In 2014 ELCR launched the Robert N. Clay Conservation Award for the Thoroughbred racing industry in partnership with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA),
“TOBA is pleased to have established this award in partnership with ELCR to help increase awareness of the importance of land conservation to the Thoroughbred industry and to serve as an inspiration to others within the industry,” says TOBA President Dan Metzger.
Robert N. Clay Conservation Award Recipients
Helen Alexander (2014)
Helen was selected as the recipient of the inaugural Robert N. Clay award because of her commitment to ensuring that the nation’s most beautiful and productive agricultural and open lands are preserved for future generations.
In addition to her conservation work with her family in the Brandywine Region of Pennsylvania, Helen is the co-founder with Robert N. Clay of the Bluegrass Conservancy (BGC) land trust in Kentucky . She was elected as the Founding President of the BGC and has served in that capacity since its inception in 1995. Under Helen’s leadership, over 20,500 acres have been permanently protected through conservation easements.
Ms. Alexander also served on the panel that formulated the model for the Purchase of Development Rights on farmland in Fayette County, Kentucky. She helped to lead the program through its adoption and subsequently served on the PDR Board. To date 28,000 acres, including 133 horse farms, have been permanently conserved under the PDR program.
Robert Sanford (2015)
Bob Sanford was selected as recipient of the Robert N. Clay Award because of his commitment to equine land conservation and ensuring equine access to public land. Mr. Sanford tackles equine land conservation on the legislative front, fighting and succeeding for legislation in North Carolina that impacts issues of the equine industry. He untiringly fights for positive change regarding legislative action, education and health issues that represent the equine community’s contribution to recreation, agriculture and the economic well-being of North Carolina.
Mr. Sanford has served in numerous leadership roles within North Carolina’s equine industry. He is currently vice president of the North Carolina Horse Council (NCHC), and previously served as president for many years. He also served on the seven-member Equine Study Executive Committee for the NCHC that released a series of equine industry recommendations in 2009. Bob owns and operates a breeding and racing farm in Northern Durham County, North Carolina. He is also a Foundation Board Member of the North Carolina State University Veterinary College and a past Board Member of the North Carolina Thoroughbred Association.
Peter Fenwick (2016)
Peter Fenwick, a lifelong horseman and Thoroughbred owner, was selected for his commitment to conserving the land and equestrian lifestyle of the Baltimore County, Maryland area. Mr. Fenwick has served as a board member of the Valleys Planning Council (VPC) since 2001 and as president since 2005. The VPC was started in the 1960’s by a group of individuals, many of which were horsemen, with the vision and foresight to preserve the historic character and maintain the rural feel and land uses in the valleys amidst the threat of urbanization and sprawl associated with the construction of the Beltway through Green Spring Valley. Today with over 62,000 acres of land under conservation easements, Baltimore County has more conservation easements than any other county in the state of Maryland and the VPC continues the tradition of protecting the agriculture and equestrian lifestyle and heritage of the area for the benefit of future generations with the conservation of over 30,000 acres of land.
Horses represent a significant part of the history of Baltimore County with over 10,000 horses comprising an equine inventory valued at over $121 million. Steeplechase racing and fox hunting are major activities in the VPC territory. Four major events are held in the area each year: Green Spring Point-to-Point, Grand National, Maryland Hunt Cup, and Legacy Chase. The Grand National and Hunt Cup races date back to 1898 and 1894 respectively. Peter Fenwick continues to demonstrate his commitment to conserving the land and equestrian lifestyle and heritage of the area through his dedication to the mission of VPC and by serving on the board of the Maryland Steeplechase Association and as chair of the Grand National Steeplechase and member of the Green Spring Valley Hounds.
Heubeck and Windham Families (2017)
The Heubeck and Windham Families have been recognized for their efforts in creating and sustaining the equine environment that helped establish Marion County’s equine prominence. Harriet and Elmer Heubeck and their son Kerry Heubeck, along with current farm owners James Windham and his late wife Lee, have been recognized for preserving
Quail Roost Farm II as horse land. The Heubecks are associated with the development of early thoroughbred farms in Marion County, and subsequently developed their own unique property, Quail Roost Farm.
Harriet and Elmer both passed away in 2003, and their son Kerry sought to protect the 1,000-acre Quail Roost II as a memorial to his parents. Kerry, along with new owners James and Lee Windham, workedwith Conservation Trust for Florida to protect and limit development on approximately 800 acres of Quail Roost II as a working thoroughbred and cattle farm.
George Strawbridge, Jr. (2018)
Strawbridge, through his Augustin Stable, has been an important player in both flat and steeple chase racing and an industry leader. He has also been at the forefront in land conservation. Over the years Strawbridge, has purchased several farms in Pennsylvania with the purpose of establishing a conservation easement on the land to preserve the beauty and function of the property. While some of the properties were subsequently sold once an easement was in place, he retains ownership of over 900 acres of farmland in Pennsylvania, all of which are under conservation easement.
George has been recognized as an ardent supporter of open space preservation for decades. His donation of multiple conservation easements to the Brandywine Conservancy, since 1993, has protected over 2,500 acres of land in Lancaster and Chester counties. Strawbridge was one of the original investors in the Buck and Doe Associates Limited Partnership that bought and conserved the King Ranch Property totaling over 5,000 acres.
Strawbridge is an active trustee of the Brandywine Conservancy and encourages landowners to conserve their properties so that future generations have a chance to appreciate the land before it is lost to development.
Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor (2019)
Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor, long-time owners of Morgan’s Ford Farm, were motivated to purchase and place many farms in easement in order to preserve the historic farming community that they call home. The couple began preserving rural open space when they moved to the Shenandoah Valley in 1979 after purchasing Morgan’s Ford Farm (370 acres with two miles of Shenandoah River frontage). A condition of the sale was that the land be placed in permanent conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
The Chatfield-Taylors purposefully purchased neighboring and area properties as they became available, and placed easements on those acreages, helping to preserve Shenandoah River frontage in conservation easement as well. Wayne and Susie have purchased a total of six farms to date, either singularly or with partners, and placed permanent easements on approximately 3,000 acres. Neighboring farmers, seeing what the couple has accomplished, have placed their own farms in easement, now totaling 21 contiguous farms and 6,500 acres in easement, and still growing.
By preserving the historical, environmental, agricultural, and scenic rural open space, they have ensured that farming and horses have a future in this very historic region. The character of the land is much the same as it was when first surveyed by young George Washington who, in is 1748 journal, described it as being a fine asset to our young nation.
In 2017, this northern part of Warren County, Virginia was recognized as the National Register Rockland Rural Historic District, one of the largest of its kind in the Commonwealth. Part of its heritage is the discovery of a free African-American settlement begun in 1790 named Smoke Town that existed for nearly a hundred years. Much of this can be attributed to the Chatfield-Taylors’ efforts in conserving land for horses.
The nonprofit Horse Farms Forever was founded in 2018 to raise awareness of the importance of horse farms and the Farmland Preservation Area in Marion County, Florida. The catalyst for this was the Florida Department of Transportation’s threat to put a toll road through the heart of the county’s most pristine horse farms and the Farmland Preservation Area.
The organization’s mission is to preserve the character and culture that horses, horse farms and the Farmland Preservation Area bring to Marion County. While growth is good for a community, urban growth becomes urban sprawl without strong rural land management plan policies.
HFF has now taken the leadership role in raising awareness about the important role that horses and horse farms play in the Ocala/Marion County community. The organization is focused on a long-term strategy for conserving and protecting horse farms and the Farmland Preservation Area from the threat of unplanned growth and road development threats in coordination with all community stakeholders.
In two short years, the non-profit has helped to strengthen the Farmland Preservation Area’s boundaries, and worked to call attention to and to collaborate on solutions regarding development threats and roadway threats that encroach into the Farmland Preservation Area.
HFF is also working with community leaders and landowners to establish a Rural Land Management Plan to help protect the nearly 1,200 horse farms in Marion County. In addition to protecting the land for farms, these new policies will help to protect the horse industry, which contributes over $2.6 billion to the county’s economy and employs more than 20,000 people.
Horse Farms Forever is dedicated to preserving the character and culture that makes Ocala/Marion County the Horse Capital of the World®.
John Malone, the largest landowner in the United States, is no stranger to the conservation world. A well-respected philanthropist and supporter of land preservation, John is the founder of the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation and a member of the board of The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest land-conservation nonprofit organizations in the country. Leslie Malone, a horse lover since childhood, is a well-known equestrian and major supporter of the U.S. Olympic Dressage Team.
The Malones purchased the 800-acre historic Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Florida in August 2013, and spearheaded its revitalization as a working thoroughbred operation. It now covers 2,000 acres. The Malones’ leadership led to other local farms joining the movement to protect the unique heritage and culture of Central Florida horse farms.
Among the Malones’ many conservation achievements was the permanent protection of Riveredge Farm, the prestigious thoroughbred horse farm previously known as Sycamore Hall Farm in Maryland, which was on track to become a residential development before the Malones purchased the property and protected it with a 532-acre conservation easement. Riveredge is now maintained as a 600-acre world-class sport horse facility.
According to the Bangor Daily News, in addition to preserving land in Florida and Maryland for thoroughbred operations, John Malone also owns large expanses of land in Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and New Hampshire and has earned a reputation as a conservation-minded buyer who maintains the traditional uses of the properties he buys.
Charles Fenwick, Jr (2022)
Charles Fenwick Jr. was honored with the Robert N. Clay Conservation Award for his leadership in organizing the efforts to protect a portion of Shawan Farms in Baltimore County, Maryland from the threat of residential development. Between 1982 and 1992, Baltimore County lost 16,000 acres of farmland to development despite some of the nation’s strictest zoning. Concerned about the loss of local farmland, in 1997, area residents foresaw the possibility that the core of Shawan Farms could be saved from development and conserved as open space for farming and as an equine facility to support local equine traditions.
Fenwick, with the support of 19 neighbors, acquired the property under the aegis of the Land Preservation Trust (LPT), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. An additional 175 neighbors donated funds to help create an equestrian venue, including a steeplechase course. Re-branded as Shawan Downs, the property is in preservation to maintain its agricultural legacy, allowing no new residential development with the facility developing into a first-class equestrian center over the years. Today, over 250 acres are preserved as open space while hosting equine events including The Legacy Chase, The Green Spring Valley and Shawan Point to Points, Steeplechase Schoolings, The MCTA Three Day Horse Trials, The Junior Hunt Cup, and for many years, The Pony Club tetrathlon – with the addition of farming over 150 acres for hay. In keeping with the center’s preservation mission, no significant infrastructure is required to accommodate the equestrian facilities.