TANEYTOWN, Md. — Michael Odian was first drawn to horses at the age of 5, after a pony ride at a friend's birthday party.
Fast forward 40 years and you'll find the well-known veterinarian raising horses at his Taneytown farm and traveling the region to care for show and race horses.
On June 30, the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced that Gov. Martin O'Malley had named Odian as the licensed veterinarian representative on the Maryland Horse Industry Board.
Odian, 45, replaces Dr. John Lee, who is leaving the board after serving on it for 10 years.
Created in 1998, the board works with the Department of Agriculture to develop and promote the state's horse industry.
"I'm honored to be sitting on this board," the soft-spoken Odian said. "They are a great bunch of people, really trying to promote the horse industry in Maryland. And it needs promoting, because it's economically important in this state, beyond Preakness."
Odian said that the board faces a challenge in trying to promote the horse industry, but believes the task is doable.
"It never ceases to amaze me how far removed the general public is from agriculture and animals in general," Odian said. "I think the board has an uphill battle. But it's important that we increase the awareness of agriculture, and especially horses, because people are losing interest. They don't understand how important ag is in this state."
Board Executive Director Ross Peddicord said that Odian was an attractive candidate for the board because of his extensive experience with horses and for volunteering his horses and equipment at events such as the Lisbon Old Fashioned Christmas Horse Parade.
"He showed a willingness to attend meetings, and he's very knowledgeable, one of the top vets in the state," Peddicord said. "He just seemed like a totally outstanding choice."
Odian grew up in Staten Island, New York, and said that he became interested in horses at a very young age. He started riding horses at age 5.
Odian said he "drove my parents nuts" because he had to do something with horses whenever possible.
Odian recalled a childhood vacation to Walt Disney World, where he said he just wanted to hang out with the trolley horses. One of the drivers invited Odian and his family to see the stables and, according to Odian, that was it.
"Every time my parents took their eyes off of me for 30 seconds, I'd disappear, and they would find me in the stables," Odian said.
After earning his undergraduate degree at Cornell University, Odian went to Canada where he earned a veterinary degree at Atlantic College at the University of Prince Edward Island. Before moving to Carroll County in 2003, Odian served as the track veterinarian for the Thistledown Thoroughbred track and the Northfields Park Standardbred track in Ohio.
Odian started his equine vet practice in 2004 and moved to his current 20-acre farm in Taneytown in 2007.
His wife, Maureen, is a registered veterinary technician who also manages the office and travels with her husband to treat horses several days a week.
A general practitioner focusing on sports horse medicine, Odian travels to clients in Carroll, Montgomery, Howard, Frederick and Baltimore counties. In addition, he travels to New York state every few months to treat performance horses. His busy schedule also includes seeing clients in Virginia.
Odian said he usually works 10- to 12-hour days during this time of year, but he said he wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
"The horses don't talk, so you have to figure out where the problem is, then you present options to the owners on how to correct it," he said.
His works mainly with hunter jumpers, dressage horses and a fair number of draft horses, he said.
"I knew when I was in middle school that I wanted to be a vet, so I feel blessed that I'm paid to do what I love to do," Odian said.
When his career doesn't have him working with horses, his personal life does.
He has a dozen horses on his farm and his farm also participates, with its horses, in Civil War re-enactments.
The youngest of his two daughters, Michaela, is a freshman at Francis Scott Key High School and competes in the equine sport of dressage.
His oldest daughter, Mary, attends college in Cleveland where she is studying nursing.
Odian said he is looking forward to serving on the board. The board has a strong vision and viable ideas to move the horse industry forward, he said.
He added that he still has a lot to learn about the horse industry in Maryland.
"Part of my interest in (the board) is because it really puts you in contact with a broader aspect of the horse industry," Odian said.
"For example, I recently learned that there are actually riding trails, and some driving trails, in the Baltimore County park system that can get you right down to the Inner Harbor."
Odian is not the only Carroll County resident on the 12-member board.
James Steele, of Shamrock Farm in Woodbine, and Karen Fulton, of Full Moon Farm in Finksburg, are also members.
Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., http://www.carrollcounty.com/