According to a press release from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the first horses from Maryland have been exported to China. Two of the horses were bred and foaled in Maryland, with a third purchased in Maryland. The horses were selected and shipped to Asia by Sharon Clark, who was contacted to serve as agent for the sale by an official of the Chinese equine group through a previous referral she had received from the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).
“We are thrilled to expand our international equine sales to China. Maryland is building a strong reputation as our horses and genetics have proven their value overseas. Many buyers now travel to Maryland to source horses,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “We are pleased with the success our horsemen have had with international equine sales for racing and recreational use. They have worked with MDA to reach these and other markets abroad.”
Clark’s Rigbie Farm in Darlington (Harford County) is an approved Maryland Department of Agriculture CEM (Contagious Equine Metritis) import quarantine facility. Additionally, Clark and her farm staff work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to export horses worldwide. Clark served as agent in early March in the sale of 29 American Quarter Horses and Shetland ponies to the Heilan Equestrian Group in Xin Qiao, Jiang Su Province, near Shanghai.
“We are hopeful that this sale might help open up a new market for us,” said Sharon Clark, owner/manager, Rigbie Farm. “Having the quarantine facility here helped us attract this business. The Chinese officials came and inspected our farm and liked what they saw. We met on a Sunday morning where we were given the scope of our mission and their criteria. It was also important for them to know of our years in the import and export fields and that we had a good and long term relationship with both MDA and USDA APHIS. We were told that China is considering reviving Thoroughbred horse racing and we’re hopeful that means the possibility of more exports from Maryland in the future.”
Two of the Quarter Horses, both 4 year-olds broken to ride, named TMF Barlinks Model (“Scooter”) and TMF Sharpe Barlink (“Cody”), were born and raised in Carroll County at the Tall Maples Farm of Ed and Dixie Hughes in Hampstead. The Shetland pony, Dunkin Donut, came from the farm of Jenn Fox in Fair Hill, Cecil County.
The recently sold horses will be used in a Western-style riding exhibition at the Heilan facility. The group stages equine performances set to music in a theatre/arena similar to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Various exhibitions, such as dressage quadrilles, four-in-hand driving displays and other types of equine performances featuring Chinese riders have proved popular with audiences.
The horses left in two shipments to Shanghai. The first shipment of 15 horses safely arrived in China after flying out of JFK Airport in New York. The second shipment, including two Quarter Horses and 12 Shetland ponies, was sent to China via a stopover in Europe.
Clark has operated Rigbie Farm as a quarantine station for 22 years. The 340-acre farm is a pristine facility of rolling pastures and beautifully-appointed barns with a five-eighths of a mile training track and indoor horse exerciser. Year-round boarding clients include the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi who use the farm to board their Arabian breeding and racing stock. Clark estimates that approximately 5,000 horses have arrived at her farm from points all over the world and/or have left her facility to new global homes.