Every few years, different organizations study the numbers of horses and the impact that the horse industry has on the economy locally, nationally and worldwide. Having this information demonstrates the value of the equine industry in the national, state and world economies by looking at the direct and indirect economic impacts of horse ownership, recreation and equine-related services. The data collected helps to inform public and private investments in equine-related businesses, equine health care, education, land use decisions, tax policy, tourism, employment incentives, and more.

In 2023, the American Horse Council (AHC) conducted the Economic Impact Study of the U.S. Horse Industry. Here are a few interesting findings from that study:

“In the United States, recent data shows Texas with the highest horse population of 748,800.”

Diverse Economic Sectors Impacted: $177 billion. This is the total sum gathered in 2023 from the equine industry, up from $122 billion in 2017. This includes direct industry sectors such as boarding, training, breeding, feed, tack, supplies, apparel and horse trailers, but extends way beyond to the indirect industries that trickle out to a wide spectrum of industries including agriculture, tourism, veterinary services and technology, and illustrates the interconnectedness of the equine world with other economic areas.

Equine Industry Employment: The AHC survey reveals a substantial impact on employment with 2.2 million jobs (up from 1.7 in 2017) linked both directly and indirectly to the equine industry. Of course, breeders, trainers, equine veterinarians and farriers are represented, but also indirect jobs such as truck drivers, nutritionists, chemists, police officers and journalists.

Drop in Equine Population: The AHC survey showed a slight 8.3 percent downturn of 600,000 in the total population of horses in 2023—6.6 million compared to 7.2 million in 2017—a small percentage considering the growing numbers in jobs and expenditures.

Julie Broadway, president of the AHC states, “The Economic Impact Study is the most effective tool in our advocacy quiver. When the industry needs to take aim at an issue, this data is invaluable in helping us paint the picture of the contributions the industry makes and the breadth and depth of its composition.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) keeps track of yearly horse industry statistics. The World Animal Foundation (WAF) also gathers statistics to utilize for animal advocacy.

Here are a few interesting findings from the 2022 FAO study:

• There are almost 60 million horses worldwide

• There are 73,520 wild horses and burros across 10 western states in the U.S.

• The number of recognized horse breeds in the U.S. is 350

In the United States, recent data shows Texas with the highest horse population of 748,800. Second is California with 534,500, and Florida came in at third place with 387,300 horses. That ranks Florida with more horses than France, but less than Germany. See graph.

According to the statistics of 2022, almost 429,761 horses live in the United Kingdom, where horses are still used extensively for work, competition and recreation. The average horse-to-people ratio is 1 horse for every 165 people! The horse racing industry is alive and well there and contributed £3.45 billion to the economy. The U.K. horse industry revenue was £8 billion annually, with 85,000 people working full time in the industry.

Romania, slightly smaller than Oregon (117,000 horses), has the highest horse population of 447,800 (FAO)—out of all the European countries in the European Union. In Romania, horses are still used in agriculture and for transportation.

The buying and selling statistics of horses are also fascinating. Here are the statistics from OEC in 2022:

• United Kingdom, Top Origin Country – $643 million profit from selling horses

• United States, Top Destination Country – $723 million spent on buying horses

• Horses were the world’s 592nd most traded product (out of 1,218 products)

In 2022, the top exporters of horses were United Kingdom ($643M), China ($608M), Hong Kong ($576M), Ireland ($396M), and Germany ($307M).

In 2022, the top importers of horses were United States ($723M), Hong Kong ($699M), China ($597M), United Kingdom ($506M), and Ireland ($431M).

The great news is that the equine industry is alive and well in the United States and the world as a whole! There are impactful jobs for those interested in being in the horse industry and there is an important place in the economy for all of the direct and indirect equine sectors.

Heather McWilliams © 2024