How Important is the Equine Industry in Kentucky?

Written by: William Hanrahan

May 31

Harvie Wilkinson - Kentucky equine industry

Harvie Wilkinson is talking about his Equine Symposium session focus, the economic impact of the equine industry in Kentucky.

It was great to speak with Harvie Wilkinson during the Symposium and learn about his passion for the Kentucky equine industry.  Although Kentucky is known as the ‘Horse Capital of the World,’ this was the first time I’d heard its economic impact so precisely defined.

Some of the key details that demonstrate the regional impact of this highly specialized sector include:

  • In total there are 240,000 horses in Kentucky (54,000 Thoroughbreds, 42,000 Quarter horses and 36,000 Tennessee Walking horses).
  • The Kentucky Horse Park attracts 500,000 visitors each year and employs 1,200.
  • Keeneland offers 361 direct jobs and 1,500 jobs through hospitality.
  • $885 million in horse sales to approximately 50 countries.

Not surprisingly, the equine industry attracts people from all over the world seeking a great quality of life, surrounded by beautiful landscape and horse farms; there are about 450 horse farms in the Bluegrass region (about 150 in Lexington/Fayette County alone).

Wilkinson detailed the significant direct and indirect impacts on a variety of areas including hospitality, recreation, finance, professional services, real estate and retail. I was amazed to learn that the overall economic impact for the Kentucky horse industry is $4 billion, something all Kentuckians should be proud of.

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