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Fourth-graders Jump Over First Hurdle as Committee Passes Thoroughbred Bill

By Fanen Chiahemen
Maryland Newsline
Friday, Feb. 14, 2003

After a group of fourth-graders from St. Pius X Regional School in Bowie serenaded 10 senators with a song, read aloud glowing paragraphs about the thoroughbred and offered gifts of horseshoes and cookies, most of the senators were won over.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 7-3 Thursday to pass a bill designating the thoroughbred as the state horse. Only Sens. Richard F. Colburn, R-Dorchester, Andrew P. Harris, R-Baltimore and Harford, and Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel, voted against the measure.

The bill will now return to the full Senate, where it will be open for amendments in coming weeks.

Sen. Leo E. Green, D-Prince George’s, introduced the measure last month after receiving a letter from the class in favor of the designation. Green has said the legislation has redeeming value, since many of the bloodlines for thoroughbreds in this country started in Maryland.

Committee members who voted in favor of the bill said they felt that lobbying was a good activity for the children, and some commented that “the kids were so cute.” Even those who said they are sick of state symbols rewarded the children following their comments.

Sen. Paul G. Pinksy, D-Prince George’s, voted in favor of the bill, even though, he said, "I generally don’t like naming state things.

"But it makes sense," he added. “If there’s going to be a state horse, then the thoroughbred would be the right one.”

Sen. Gwendolyn T. Britt, D-Prince George’s, said she saw no reason why the thoroughbred should not be recognized since “thoroughbreds make up a third of Maryland’s horse population.”

Green said he was touched and impressed by the children’s comments. “I had tears in my eyes,” he said after the hearing, as he ushered the children out.

More than 30 children and about two dozen parents and supporters crammed the committee hearing room. Ten children read a paragraph each detailing why the thoroughbred should be named the state horse, while parents clicked away with their cameras.

“The thoroughbred horse has made a huge contribution to the history, economy and quality of life of Maryland,” one fourth-grader said.

The children told senators how the thoroughbred has historic significance for Prince George’s County and for Maryland. Bowie is the home of Belair Estate, the colonial plantation of former Gov. Samuel Ogle, an early importer of the thoroughbred horse to the United States.

Historians indicate that Belair Stable was one of the finest racing stables in the country during the mid-1900s. The stable produced Triple Crown-winning horses Gallant Fox and Omaha. Belair was the oldest continually operating horse farm in the country before it was closed in 1957.

Furthermore, Maryland hosts the annual Preakness Stakes, a one-and-a-half-mile race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds. Maryland Gov. Oden Bowie organized the first running of the Preakness Stakes in 1873 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

State Archivist Edward C. Papenfuse and two representatives from the Maryland Horse Breeders Association were among other supporters of the bill. No one opposed to it during the hearing.

The senators who opposed the bill said they felt that the designation of state symbols was getting out of hand. Greenip said: “I loved the kids, I think they did a great job. But there are already so many state symbols.”

Harris said he enjoyed the children’s performance, but “there are just far more important things to spend time on. Besides, there are other horses behind the thoroughbred, and we would be denying those other horses the recognition.”

Maryland's state symbols include a fossil shell, a state dinosaur and an insect. Some of the nearly two dozen symbols were proposed by school children.

Last year, four state symbol bills were shot down. But Democratic Delegate William A. Bronrott’s bill to make walking the state exercise was reintroduced this year.

Copyright © 2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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