NEW BRUNSWICK — Karyn Malinowski’s lifelong love affair with horses began on a strip of grassy median on Route 22 in the early 1950s. When she was a young girl, her dad would take her for Sunday pony rides at the old Vogels Farm near the intersection of Foothill Road in Bridgewater. Somewhere between the Dairy Queen and the Stewarts root beer stand that once stood there, Malinowski would get back on line after each ride, over and over again. The Manville native, director of the Equine Science Center of Rutgers Agricultural Experiment Station, has been named New Jersey Horseperson of the Year.
The state’s Equine Advisory Board recently presented her with the 2009 Governor’s Trophy at the 53rd Annual New Jersey Breeder’s Luncheon in Eastampton. She was honored for her commitment to the well-being and quality of life for horses in the state and for helping to promote the state’s equine industry. "It’s a great honor, a once-in-a-lifetime award," said Malinowski, who is an ardent proponent of the horse-racing industry in the state, largely because of the ancillary benefits it brings to the whole industry while creating jobs and preserving precious open space. In July 2006, the Equine Science Center conducted a comprehensive economic-impact assessment of the state’s equine industry. "Horse racing is the economic driving engine of the entire horse industry in the state, period," said Malinowski. "The industry is valued at $4 billion and generates $1 billion. It’s also a quality-of-life issue because the equine industry represents more than that one-fifth of the total agricultural acres in the state of New Jersey. We’re talking about 176,000 acres, 57,000 of which are related to racing.
"And this is not costing taxpayers a dime to keep this open space going — we are paying taxes on it because it is in the working agricultural landscape."
A faculty member at Rutgers since 1978, Malinowski’s years of scientific work have involved Standardbred mares. She is also a licensed professional horse racing driver and trainer. She drove the second-fastest pacing mile ever by any female driver at the Meadowlands and recorded the fastest drive in the American Harness Drivers Club. "Harness racing is like getting in your car, going 35-40 miles per hour, and opening the door and looking down," said Malinowski. During her childhood, Malinowski’s dad had a horse farm near the Blackwells Mills tow path in Hillsborough. She got her first horse at age 14 and she keeps five of her own now in Wrightstown in Burlington County. Longtime fans of Rutgers football may know one of those five horses, Lord Nelson, still alive and kicking at age 37. Lord Nelson, Scarlet Knights fans may recall, was incredibly flagged for a penalty during the 1994 Rutgers vs. Army game at the Meadowlands for stepping onto the field. The penalty added 15 yards to a Rutgers field goal attempt, which the Scarlet Knights missed from 35 yards. It was later discovered that a field official other than the ref had asked Lord Nelson’s rider to walk onto the field and move further downfield.
"It was unsportsmanlike conduct, and the poor horse was just doing what he had to do," said Malinowski with a laugh. "That’s OK, we’re bringing Lord Nelson back as a Professor E-Mare-itus, and he’s going to be the mascot for the youth component of our Rutgers Web site."
Malinowski recently delivered a speech before the Meadowlands Liberty Regions Destination Industry, and she hammered home her powerful points: the New Jersey horse industry is responsible for 13,000 jobs (7,000 jobs generated by racetracks and horse-racing breeding and training operations) and it pays an estimated $160 million annually in federal, state, and local taxes (including $116 Million by New Jersey racetracks and racing-related interests.)
Malinowski sees no sense in losing an industry that generates $780 million of economic impact annually, and argues that the Garden State should do everything to keep its racing industry viable.
"As director of the Equine Science center, I need to look out for the welfare of the entire horse industry and that includes non-racing sports and recreation as well," said Malinowski. "But if we lose racing, the whole industry is going to be impacted.
"At the beginning of my career there were over 1,000 dairy farms in New Jersey; now there are less than 100," added Malinowski. "I would hate to see the horse industry face a similar demise. And while milk production is important, horses and horse racing do much more for tourism and attracting visitors to New Jersey than do cows”.