May 2004 | New Study Says Horses Add Nearly $10 Billion to Pennsylvania Economy
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New Study Says Horses Add Nearly $10 Billion
to Pennsylvania Economy

May 2004
A study released in the summer of 2003 by Penn State University shows that Pennsylvania's horse industry is massive and thriving, contributing big bucks to the state economy. And it's preserving more than a million acres of state farmland.

In introducing the study on June 13, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff said that $8.2 billion or 18 percent of agribusiness sales—the state's largest industry—can be attributed to horses. The $8.2 billion figure refers to investments including land, buildings, machinery, etc., and does not include the value of the horses themselves—an additional $1.3 billion.

The study, "Pennsylvania's Equine Industry Inventory, Basic Economic and Demographic Characteristics," shows that the number of horses in Pennsylvania increased 27 percent since 1990. That year, Pennsylvania was home to 170,000 equine—horses, ponies, mules and donkeys. In 2002, the year the current study represents, the number had grown to 215,693.

The study shows the total value of Pennsylvania's horses more than doubled since 1990, from $620 million to $1.3 billion. The industry's total investment in land, horses, buildings, trucks, trailers, tack and other assets, is a whopping $9.5 billion.

Not included in the study was money spent by residents of other states and countries who come to Pennsylvania to ride or compete. The Pennsylvania National Horse Show estimates that out of state competitors spend $40 million each year on hotels, meals, shopping, and more during that show alone.

Among the study's most interesting findings is that the amount of land devoted to horses totals 1,140,000 acres, valued at $4.8 billion.

"The study shows that the equine industry is a tremendous force toward preservation of open space, particularly in southeastern counties like Chester and Lancaster, which are under the greatest development pressure," Commissioner Richard Abbott of the State Horse Racing Commission said. "While traditional agricultural enterprises are no longer economically viable, horse farms represent a tremendous force toward preservation of open space."

"This study shows the state equine industry could easily be renamed the Equine Farmland Preservation Industry," said James Simpson, President and CEO of 3,000 acre Hanover Shoe Farms.

Revenue generated by the equine industry as a whole in 2001 totaled more than $1.12 billion. Expenditures totaled more than $746 million. The industry employs more than 20,000 people.

Update of 1990 Study
The study was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture through the State Horse and Harness Racing Commissions and conducted by the Department of Dairy and Animal Science, College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. An update of a 1990 Penn State profile, the objectives were to assess the nature and composition of Pennsylvania's equine industry, including its contribution to the state economy through sales, employment and taxes, and intangible benefits.

Researchers developed a list of 31,195 addresses of horse owners from 141 sources including breed and discipline organizations, riding clubs, subscription lists and others. A random sample of 10,000 addresses included 2,867 records affiliated with horse racing and 7,133 records identified as general industry involvement. Surveys were distributed in October and November, 2002 and data was collected through the end of the year.

Top Breeds
Quarter horses are Pennsylvania's most populous breed, numbering 40,110. Unidentified breeds ranked second with 37,636. Pennsylvania has a nearly equal number of standardbreds and thoroughbreds, approximately 21,000, with 14,815 standardbreds and 11,550 thoroughbreds used for racing.

Next among the light horse breeds are Arabians and half-Arabs, with 11,154 members, followed by Morgans, with 10,136 horses.

Some of the lowest population numbers, but the highest individual values, belonged to the warmblood breeds. Pennsylvania has 824 Hanoverians with an average individual value of $20,277 and 397 Trakehners with an average value of $14,710. There are 3,755 other warmblood breeds in the state with an average value of $15,568.

Most Populous Counties
The five counties with the highest horse populations were: Lancaster, with 20,396; Chester, with 15,504; York, with 12,089; Washington, with 8,572; and Berks, with 6,241. The contiguous counties of Chester, Lancaster, York and Berks alone were home to more than a quarter of the state's horses. In those four counties, all of which face tremendous development pressure, nearly 245,000 acres of land are kept in open space for horses.

Of the five top counties, all saw growth in numbers of horses except Washington, whose horse population dropped seven percent compared to 1990. York experienced the most growth, a 55 percent increase compared to 1990. Westmoreland, the county with the fourth highest population in 1990, lost more than half its horse population. Numbers decreased from 5,700 in 1990 to 2,658 in 2002.

Chester County had the highest racehorse population, with 4,286 racehorses. Next was Lancaster with 3,012, York with 2,857 and Washington—the only county of the top four with a racetrack—with 2,250.

Twenty seven percent of the state's horses used for trail riding. Twenty two percent were used for breeding, 20percent for competition, and 8 percent for both work/farming and youth activities. Only one percent were used for tourism, including inner city carriage rides and horseback riding through scenic locations.

Complete results are on the web:

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