College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources | Agricultural & Resource Economics | Animal Science | Equine Program


II. Review of Existing Research and Methodology

Sure to be the most widely cited study of horse count and economic impact-related information is the one commissioned by the American Horse Council Foundation (Deloitte, 2005). Major findings of this study are:

  • The national number of horses is estimated at 9.2 million.

  • The nationwide economic impact of the U.S. horse industry in terms of direct, indirect, and induced spending to the U.S. economy is $102 billion annually.

  • The horse industry sustains approximately 1.4 million full time equivalent jobs annually, with over 460,000 created from direct spending within the industry.

  • About 1.96 million people own horses, with another 2 million involved as volunteers or through a family affiliation.

  • The median income of horse-owning families is about $60,000. Horse ownership is broad based across income classes with 34 percent of the industry under $50,000 of income and 28% over $100,000.

The main advantage of this data source is that it provides one of the few national estimates of the horse population and includes additional detail for 15 states (which do not, however, include any of the New England States). A major technical limitation of the study is that the procedure used for enumeration of horses is based on available horse owner lists. In many cases these may be incomplete to an unknown degree, making it difficult to specify a margin of error.2 Consequently, inferences drawn from this incomplete information may also be questioned.

While bearing in mind the above limitations, some interesting observations can be made with respect to Connecticut. According to the study, Connecticut ranks 41st nationally in terms of number of horses and is estimated to have a higher population of horses (51,968) than any other New England state. Also, Connecticut ranks 3rd in the density of horses nationwide (calculated by taking estimated number of horses and dividing by area of the state in square miles) and has the greatest density of horses in New England. Finally, Connecticut ranks 43rd in horses per capita. Vermont and Maine are the only two New England states that place above Connecticut in number of horses per capita.

There exist several statewide studies very similar to Deloitte (2005) in approach and methodology. Agricultural statistics services, universities, other governmental agencies and private companies have carried out such studies of the industry. These studies used different methods to gather data: telephone surveys, online surveys, personal interviews, mailed surveys, and area frame sampling (Beattie et al. 2001, Delaware Agricultural Statistics Service and Delaware Department of Agriculture 2004, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences Pennsylvania State University 2003, Greene et. al 2002, University of New Hampshire Survey Center 2003).

A common theme of these studies is that they provide information on the size of horse populations and on the use and type of horses. These studies indicate that the horse industry is of substantial economic value (hundreds of millions of dollars per state). Due to the substantial cost of surveys and economic impact studies, most states have performed them infrequently, but they are still valuable as sources of information.

A fundamental limitation that is shared by these existing studies is that they use owner surveys to enumerate horses. As argued above, the margin of error with this methodology is difficult to determine and is likely to be large in many cases. Fear of taxation, fear of misuse of information, and perceived invasion of privacy are additional reasons that incorrect, incomplete, or no information may be provided by respondents of the survey. Moreover, despite having detailed data on horse breeds and ownership, these studies do not attempt to separate out the effects of breed, age, sex, etc. on the determination of the market value of horses. In other words, very little systematic attempt at economic analysis of the horse industry is to be found in the existing literature.

2 For example, the reported estimate for horses in Connecticut seems to be based on quite arbitrary adjustments to data from available mailing lists, making us skeptical of its validity. The same comment applies to estimates reported for several other states