Dear David Howard:

The Virginia Horse Center needs your help. Actions taken by state lawmakers in recent years threaten the continued viability of the Virginia Horse Center. I am writing to ask that you take a few moments to contact your state delegate and senator as well as those state lawmakers who are in a position to take action to save the Virginia Horse Center -- members of the House of Delegates Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees. Please ask them to provide $890,000 in state funding for the Virginia Horse Center for fiscal year 2006.

As you may know, the Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Horse Center in 1984. At that time, lawmakers anticipated that the state would pay for the construction costs and debt incurred to build the Center. The Center was charged with making the facility operationally self-sustaining and raising private contributions to improve the facility.

This was no small task given the fact that all of the Virginia Horse Center’s competing facilities are fully funded by the states in which they are located. Not only are construction costs paid by their respective states, but operations, salaries, major maintenance, programs, and other capital improvements are covered by these state governments as well -- a situation that makes it difficult for the Virginia Horse Center to remain competitive.

In spite of these challenges, the Virginia Horse Center has become one of the top equine facilities in the nation, or for that matter, anywhere in the world. Over $10 million in private contributions have allowed the Commonwealth of Virginia to develop the Olympic-caliber Virginia Horse Center. The partnership between the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Horse Center Foundation, a private foundation that was created to raise private donations, and the thousands of individuals who have given monetary contributions to the Virginia Horse Center is one of the finest examples of a successful public-private partnership in the history of the Commonwealth.

Today, over 90 events ranging from Olympic training events, 4-H and U.S. Pony Club Championships, state therapeutic riding competitions, international competitions such as the World Percheron Congress and international combined driving competitions, and collegiate competitions are held each year at the Center. The operation is responsible for over 850 jobs throughout Virginia and over $20 million in annual payroll earnings. As a result of the Center’s operation over $53 million in annual economic output is generated. In fact, for every dollar the Commonwealth of Virginia invests in the Center over five dollars are created in tax revenues alone. Virginia is the 5th largest equine state in the nation and equine is the 7th largest agricultural commodity in Virginia. The state’s industry is worth $1.46 billion!

While the potential loss of economic benefits alone should be sufficient to persuade the state to protect both private and taxpayer investment in the Center by continuing to pay for the construction debt, as you well know there are many other reasons for doing so.

You are receiving this letter because of your affiliation with the Virginia Horse Center. Perhaps you have made an investment in the Center by making a donation or have created a business that is dependent upon the Center’s continued operation. Maybe you travel from out-of-state each year to compete at the Center or, if you are a Virginia resident, remain in the state when you would otherwise be forced to leave the Commonwealth in order to compete in equine competitions. Thousands of young people benefit from the Virginia Horse Center, gaining experience in a venue that is second to none and enjoying wholesome recreational experiences with their families.

Whatever your reason for supporting the Virginia Horse Center, the members of the Virginia General Assembly need to hear from you. If you are a Virginia resident, please make certain to send a copy of your letter to your state representatives, even if they are not members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees.

I realize your time is valuable. Please keep your letter/comments polite and respectful in nature. I would also appreciate receiving copies of your letters or e-mails and, if you are willing, a phone number where I may contact you in case there is an opportunity to take some individuals to Richmond to speak on behalf of the Virginia Horse Center.

Please take some time today, if possible, to write our state lawmakers and request that they appropriate $890,000 for the Virginia Horse Center for fiscal year 2006. We do not have a great deal of time to convince legislators of the need to restore funding for the Virginia Horse Center, and without your help the center would be lost!

If you have questions, you may contact me at 540-464-2950 or by e-mail at My mailing address is Lethia Hammond, Director of Marketing and Public Affairs, Virginia Horse Center Foundation, P.O. Box 1051, Lexington, Va 24450. Thank you for your help.

Lethia C. Hammond

Lexington, VA