence but since they don’t have any drafts I did want to leave them out.