BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Many industries took a big hit during the pandemic, but Maryland's horse industry wasn't one of them.
The industry actually broke records as ridership grew and farms were purchased. 2020 also produced 20 Maryland world and national champions in nine different equestrian disciplines -- including an award-winning farrier from union bridge.
Farrier Mike Poe knows a good horse when he shoes one. There are about 80,000 farriers in the U.S. and he is the best having just won a world champion farrier competition.
"The joke I make is, I get to play with horses and fire and you fools pay me, but the truth is I enjoy being around horses," said Poe.
That statement is true for a lot of Marylanders. In fact, 700,000 acres or about 10 percent of land in Maryland is devoted to horses and 2020 saw a 14 percent increase in horse-back riding activities.
"We had a record number of riding stables licensed last year in our whole history, during a pandemic," said Ross Peddicord. "We have 40 different horse disciplines here. Rodeos, barrel racing and bull riding."
Last year fifth-generation cowboy, Prince George's County's 13-year-old, Nicolas Jackson, who also trains horses, became the world bull riding champion.
"We have more horses per square mile than any other state," added Peddicord. "And we have 800 lesson barns where people can take riding lessons. I think that's unheard of in any other state in the country."
There's also Maryland's thoroughbred "Knicks Go" who earned nearly $5 million in earnings, world cup and breeders cup champ. Knicks Go was born and bred at Baltimore County's Greenmount Farm by Sabrina Moore. She's part of the Community of Maryland Breeders.
"We have about anywhere from 400 to 500 foals a year so that's a lot so it's exciting so there's a good chance for something exciting to happen like it has to me," said Moore.
Sabrina, Mike and champions in more than a dozen other equestrian disciplines garnered awards last year and kept Maryland on the map in a sport that's been a part of the state for 350 years.
Additionally, Berlin Maryland's Jessica Flores won the championship in the cowboy (or do we say cowgirl) mounted shooting competition last weekend.
For more information, visit: https://mda.maryland.gov/horseboard.
for more features.