The horse racing industry is one of the most common ways the general public gets to interact with horses. It's offered as a form of entertainment, which means there is a fairly large economic impact created by this industry.
The horse industry is responsible for an economic impact of over $112 billion according to The Equestrian Channel.
There are more than 7 million people in the United States who are actively involved in the horse racing industry at any given time. This includes nearly 1.5 million jobs. When spectators are included, the number of people interested in this industry is tens of millions.
THE HORSE RACING INDUSTRY ISN'T JUST FOR THE WEALTHY
- About 1 in 3 horse owners in the United States have an annual household income of less than $50,000 per year. 46% of horse owners have an income that falls between $25k-$75k ever year.
- Only 28% of horse owners have an annual household income that is above $100,000.
- Over 70% of horse owners live in communities that have a population of 50,000 people or less.
- This creates an industry impact that pays nearly $2 billion in taxes each year for all levels of government.
- Horse racing events in the United States are some of the most attended sporting events every. The 2011 Kentucky Derby, for example, had nearly 165,000 people watching it.
- The trophy that is won for the Kentucky Derby is made from solid gold. Although gold values change, the average value of the trophy is about $90,000.
- The longest shot to win the Kentucky Derby happened in 1913, when a horse named Donarail crossed the finish line first at 91-1 odds.
- The average purse per race in 2015 was estimated to be $28,085, which is a record amount for the US horse racing industry. In the last 30 years, the value of the average purse per race has only decreased in year-to-year comparisons just three times.
- In 2016, 88% of horse owners in an AHP survey stated that they intend to own and manage the same number of horses or acquire more horses.
- 93% of horse owners that participate in racing events plan to enter the same amount of events or enter more events than the previous year.
We often hear about the big purses that are won at a horse race. We'll talk about how fortunes can come in 2 minutes or less. Yet for the average horse owner, it's less about the money and more about the experience of owning a horse. There is a big money component to the industry and there always will be, but this industry thrives because average income homes love horses and take care of them every day. Without this level of ownership, the industry would not be able to exist as it does currently. Of course this makes it difficult on the industry when a recession occurs, but whenever there is economic growth, there will be hopes of expansion and that's a beautiful thing.
HORSE RACING ISN'T ALWAYS FUN AND GAMES
- According to Animal Aid, around 1,000 horses from the racing industry are killed in slaughterhouses in Britain every year, to be turned into dog food or horsemeat.
- Since 2011, more than two dozen horses have been killed in horse racing events around the world. In 2014, 7 horses died during an event at Cheltenham.
- Since 1998, the total US annual foal crop has decreased by more than 50%. In 1988, there was a foal crop of 45,258. In 2015, the estimated figure is just 20,300.
- The total number of US races has also decreased for the industry since 1988. There were 71,014 races held in that year, but just an estimated 39,000 races held in 2015.
- Despite the decreases, the total US purse amount has risen in value by over $420 million. The estimated 2015 purse was $1.093 billion, which is actually down from the peak purse year of 2007 of $1.187 billion.
- The total number of US starting horses has also decreased dramatically in the last 30 years. In 1998, the total US starters were just over 83,000. In 2015, the horse racing industry will see their first year of not topping 50,000 total starters.
- 1 in 10 horse owners plan to reduce the number of horses they are taking care of in the next 12 months, with older horse owners in the 65+ age demographic being the most likely to get out of the industry.
- 7% of horse owners say that they treat their horse as if it were an employee. 21% say that their horse is simply another livestock animal.
- 1 in 3 horses that is owned in the US is either idle, not working, or retired.
As with any industry, there is going to be a dark side that must be continuously managed. Even with the best of intentions, some horses just end up being hurt. In the past, some jockeys have said that horses were expendable. Yet when champions like AP McCoy come out to say that their heart aches over the death of a horse, it shows that times and perspectives are changing. Every generation progresses to new heights over the last with better knowledge and awareness. Hopefully that will continue for the horse racing industry.
WHAT HORSES MEAN TO THE INDUSTRY
- 67% of people who own at least one horse say that they consider their horses to be equal family members. Another 55% say that they consider their horse to be their best friend.
- 84% of horse owners say they discuss with their veterinarian what vaccinations their horse should receive, but only 30% of owners say that their vet gave them recommendations about vaccinations from the AAEP.
- 88% of owners say that they deworm their horses on their own, but half of all owners say that this is done under the supervision of their local veterinarian.
- Just 5% of horse owners believe that disease outbreaks are a concern that need to be addressed within the industry. Overbreeding and horsekeeping costs are 7x and 9x more important respectfully to today's horse owner.
Horses mean everything to the horse racing industry. Without them, there would be no industry. That means it is in the industry's best efforts to modernize care, help struggling owners, and reduce the chances for racing injuries. Unfortunately some races are only attended because of the difficulty of the course and the chance of an injury occurring. Whether it's the Triple Crown or a steeplechase, the goal of the horse racing industry should be simple: maintain happy and healthy horses. Thankfully that has become a top priority.