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


VII. Summary and Policy Implications

We estimate the total number of horses in Connecticut as 43,059, which is likely to be on the conservative side. Our survey results show that most horses in Connecticut are owned individually and by females. The average age of horse owners is 45 years. While the majority of Connecticut residents are in the income group of less than $49,999, most Connecticut horse owners are in the income group of $50,000 - $99,999. The average income of horse owners in our sample is $100,000. Most Connecticut owners keep horses due to a desire for companionship or for personal and family recreation. Showing is also an important use category. Businesses own only about 11.6% of the total horses in Connecticut.

Horse owners are benefiting from keeping open space preserved. The majority of the horse-owning population feels that they have sufficient access to greenways and trails in Connecticut. Access to greenways and trails, however, is also the most common concern expressed by our sample. Most respondents believe that development and loss of open space is threatening natural trails and greenways.

The average fair market value of a privately owned horse in Connecticut (as of 2002) is $7,483 with significant variation by breed (Thoroughbreds are at the high end of the range at $10,084 and Standardbreds at the low end at $1,167). When owners were asked if they would sell their horse at fair market value, only 20% responded positively, while 7% would be willing to sell their horse above fair market value and 73% would never sell. This shows that fair market value is not a suitable measure of the true value of a horse to its owner and reveals the strong attachment that owners have for their horses. This can also be supported by the high cost of maintenance compared to any monetary benefits derived from the horse. The value of a horse increases initially with age then decreases after the horse has peaked. Horses used for showing and competition or breeding had a higher fair market value than horses used for personal and family recreation or work. The total value of horses in the state is estimated to be $317,032,995.

Horse owners also contribute to the economy through maintenance and use of their horses. A thorough review of horse business listings indicates that there are approximately 550 horse-related businesses in the state. The majority of respondents to our businesses survey are involved with boarding horses, providing training and lessons, and/or breeding. The horse businesses are facing an uphill task and are able to make only a modest income on average.

The Connecticut horse industry is a vital part of the state’s economy. It is evident that personal and recreational uses and companionship are among the most important reasons private individuals keep horses. Most of the time, the expenses incurred by private individuals in upkeep of horses far exceed any monetary benefits from ownership. Given the significant aesthetic and other external benefits to society from this activity, an argument could very well be made for additional public support of the horse owning community. For example, one dimension that a number of horse-owners pointed to was the inadequacy of greenways and horse trails. Our survey questions relating to environmental and safety issues point to another dimension in which public support would be helpful, namely, provision of educational services to help improve manure handling and helmet use. Finally, we noted that a significant proportion of horse related businesses are either running losses or making little profit. These businesses play a crucial role in providing services for horse owners as well as other members of society. Mechanisms for direct or indirect public support clearly need to be devised to help sustain them.

We feel that our study marks an important first step in the quantitative description and economic evaluation of Connecticut’s horse industry. Additional work does, however, need to be done. First of all, a complete impact analysis should be carried out in order to better assess the value of the horse industry to Connecticut. The industry has broader linkages with the economy and generates multiplier effects that should be taken into account. Second, a more comprehensive mailing list of horse owners and horse-related businesses should be assembled, and the surveys repeated in due course to improve the statistical reliability of the findings. Third, our methodology for enumerating horses and making economy-wide inferences needs to be applied to other parts of the country as well. It would be of particular interest to do a comparative analysis of a few New England states.