Kentucky is home to 242,400 horses and the total value of the state’s equine and equine-related assets is estimated at $23.4 billion, according to the 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey.
The comprehensive statewide survey of all breeds of horses, ponies, donkeys and mules was the first such study since 1977. Conducted between June and October 2012 by the Kentucky field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, with support and assistance by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and the Kentucky Horse Council, the survey’s results identified 35,000 equine operations and 1.1 million acres devoted to equine use. The results are a snapshot of the 2011 calendar year.
“The value of Kentucky’s equine and equine-related assets, such as land and buildings, is significantly larger than other states for which we have data, and it serves to underscore that Kentucky is the Horse Capital of the World,” said Jill Stowe, UK associate professor in agricultural economics and project lead. “Upcoming economic impact analysis results will provide even more details regarding the importance of the industry to the state’s economy.”
Phase 1 of the study was a statewide survey of equine operations that included an inventory of all breeds of equine, including horses, ponies, donkeys and mules. It included a look at sales, income, expenses and assets of those operations. County-level results from Phase 1 are expected soon. Phase 2 of the project will entail an economic impact analysis of Kentucky’s equine industry. Phase 2 information will be available mid-2013.
With regard to the inventory of Kentucky’s equine operations, the study determined that 56 percent are farms or ranches and 30 percent are for personal use, while 3 percent are boarding, training or riding facilities. Breeding operations accounted for 2 percent.
The vast majority of horses inventoried were light horses (216,300), followed by donkeys and mules (14,000), ponies (7,000) and draft horses (5,100). Thoroughbreds are the most prevalent breed in the state (54,000), followed by Quarter Horses (42,000), Tennessee Walking Horses (36,000), Saddlebreds (14,000), donkeys, mules and burros, Mountain Horse breeds (12,500) and Standardbreds (9,500).
“The University of Kentucky study objectively and scientifically validates the importance of the horse industry to our state. This may well be the most significant body of work ever undertaken to estimate the economic significance of horses to Kentucky,” said Norman K. Luba, executive director of the North American Equine Ranching Information Council. “As horse industry enthusiasts, we are indebted to the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and the Kentucky Horse Council.”
The primary use of the majority of Kentucky’s equines is trail riding/pleasure (79,500), followed by broodmares (38,000), horses currently idle/not working (33,000), competition/show (24,500), horses currently growing, including yearlings, weanlings and foals (23,000), racing (15,000), work/transportation (12,500), breeding stallions (3,900) and other activities (13,000).
“Kentucky's horse industry is important to a diverse set of people across the Commonwealth, from the 9-year-old 4-H member with her pony to the retired school teacher who just took up trail riding,” said Anna Zinkhon, Kentucky Horse Council Board president. “It is the Kentucky Horse Council's goal to keep this industry alive and growing. The Kentucky Equine Survey provides us with the numbers, so we’ll know how to develop programs to emphasize strengths as well as work on improving areas of need. It is an important window into the future.”
According to the study, the estimated value of the 242,400 equines in Kentucky is about $6.3 billion. In addition, the estimated value of equine-related assets, including land and buildings, vehicles and equipment, feed and supplies and tack and equestrian clothing, is $17.1 billion, bringing the total value of Kentucky’s equine and equine-related assets to $23.4 billion.
The total of all equine-related sales and income for equine operations in 2011 was about $1.1 billion. That total came from sales of all equines, estimated to be $521.1 million, and $491 million in income from services provided, including both breeding and non-breeding services such as training, lessons, boarding, farrier, transportation, purses, incentives, etc.
The study found that total equine-related expenditures by equine operations in 2011 totaled about $1.2 billion. Capital expenditures by equine operations, including the purchase of equines, real estate and improvements and equipment, were estimated to be $337 million. Operating expenditures, including expenses paid for boarding, feed, bedding, veterinary, supplies, farrier services, breeding, maintenance and repair, insurance premiums, utilities and fuel, taxes, rent and/or lease, fees and payments, shipping and travel, training and other fees, totaled $839 million. Notably, 77 percent of these operating expenses were spent in Kentucky.
"We are pleased that this Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund investment made by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board will provide benefits to one of our state's signature industries," said Roger Thomas, executive director of the Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy. "The results of this survey will validate the economic benefits of all breeds of equine to Kentucky's overall economy.”
“The College of Agriculture is proud of this project because first and foremost, it represents the best available methods of surveying that universities and government can provide. But the most compelling aspect of this study is that our future policy discussions can be guided by solid numbers. We thank the Kentucky Horse Council and the Governor's Office of Ag Policy as well as our numerous donors, for recognizing how much the Horse Capital of the World needs a sound foundation for policy decisions,” said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research in UK’s College of Agriculture, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station director and administrative leader for UK Ag Equine Programs.
Funding for the project was provided by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, along with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, the Kentucky Horse Council and numerous other industry organizations and individuals, a complete listing of which can be found on the project’s website.
More information about the 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey can be found on the UK Ag Equine Programs website at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/equine/kyequinesurvey or on Kentucky Horse Council’s website at http://www.kentuckyhorse.org/ . A copy of the complete Phase 1 results, including county-level breakdowns, will also be posted on both of these websites when they become available.