How many horses are in southeastern Pennsylvania, and how important are they to the region’s economy? Everyone connected to the horse industry in any way, in the southeastern region of the state, is urged to take part in an online survey that will help find answers to those questions.
Delaware Valley University and the Chester-Delaware County Farm Bureau have worked together to develop the survey, which can be found at www.sepaequine.org. Its purpose is to provide an objective estimate of the economic contribution the horse industry makes to the economy of southeastern Pennsylvania.
“We have a unique combination of skill sets with our Agribusiness Department, our Equine Science and Management Department and our Business Department. The three departments are able to use those skill sets together to create the survey, to get the information out, and then to analyze the data and get it back out to horse owners and legislators,” Cory Kieschnick, chair of the Department of Equine Science and Management at Delaware Valley University said.
The survey is looking for responses from horsemen in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, and York counties. You do not have to be a farm owner, and you do not even have to own a horse of your own. Riding students and businessmen who deal in equine related products and services are also invited to take part in the survey.
“They really do make a big difference with their contribution to the industry as a whole. When you start looking through everything we spend money on, it’s a huge industry,” Kieschnick said.
Taking the survey is simple. Questions that ask for an amount of money spent do not require exact answers, just your best estimate.
“We know that the average horse owner does not have all the data right in front of them, but they can give us their estimated range in their expenditures,” Kieschnick said.
When you finish the final survey page, note the password you are given. It will enable you to enter a drawing for one of five $100 Amazon Gift Cards. The entry form is independent from the survey, so putting your name in for the drawing will not identify your survey responses.
“When we were putting the survey together we wanted to make sure everybody understood it is anonymous,” Kieschnick said.
An effort is also being made to include the Amish population in the survey. Student volunteers from Delaware Valley University are going to Amish farms in person to ask for their participation in the survey, or at least a count on the number of equines they own.
John M Urbanchuk, assistant professor and chair of the Agribusiness Department at Delaware Valley University, believes that the real impact of the horse industry is being underestimated. Current USDA estimates put the horse population of the region at just 15,000, a figure that he feels is well below the actual count.
“At the USDA, they don’t go out and count horse noses. They do a sampling and go from there. We think that probably underestimates the equine population,” Urbanchuk said.
The last survey of this kind was done in 2003 and it was on a statewide basis, while the new effort focuses on the southeastern region only. It is estimated that this ten county area accounts for about one third of the total equine population of Pennsylvania, yet the area’s farms and open space are heavily threatened by development.
Once the results are in, they will be compiled into statistics for the region, plus they will be broken down by county if enough responses are received. It will provide information on items such as employment, household income and tax revenue, as well as a current census of the region’s equine population.
The results will be made available to the public. It is hoped that knowing how important the horse industry is to the region will encourage state and local governments to take it into consideration when making regulations that could have an impact on horsemen.
“We’re going to write a report that we’re going to publicize as much as we can. We’re going to look at the region as a whole, and where we get enough information, we’re going to break it down into individual counties,” Urbanchuk said. “We’re looking to get it out to as broad an audience base as we can get.”
The survey is expected to run through the end of January. For that reason, everyone is asked to take the survey as soon as possible by going to www.sepaequine.org. Frequently asked questions and answers are posted for your review before you begin the survey.