According to Alltech’s Steve Elliot, the annual economic impact of the equine industry is significant- involving some $300 billion dollars, 4.0 million horses, and 1.6 million full-time jobs. Elliott spoke about the state of the equine industry at Alltech’s recent Symposium. His talk covered the economic impact of the industry, the results of a major survey of the industry, and the top challenges to today’s equine industry.
Elliott said the economic impact of the equine industry varies from state to state. Texas has the most horses and pony farms, as well as the most horses and ponies. However, Kentucky has the largest total sales and highest market value of equine products. Elliott explained that though evolving, the equine industry is a steady market.
More statistics regarding the equine industry have been compiled via the 2009-2010 AHP Industry Survey, which, according to Elliott, was the largest-ever equine industry survey in the U.S. With over 11,000 participants, the survey considers participation in the horse industry, horse health issues, and other critical equine industry issues. Elliott highlighted key results of the survey, mentioning that the average horse owner owns about five horses and that the majority of horses are considered leisure horses. From the horse health results, Elliott concluded the equine industry needs to do a better job of being a source of horse health information. Fifty percent of respondents ask their farrier for heath information, while less than 15 percent look to the equine industry for this purpose.
The survey cites the cost of keeping a horse and the issue of unwanted horses as two of the the three top challenges to the industry, according to Elliott. He explained that the main reason for the increase in cost of keeping horses is the increase in cost of feed and hay. However, cheaper feed doesn’t necessarily mean money saved. If the feed is low quality, horses may require more of it. Elliott encouraged the equine industry to educate horse owners about differences in feed cost and quality, as well as environmental impact of different feeds.
Elliott explained that the issue of unwanted horses will likely be a continuing problem. When the end of horse slaughterhouse inspections in 2006 led to the demise of the U.S. horse slaughtering industry, over 130,000 horses were shipped across the border for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Despite the good intentions of the U.S. equine industry, abuse and neglect of horses has actually increased because horse treatment outside of the country is not regulated by U.S. law. The results of the 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey, which have not yet been released to the general public, will provide an update on top challenges to the industry.