Portraits in Progress: Equine industry making strides in Ohio

SALEM, Ohio – With Kentucky just across the state line, many people may not think of Ohio as a “horse capital,” but in recent years, Ohio’s horse population is gaining ground.

According to a 1997 study by the American Horse Council Foundation, Ohio ranked seventh in the nation for number of horses and economic benefits from the equine industry. In that year alone, the equine industry directly added $776 million to the state’s economy. When that number is multiplied by indirect associations, the economic impact of equine industry totaled over $2.8 billion.

“It’s a strong industry here in Ohio, to say the least,” said Shea Porr, equine extension associate for The Ohio State University. “All of our 4-H and school equine programs are growing.”

Horse events.

According to Robert Kline, OSU equine specialist, the Ohio Quarter Horse Congress is Ohio’s largest convention; Ohio’s third largest convention is the Equine Affaire; and Ohio is home to The Little Brown Jug, Buckeye Sweepstakes, Ohio State Fair horse show, All-American Youth Horse Show and the national draft horse sale.

“The state has seven parimutuel tracks. Sixty-three county fairs have racetracks and all 88 counties have at least one horse show facility,” said Bernie Erven, OSU professor and extension economist, in OSU’s Summer 2001 Farm Management Update.

Erven said there were 73,000 horse owners in Ohio in 1996; 70 percent of the 192,000 horses in Ohio were involved in recreation or showing that year.

“The average horse owner in Ohio owns 2.7 horses,” said Porr. “The Paint and Quarter horse numbers are up. Standardbreds are up in racing and with the Amish.”

The numbers.

In Erven’s report, he said the 73,000 horse owners had over 15,000 employees and received services from about 4,000 people. More than 166,000 family members and volunteers were also reported to be a part of the Ohio horse industry.

In many ways, horses are much like cows and hogs, but horses account for a much larger portion of retail sales. Horses need feed and hay like cows and hogs, but they also require saddles, bridles and trailers, and horse owners spend lots of money each year on Western wear for the show ring.

Porr said there are more than 10,000 active 4-H youth in horse programs. She also reported a growing number of students at OSU interested in the equine program.

“We have more than we can handle. Right now there are six equine courses all with between 20 and 60 students,” said Porr.

Getting a job.

Many college students are finding jobs in local stables. Stabling has become very important, according to Erven, as suburbia makes its way to the countryside. Randall James, Geauga County ag extension agent, reports there are more than 75 commercial stables in his county.

“According to the Ohio State University Extension budget for the horse boarding enterprise, stable operations have excellent earning potential,” said Erven. “The estimated total return above total costs for a 40-horse stable is $12,480. The estimated return to operator labor and management is $55,680.”

Horses are a growing part of Ohio’s agricultural world. More and more people in Ohio are buying horses for leisure and recreation, which can be attributed to the good economy, according to Porr.

“The growing popularity of horses is partly due to the good economy. Anyone with a couple of acres or access to a stable can purchase a horse for leisure and recreation,” said Porr. “This is one sector of agriculture that cannot be ignored. The equine program is extremely popular.”

(Reporter Annie Santoro can be reached at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or asantoro@farmanddairy.com.)

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