A Sampling of Equine Industry Trends
The U.S. equine industry is always changing—sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. We here in central Kentucky enjoy a front row seat to see many of these trends up close.
Below we detail just a few of these trends currently affecting our close-to-home industry.
Horse ownership may be leveling out
It’s no big secret that horse ownership has significantly declined in recent years. Although many sectors of the U.S. economy have rebounded since the recession of the late 2000’s, the number of U.S. households owning a horse has continued to decline.
In 2017 fewer than 3 million households in the U.S. own a horse. In 2004, there were 4 million households with at least one horse.
These numbers don’t tell the whole story, though, as the downturn in horse ownership may be flattening out.
Horse owners are among the most dedicated animal lovers—the bond between horse owner and horse can be stronger than even that for a pet dog or a cat. This means that current horse owners are likely to hold on to their animals so long as the economy remains stable.
In addition, horse ownership is seeing growth among younger age groups. For many years, the horse industry has marketed itself to Baby Boomers. However, many Boomers today are at an age where horseback riding is not as desirable as it once was.
Consequently, the equine industry as a whole has increasingly geared its marketing efforts away from Boomers and more toward kids. As a result, millennials, along with a segment of the Gen X generation, are breathing new life into horseback riding.
The sport is popular among many young adults, including those from large families and those from families having a child over age six. These statistics indicate that passion for horseback riding has the potential to pass down to younger generations within families.
Breed associations wising up
The number of registered horses in the U.S. has dropped sharply since the recession of 2008 (after steadily declining since 2000). Registered numbers for the top 12 breeds were 323,000 in 2003, and only 144,000 in 2013—marking a 56 percent drop.
Because of the significant decline in these numbers, many breed associations are reaching out for membership like never before. New ideas to form alliances and gain members are more plentiful than in past years.
More areas for competitive recognition exist within associations, including more events that award winners in cash instead of points. Plus, many breed associations’ membership packages have been bolstered to include more than just simple discounts.
Overall, breed associations are taking a more inclusionary approach to their organizations to increase their numbers and their revenue.
Equine-related therapy has seen a steady rise in popularity over recent years. This is largely because studies have shown this kind of therapy is successful in treating patients with a wide variety of problems. Issues such as autism spectrum disorders, mood disorders, grief, PTSD, and even substance abuse have all been improved through equine therapy.
In a similar manner to human therapy involving dogs and cats, equine therapy involves a professional who supervises an individual during activities such as feeding, grooming, haltering, and leading the horse.
If performed by a skilled practitioner, equine therapy will help improve the patient’s confidence, assertiveness, and accountability. In addition, a well-executed therapy plan can help the individual to understand and better control his own emotions.
The term natural horsemanship is a wide umbrella encompassing a number of different and controversial horse-keeping practices that have gained in popularity over the last two decades.
In its most basic sense, natural horsemanship strives to use body language to communicate with the horse. The underlying idea is first to understand the horse’s communication system of body language, then to use body language in positive ways.
Natural horsemanship abandons most traditional methods of interacting with and training horses. The philosophy behind this approach avoids fear- and pain-based training, and focuses instead on methods of pressure and release to cue the horse to behave in certain ways.
Over time, using body language along with a system of pressure and release will train the horse in the desired behavior.
Adherents to natural horsemanship believe that a horse treated in this manner—rather than with fear and pain—will develop a relationship of mutual respect with the handler or trainer.
The trends outlined above are just a few of the current major trends in the U.S. equine industry. However, they detail how the industry surrounding the beloved horse is steadily evolving in response to reliable research, an ever-changing consumer, and the dedicated passion of horse enthusiasts everywhere.