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Stable Beat :: Results from 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey

Aug 24, 2012

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Results from 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey

Excerpted from a report prepared  by C. Jill Stowe, PhD Dept. of Agricultural Economics (University of Kentucky) as a consultant to AHP

15 June 2012

American Horse Publications (AHP) conducted its second online nationwide equine industry survey from March 5, 2012, through May 20, 2012, and the results, for horse professionals are very interesting. Here, StableManagement.com has excerpted several key areas of information in order to better gauge trends and management practices in the U.S. equine industry. Upon the conclusion of the survey, 11,320 responses were collected.  After removing duplicates, respondents from outside the U.S., and non-horse owners or managers, there were 10,539 usable responses. 

For the charts and graphs that illustrate the findings in this text, please refer to the photo gallery on the righthand side of the page.

Demographics

            The first section of the survey collects information on respondent demographics.  The survey sample is reasonably representative of the equine industry as a whole based on results from previous surveys.  The 45-54 and 55-64 years age groups are most highly represented, with each accounting for 26.2% of the respondents. Overall, 61.2% of respondents are age 45+.  90.8% of the respondents are female.  The distribution of responses geographically is somewhat uniform.  See Table 1 below for a description of the zip code regions.  49.2% of the survey participants had reported annual household incomes (before taxes) of less than $75,000; 12.7% of the respondents had annual household incomes of at least $150,000.

            Each household in the sample has an average of 2.57 members; 92.9% of the respondents live in households with no more than 4 members. The average number of household members involved with horses is 1.75, and 85.2% of the survey participants indicate that either one or two household members are involved with horses.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

Horse Ownership

            The second section of the survey focuses on horse ownership as well as the ways in which respondents are involved with the horse industry.  92.3% of the respondents indicate that they are horse owners, and 20.9% identify themselves as barn/farm managers.  Just under 50% indicate that they ride for pleasure, and 34.9% indicate that they ride competitively.  More than 15% of respondents indicate that they are breeders, riding instructors, and/or trainers.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

            Respondents were asked to identify the number of horses they owned and/or managed in four different age groups: foals (less than 1 year old), young horses (1-4 years old), mature horses (5-15 years old), and senior horses (16+ years old).  Respondents in the survey own an average of 0.36 foals, 1.15 young horses, 4.1 mature horses, and 2.77 senior horses.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

            One of the objectives of this survey is to continue to understand, on a national level, how respondents’ participation with horses and in the horse industry has changed and how they expect it to change in the future.  Initially, the focus is on trends in the number of horses owned and/or managed.

65.5% of the respondents indicate that the number of horses they currently own is the same as it was last year.  About 17% of respondents own more horses than they did last year, and the remaining 17% own fewer horses than they did last year.  This result may suggest some stability compared to the 2009-2010 survey, where 47% of respondents either owned/managed more or fewer horses than they did two years hence.  When considering their future expectations on horse ownership, 66.7% of respondents expect to own/manage the same number of horses next year.  Of those who expect the number of horses owned/managed to change, 18.7% expect to own more horses in 2013, while 14.7% expect to own fewer horses.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

            Respondents in the top 2 income categories reported a higher frequency of owning/managing more horses than they did in 2011, while respondents in the lowest income category were most likely to own/manage fewer horses than they did in 2011.  However, those same respondents were most likely to expect to own/manage more horses in 2013. 

            When analyzing the trends in horse ownership by age, some interesting results emerge.  The frequency of owning/managing more horses in 2012 than in 2011 is decreasing by age category; 26.6% of respondents in the 18-24 age category report owning/managing more horses in 2012 than in 2011, while only 9.9% of respondents in the 65+ age category report owning/managing more horses.  This pattern is also consistent with expectations on horse ownership in 2013.  30.37% of respondents in the 18-24 age category expect to own/manage more horses in 2013 than they do this year, and this diminishes to 10.82% of respondents in the 65+ age category.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

Services

            Next, respondents were asked general questions regarding the types of services for which they pay.  These services represent a common mechanism through which funds are exchanged in the equine industry, and it is important to understand to what extent these services are utilized.  While 80.8% of respondents indicate that they care for their own horse (in terms of feeding, watering, and cleaning), 41.0% board their horses on someone else’s property.  In addition, 41.8% pay for riding lessons, and 33% pay for someone else to train their horse.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

Use of Horses (Tabs 4 - 6)

            In addition to identifying their involvement with the horse industry, survey participants were asked to identify all ways in which they used their horses.  73% of the respondents at least sometimes use their horses for pleasure/trail riding.  After pleasure/trail riding, the next most commonly identified use is dressage, which was reported by 26.3% of respondents.  Using horses for lessons or training and natural horsemanship represent the other most frequently reported uses.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

            The use of horses depends on respondents’ geographic location. To briefly summarize the results, it appears that many of the English disciplines are more highly represented towards the eastern side of the U.S., whereas many of the Western disciplines are more highly represented towards the western side of the U.S. 

Competitions (Tab 7)

            Survey participants indicate that they expect to compete in an average of 5.36 events in 2012.  This is similar to the average number of competitions reported in the 2009-2010 study. In addition, the average number of competitions is increasing across income groups and decreasing across age groups.

            There is some evidence that those with incomes of $125,000 or greater competed more in 2012 than in 2011.  Those in the younger age groups appear significantly more likely to have competed more in 2012 and expect to compete more in 2013.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

Horsekeeping Costs (Tab 8)

            To obtain a better understanding of how increased costs have affected horse handlers, survey participants were asked to identify areas in which costs of horsekeeping had increased the most.  In addition, they were asked to indicate potential ways in which they would accommodate any cost increases.

            First, respondents were asked to identify up to three areas in which the costs associated with horsekeeping have increased the most.  81.8% of the respondents say that feed of all types, including hay and concentrate, has become more expensive.  The increase in feed costs was identified as an issue significantly more often by individuals residing in zip code regions 3, 7, 8, and 9.  71.4% of the respondents indicate that their fuel costs (which may impact activities such as transportation and pasture maintenance) have increased as well, although the frequency of increased fuel costs are significantly less in zip code regions 0 and 1.  Next, 31.4% of the participants indicated that veterinary services was a source of increased costs, but there was little difference in the change in these costs geographically. Relative to the 2009-2010 AHP survey, the top 3 sources of increased costs have remained the same; however, significantly more respondents identified both feed and fuel as contributing to increased costs in the current study, whereas significantly fewer identified veterinary care as a factor.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

Because costs continue to increase, owners and managers will have to find different ways to cope with these expected increased costs.  Most respondents (68.1%) indicate that they will reduce expenditures in other areas of their lives to cope with the increased horsekeeping costs.  32.8% of the respondents indicate that they plan on attending fewer competitions.  Over ¼ of the respondents indicate that they will find other sources of income or reduce the number of horses they maintain.  Partial leases are still not very attractive; only 10% indicate that they might pursue cost-sharing measures like half-leases.  These responses have changed little since the 2009-2010 study.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

Issues Facing the Equine Industry (Tabs 9 – 11)

            A variety of issues pose challenges to the equine industry in the present and going forward.  One objective of the current study is to gain a better understanding of how those who own and/or manage horses perceive the various challenges; to this end, participants were asked to identify the top three issues facing the equine industry.

            Nearly 56% of the respondents indicate that the problem of unwanted horses (and what to do with them) is one of the top three issues.  The cost of horsekeeping (47.1%), overbreeding (37.3%), owners who don’t understand horses (29.3%), the loss of trails and riding areas (27.6%), and the lack of the option of slaughter (24.8%) were the next most frequently identified issues.  Less than 20% of respondents indicate that competition for open spaces from developers or other agricultural uses, disease outbreaks, inappropriately trained horses, horses going to slaughter, the lack of a unified voice in Washington, D.C., the lack of marketing to attract new participants, ineffective welfare laws, overburdened welfare groups, the possibility of slaughter houses re-opening in the future, and the lack of educational materials are top issues.

- See slide show gallery for chart illustrations

Summary

            As stated earlier, the objectives of this survey are to gauge participation trends and management practices in the U.S. equine industry, to identify which issues currently facing the equine industry are perceived as being most critical among those who own or manage horses, and to analyze issues pertaining to horse health and nutrition. Results from some of these sections can be compared to the 2009-2010 AHP Equine Industry Survey. 

Three main results can be identified from this study, and they are outlined below.

1)   About 2/3 of the respondents own or manage the same number of horses as they did in 2011, and roughly the same proportion expect to own or manage the same number of horses in 2013.  Among those who have a different number of horses (or expect to have a different number of horses), they are evenly divided between more and less.  These results may indicate a greater level of stability in the number of horses owned/managed compared to 2 years ago.  In addition, it appears that participants in the youngest age groups are increasing the number of horses they own/manage.

2)   Based on results from the study, it appears that horse owners/managers are beginning to increase the number of competitions they attend.  While the average number of competitions in 2012 is about the same as the results from the 2009-2010 study, a greater percentage competed more in 2012 than in 2011, and almost 90% of respondents plan on competing the same amount (56.2%) or more (32.9%) in 2013.  Most of the increase in competitions is occurring among the younger age groups and higher income groups.

3)   Veterinarians play an integral role in nearly every facet of caring for horses.  Not only are they influential in decisions regarding nutrition, they play a large role in vaccination decisions and are becoming more involved in deworming strategies as well.

        Finally, one benefit of administering a survey aimed specifically towards horse owners/managers is the ability to obtain a better understanding of how those that handle horses on a daily basis perceive the biggest challenges facing the industry.  Unsurprisingly, the unwanted horse issue (and what to do with them) is still the most important issue facing the industry today, even 4 years after the great recession of 2008.  To solve the problem, respondents suggest a variety of alternatives, including providing humane slaughter, low cost euthanasia and castration clinics, and regulated breeding (including more widespread licensing of stallions, mares, and even breeders).  As in the 2009-2010 study, slaughter is one of the most discussed alternatives.  Among respondents that mentioned something with regard to slaughter, over 9 times as many respondents were in favor of slaughter as those against it (for comparison, in the 2009-2010 study, about 8 times as many respondents were in favor as those against it).  However, among those who stated they were either for or against slaughter, many indicated that if slaughter plants re-open, humane conditions (including transport) must be mandated.

            The cost of horsekeeping was identified as the second biggest challenge facing the industry.  Solutions to this issue may be more difficult to achieve, because many are outside the control of those in the horse industry.  There is little horse owners/managers can do about fuel prices.  However, some respondents suggest a change in the “business” model of caring for horses, including the creation of regional hay-buying co-ops and incentivizing hay producers to keep hay more local rather than exporting it.

            In closing, the equine industry continues to face many challenges, but it appears that the industry is beginning to recover from the great recession of 2008, as indicated by the percentage of respondents participating in the industry, either through owning/managing horses or competing them, at the same or greater levels than two years ago.

Comments

 
Suzanne Moore
2 years ago
What loss of slaughter option? We have been slaughtering horses without so much as as weekend break for 40 years, and are now sending more to slaughter than we did when the domestic plants were open. How exactly is this a "loss of slaughter option?" And, what problems has 40 unbroken years of slaughter solved? If slaughter is the answer to the "unwanted" horse problem, why does the problem still exist? Why hasn't slaughter fixed it? If slaughtering hundreds or thousands of horses over 40 years hasn't even dented this problem, isn't it time to consider the idea that slaughtering horses is NOT the answer? Ya think?Not only is slaughter not the answer, it created the problem in the first place. When did brutal slaughter become a "secondary market" for American horses? The Big Breed Associations have evolved to actually consider slaughter as part of their business plan! Not only does this promote the deliberate breeding of excess horses, it causes careless and indiscriminate breeding practices - to the great detriment of the breed involved.As for slaughter being humane - that's a fairy tale propagated by those who look to profit from this nasty business. Horses are high strung prey animals - much more comparable to deer than to cattle. Horses are creatures of flight, and if they can't run they panic. They have a strong instinct to raise their long, mobile, powerful necks in the air, wildly flinging their heads around. The mandatory head restraint cannot and is not used on horses, making the situation dangerous for themselves and the person attempting to stun them with the mandatory SINGLE shot from a captive-bolt pistol.It is a well documented fact that it is virtually impossible to stun a horse with a single shot, resulting in many horses receiving multiple shots in violation of the Humane Slaughter regulations. More than a few horses are conscious when they are strung up and eviscerated. Even the renowned Temple Grandin has admitted that there is NO humane way of slaughtering horses in the fast moving assembly-line structure of the modern commercial slaughter plants no matter where they are located.Another indisputable fact is that horses have never been bred, raised and certainly not regulated for human consumption as are other meat producing livestock animals. Many of the substances used in horse medications as well as widely used over-the-counter products contain substances that are absolutely banned in ALL food-producing animals for any use at any time during their lives. One use of any of these substances requires that the animal in question be permanently prohibited from entering the human food chain. NO withdrawal times for banned substances.American horses have no traceability system at all, and it is illegal, unethical and disgraceful to continue to sell adulterated horse meat to consumers overseas.

 
Joy
2 years ago
Thanks for the survey. Question: With regard to "Horsekeeping Costs". An option was not given for Bedding costs. I feel that bedding for stalls is right up there with Hay costs. Why was Bedding Costs not give as an option? Thanks.

 
Rebecca Gimenez
2 years ago
Thank you for breaking down the numbers a bit !

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