Data from a recent horse survey in Kentucky offers some significant facts that will be of special interest to hoof-care professionals across the country. This analysis may help you spot valuable insights and trends that can be compared with the equine industry in your own state.
Sponsored by the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Horse Council and a number of other statewide equine organizations, this 2022 comprehensive statewide survey indicates that Kentucky has 209,500 horses, ponies, mules and donkeys with an average value of $31,000 for each of these animals.
In the summer of 2012, the Kentucky field office of the National Agriculture Statistics Service mailed an 8-page questionnaire to 15,000 randomly selected equine operations located across the state. Defined as a location where at least one horse, pony or donkey resided, these operations include large breeding farms, show grounds, racetracks, training facilities, backyard horse facilities and equine related operations such as livestock operations or cash crop farms where horses are housed.
Results from this Kentucky Equine Survey show the state’s total value of equine and equine-related assets totaled $27.7 billion in 2022, an increase of 18% when compared with a similar study done in 2012. However, each breed or type of horse declined in numbers when compared with the data in the 2012 survey. But at the same time, the average value of horses increased even after adjustments were made for inflation.
While the state’s number of equines and equine horse operations decreased by 11% over the past 10 years, the overall equine industry value has increased dramatically. Revenues for equine operations increased more than expenses, a promising business value for commercial equine operations.
After adjusting for inflation, commercial operations saw their income from breeding services increase by 70% while income from non-breeding activities jumped by 65%. In addition, the value of horses that were sold increased by 70% over the 10-year period.
Multi-Million Foot Care Spend
A bright spot in the survey results is the fact that horse owners spent $39 million on farrier services in 2022. While there is no way to know how many horses were trimmed/shod, trimmed only or received no farrier care, this number works out to an average per year of $186.18 for every horse, pony, mule or donkey in the state. Among the top 10 equine health care issues, 13% of owners and trainers were concerned with laminitis while 27% placed the care of senior horses at the top of their list.
By comparison, vet and health fees totaled $99 million. This works out to an average of $473 per animal. This means farrier fees make up 28% of overall foot care and vet care expenses.
From 2012 to 2022, Kentucky’s equine industry experienced significant changes. This included emerging from the recession of 2008-2009, navigating the global Covid pandemic in 2020-2021 and recovering from a number of major weather-related disasters in 2021-2022.
31,000 Equine Operations
The survey showed Kentucky is home to 209,500 horses, ponies, mules and donkeys with around 31,000 equine operations in the state. This includes 18,000 farm/ranch operations, 10,000 backyard operations, 1,000 operations that are a boarding, training or riding facility and 600 breeding operations.
Some 46.3% of the state’s horses are housed on farms or ranches, 19.8% are part of backyard-style operations, 18.1% are found on breeding farms, 12.2% are in boarding, training or riding facilities and 3.6% are involved with other types of operations such as non-profits, equine adoption/rescue groups, equine-assisted human activities, therapy groups, recreational facilities, petting farms and government entities.
Since Thoroughbred breeding and racing is a major business in Kentucky, broodmares, foals, weanlings, yearlings and stallions make up 28.4% of the state’s equine population.
A total of 30% of the state’s horses are used for trail and pleasure riding, 16% are broodmares while 11%% are foals, weanlings or yearlings. Some 10% compete at horse shows, 6% are used for racing, 5% are used for work/transportation and 2% are breeding stallions. Another 4% are involved in other activities and while 15% are idle, retired or used mainly as pasture decorations.
In a look at the age of these horses, 10% of the state’s equines were under 12 months of age, 20% are 1-4 years of age, 45% are 5-15 years old and 25% were more than 15 years old.
While these figures and trends apply to the Bluegrass state, they should provide valuable to farriers as a comparison with horse-related activities taking place in their home state.
What's the Value of Kentucky Horses?
|Type of Horses||Average Value per Horse|
|Mountain horse breeds||$4,000|
Most Important Equine Heath Issues
|Equine Health Issues||% of Respondents|
|Care of senior horses||27.1%|
|Gut, digestive problems||17.4%|
|Parasite, dewormer resistance||13.4%|
|Reproduction, foal care||7.1%|
|Other health issues||3.0%|
Kentucky's Equine Population
|Type of Horses||Number of Horses|
|Donkeys and Mules||13,500|
|Mountain Horse breeds||10,500|