Illinois Equine Board Awards More Than $72K in Grants

The Illinois Equine Industry Research and Promotion Board (EPB) has awarded more than $72,000 in grants, according to Karen Freese, chair.

Grants are funded by the Illinois equine checkoff program, which provides for the voluntary assessment of a nickel per 50-pound bag of horse feed sold at retail.

By law, EPB funds must go to support equine research, education and promotion in keeping with the enabling legislation's core purpose: "Enhancement of the Illinois equine industry through self-funded programs, projects and activities. Grants to institutions and individuals will be related to equine research, education and industry enhancements and promotion."

The awards went to projects in nine communities from deep in southern Illinois' Shawnee National Forest to urban DuPage County in the north. The grants were presented at the 2009 Illinois Horse Fair.

Shawnee Backcountry Horsemen received $8,734 for equipment to help its volunteers with trail construction, reconstruction, and maintenance on Shawnee National Forest and nearby private property trails.

"Hardening of the trails to withstand traffic without trail tread failure, muddiness, or erosion is an increasingly important consideration," according to Pat Laubscher, project contact for the group headquartered in Eddyville, Ill.

Equipment being funded includes packsaddles with gravel bags for use in wilderness areas, and a hydraulic gravel-hauling wagon for use in non-wilderness areas.

"Thousands of equestrians yearly will benefit," Laubscher said, citing a 2003 study showing more than 38,000 visitors to Shawnee area horse campgrounds alone. Trail use also generates considerable economic activity for feed stores, farriers, and trainers, as well as community restaurants, retailers, and service stations.

Rainbow Riders Therapeutic Horseback Riding Center, Monmouth, Ill., received $8,000 toward its barn and paddock restoration project. This project will restore a weather-damaged roof and wash-outs, which currently create safety concerns for users.

"Because we are a not-for-profit corporation in a rural, low socio-economic area, all of our current resources are directed into a ridership fund, which ensures that every person who could benefit from this type of therapy is able to, regardless of financial position," said Drew Angotti, Rainbow's executive director. "Consequently, we do not have enough resources to finance a project this size."

The Pike County Fairgrounds was given $7,800 to improve arena fencing and footing, re-establishing safety at the site for the many groups that use the public facility. During the severe flooding in the area during the summer of 2008, the grounds were used as a staging area for sand-bagging and other flood-fighting activities. Fencing around the area is used metal pipe, donated 20 years ago, and now rusted to ruin.

Volunteers will remove old and install new fencing at Pike County's grounds, according to Brenda Middendorf, project coordinator.

First steps for a new Big Creek Riding Center, Decatur, Ill., are being funded with a $14,000 grant. The project is part of a 10-year master plan by the Big Creek Riding Center Advisory Committee, which requested help in creating a 7-acre turnout pasture to serve boarders and show participants, along with refurbishing access roads, and ultimately a new indoor and outdoor arena and boarding facilities for 52 horses at the facility owned by the Decatur Park District. Big Creek has more than five miles of wooded and natural prairie trails.

According to Jim Kiefer, project manager and park district operations manager, the district will provide labor and use of equipment, local donors will fund ornamental horticulture, and three agencies have joined flood mitigation projects at the site.

Trail Riders of DuPage (TROD), Warrenville, Ill., received $7,200 to enhance and expand its 12-year-old ongoing training program for first response personnel who might serve at equestrian accident scenes. Objective of TROD sessions is to develop basic familiarity in how to safely handle horses under crises conditions, according to Richard Hargreaves, project director.

"To date, more than 800 responders have been trained, the majority of them from DuPage and Chicago collar counties," Hargreaves said. "Now we want to develop resources, instructors, and sites to reach first responders all across Illinois."

Mark Schwarm of the Equine Science Program, Southern Illinois University, received $3,000 for the promotion of Natural Horsemanship Training Methods. "Natural Horsemanship is the term coined to describe a method of two-way communication between horse and human that is cooperative in nature," Schwarm said. "It differs from the more traditional, coercive-type horse training methods in that it offers options to the horse and encourages the horse to choose the desirable option rather than forcing the horse into a single, dictated action."

Schwarm says that learning the rudiments of natural horse-human communication is the basis of the horse training classes offered at SIU, the only four-year collegiate equine science program in Illinois.

King City Saddle Club, Mt. Vernon, Ill., received $9,000 for the club's arena and grounds project. Included in the grant is funding for road repair and a public address system and upgrades to arena and driveways at the site, which hosts 10 to 15 fun, pleasure, and speed shows annually, as well as being used by many clubs. "In 2008, there were 23 events and 1,000 horses," said Linda Kennedy project director. The PA system is a valuable aid in safely controlling equestrian and spectator traffic, according to Kennedy.

Investigators from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, lead by Allison Stewart, DVM, received $11,300 to study the effects of hyaluronic acid and triamcinolone alone and in combination on synovitis of equine stifle.

"In horses, osteoarthritis is more common and has greater economic impact than acute traumatic injuries or respiratory disease," Stewart said. "It is a major source of debilitating pain, economic loss and decreased athleticism in the performance horse."

Debra Hagstrom, equine extension specialist, University of Illinois, received $2,250 to outline, organize, and conduct horse pasture management workshops. These will be one-day events organized to provide information on improving the quality and productiveness of pasture for horses. "Information will be offered on forage species best suited to Illinois soils and climate, grazing management to optimize pasture production and longevity, and pasture fertilization and renovation techniques," Hagstrom said. Workshops will include "pasture walks," enabling participants to see actual pasture conditions and learn how to apply knowledge they gain in classroom sessions.

Illinois has more than 77,000 horse owners and 213,000 horses, constituting a $3.8 billion industry and providing more than 15,000 fulltime jobs.

Any group, individual, company, or institution can apply for funding. Preference will be given to projects benefiting the largest number of people/horses.

A detailed research application is available (as well as a shorter project application) at or from the EPB administrative office, 3085 Stevenson Drive, Suite 308, Springfield, IL 62703, phone 217/585-1600.

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