Many equine operators view their ventures as more hobby than business, and nearly 60 percent function without a business plan despite working in an industry that generates more than $2 billion in Indiana, according to a Purdue University study.
The survey of the economic impact and health of the state’s equine industry was conducted in the spring and covered 2010 activity. It was sponsored in part by various state equine organizations.
Horse racing generates the most revenue, but people who enjoy riding and other equine-related activities for recreation comprise the industry’s largest segment. In addition to horses, the industry includes a wide range of goods and services: sales, breeding, racing, showing, boarding, riding lessons, labor, training, feed and supplements, tack, veterinary care and supplies, farriers, facility maintenance, and fuel and transportation.
Conners says the business segment of the survey reveals a need for programs and resources that emphasize management skills. “Many people who were interested in starting a business felt they didn’t have the resources to do so,” she says.
Mark Russell, an animal sciences professor and Purdue Extension specialist in equine management, says the study helps create awareness of the industry within state and local government, businesses and even among horse owners.
The survey’s health segment showed a modest improvement in the percentage of live foals born at 95%, compared with 85.5% in the previous survey in 2001, says study co-author Laurent Couetil, an equine veterinarian and professor of large animal medicine who researches performance-based problems at Purdue’s Equine Sports Medicine Center. He credits this to better care, veterinary checks and vaccinations.
The biggest performance-related health issues are lameness and hoof injuries, some of which can be prevented just as in human athletes. “Colic, the number 3 cause of death, is a bigger research concern because we still don’t understand a lot about what causes it,” he explains. Also problematic are contagious respiratory diseases; outbreaks can shut down racetracks, horse shows and other events.