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What will the horse industry over the next 30 years look like?

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    What will the horse industry over the next 30 years look like?

    Where do you see the markets going? Which disciplines are growing? Which are contracting? Why? I'm mostly familiar with dressage, H/J, and eventing, but I'm definitely interested in hearing about others too, as well as breeds. Who will be doing preservation breeding for Arabs and Morgans? Are QH safe no matter how badly the market contracts? Other breeds?

    How will the local/regional/national distributions of popularity of our sports change? Will the flocking to NC/SC/FL in the winter increase? What will happen to the market for people who can't uproot for X months a year to follow a trainer south?

    There's a looming recession that could depress the middle class for a long time. Millennials have delayed marriage, children, home ownership, and have essentially a lifetime of depressed wages and high debt - especially those who entered the workforce around 2008. How many of them will put their kids in pony camps? Where else can we get fresh grassroots participation?

    #2
    I would expect the general direction the (HJ) industry has been taking to continue. Perhaps accelerated by the pandemic depression, as happened following the Great Recession. The “middle class” of lesson, boarding, and training barns will continue to be hollowed out. The elite levels will continue unchanged, as the relatively wealthy aren’t significantly impacted by the high and rising costs of AA. The local levels will continue increasing engagement with the OTTB/RRP/TIP initiatives, and hopefully more new high-quality local/schooling circuits.

    Comment


      #3
      Morgans have always had their loyalties who have preserved the breed, also the breed appears to genetically dominant. This loyalty often ends up limiting the disbursement of the stock as the owners end up keeping many (we have never sold a Morgan that we have gotten, seven so far). Even the ranches/farm that breed with the intent to sale are not really large scale.

      The AMHA just moved its headquarters from Vermont to the Kentucky Horse Park to improve the breed's visibility (this only took nearly 30 years to convince the purest that the headquarters needed to moved to where the people were)

      Overall Horses in general will be even more of a niche market of pets as a greater percentage of the population moves in cities

      Comment


        #4
        As a racing enthusiast, I can’t shake the fear that horse racing will be grossly reduced or even gone in 30 years. I know racing is a controversial topic, but without racing, there is no OTTB. That will greatly change the landscape for the “middle class horse owner.” You know, the person who competes and otherwise supports the industry but can’t afford to spend 5 figures importing a horse or buying one off a pro.
        Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Texarkana View Post
          As a racing enthusiast, I can’t shake the fear that horse racing will be grossly reduced or even gone in 30 years. I know racing is a controversial topic, but without racing, there is no OTTB. That will greatly change the landscape for the “middle class horse owner.” You know, the person who competes and otherwise supports the industry but can’t afford to spend 5 figures importing a horse or buying one off a pro.
          There's plenty of QH around that will take up that spot for the less wealthy.
          I'm sure the TBs will still be here. They're too versatile to be completely ignored and let die off.

          Comment


            #6
            It will be even more of a niche, luxury industry than it is now. I suspect that it will be dominated by commercial enterprises, which is really where racing, H/J, the quarter horse/paint industries are going. The amateur horse owner is going to be increasingly rare. The survival of various rare breeds is probably going to come down to how well they can market themselves.
            Why am I so bleak? It actually has more to do with the overall generational trends. The younger generations are interested in being highly mobile and prefer urban/suburban areas, they tend to rent rather than own houses, their finances are often stretched. None of this is conducive to supporting long term commitment to a horse or to re-joining the horse world as a 'rerider' in middle age. Commercial use of horses is increasingly frowned on, while actual access to horses is increasingly limited. The majority of people have no contact with horses at all, and what news they hear about horses is generally framed in two negatives: exploitation of animals or 'privilege' luxury sport.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by strangewings View Post
              Where do you see the markets going? Which disciplines are growing? Which are contracting? Why? I'm mostly familiar with dressage, H/J, and eventing, but I'm definitely interested in hearing about others too, as well as breeds. Who will be doing preservation breeding for Arabs and Morgans? Are QH safe no matter how badly the market contracts? Other breeds?

              How will the local/regional/national distributions of popularity of our sports change? Will the flocking to NC/SC/FL in the winter increase? What will happen to the market for people who can't uproot for X months a year to follow a trainer south?

              There's a looming recession that could depress the middle class for a long time. Millennials have delayed marriage, children, home ownership, and have essentially a lifetime of depressed wages and high debt - especially those who entered the workforce around 2008. How many of them will put their kids in pony camps? Where else can we get fresh grassroots participation?
              There is a much, much larger picture we should be aware of, animal rights extremists.

              Years ago, as the internet and information and misinformation and the battle for people's allegiance heated up, non-profit groups that had been able to use their propaganda myths to gain followers and so donations and so huge power, squirreling their riches in foreign banks and multiple satellite organizations they funded and financed, they decided to change course and work with that money to advance their causes thru legislating animal use out of existence.

              You know, close horse slaughter by eliminating access to inspectors, keep piling up more and more and onerous regulations so less and less can continue to stay in business, see why there are only four basic slaughter business in the whole US left, smaller regional ones just could not comply with all those regulations piling up on them, too costly.

              Animal rights extremists have all the time in the world, they have teams that work to monitor any new bill from the lowest county level up to federal ones and work on those so they end up being a hindrance to the industries being regulated.

              You won't find their fingers in that, they have learned to be circumspect, a director in the IRS shielding them from being investigated, or putting their people as department employees where regulations are decided, etc. some of the tactics used.

              One example in the horse world, people at shows taking pictures of riders in a bad moment in warm up, horse with mouth open, resisting after a half halt.
              Then going on the internet and insisting that is how terrible it is and how abusive that and really, all riders mistreat their poor horses, people should not even be riding horses, what an absurd idea.

              How is all that and more going to be affecting that the rest of society not interested in horses will keep permitting us that work with horses to keep doing so?
              That is in the minds of many today in the horse industry, of horse associations, of horse trainers today, as it can impact all we do with them and if we even will be permitted to have animals in our lives.

              I see the post above mine touched on that also.

              In reality, eventually, if the world keeps going as it is, we won't need all we get from our animal resources.
              We may learn to function with technology that permits us to acquire all we want from a little black box managing matter at its most basic.

              In that world, we probably won't have any animals to use, or need of it, or they too will be precisely engineered to be just what we choose.
              Brave new world then, will be interesting to see where we go.

              Comment


                #8
                It will just get smaller and smaller. There are fewer kids riding which will translate into fewer adults riding. I already figure that in15-20 years when it becomes time to sell the farm, that the market for people buying a move in ready horse farm will be very, very tiny.
                A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I have noticed that most/many horse owners are retired. Once you reach retirement, you have the stability and finances to be a horse owner. I think there will be higher demand for a calm tempered, quiet trail horse and less demand for high-strung breeds or huge horses. The sport horse niche market might still be there, but might be smaller. Racing will probably be illegal in some states but probably not nationally banned.

                  I think the demand will be higher for large ponies or smaller sport horses. Not everyone wants a huge horse that needs a taller trailer. Not many people want a horse that is a hard keeper or requires shoes. There will be higher demand for a calm horse that can pack the grandkids around at a show or trail ride.

                  Given the rates of obesity, there will be demand for strong, study horses with good legs and the strength to carry a larger rider. These horses don't need to be huge, but this excludes your fine boned, delicate little flower breeds. The adults will favor sturdy horses, with ponies for the kids.

                  I expect there will be more backyard owners with small properties.

                  I expect there will be fewer farmers and more expensive hay/feed. Most farmers are retired and I'm not certain there are many people willing to fill that role.


                  Comment


                    #10
                    I had a long post written up but apparently the mods thought it was spam, so I'm just going to summarize the main points:

                    Speaking only for the United States, the base of middle class professional amateurs will likely completely collapse. The elite sphere will continue driving the traditional Olympic disciplines and shaping them in a way that is alienating to traditional amateurs.

                    Horse ownership will continue among people with perhaps lesser means who are living in rural areas where keeping horse is still fairly cheap. If there is growth in competition from the amateur base it will be in the western and western-adjacent events, such as competitive trail riding. This growth be spearheaded by the more relaxed atmosphere, affordability, and accessibility.

                    These two spheres will rarely, if ever, intersect. The new amateur base will have poorer access to good facilities, good trainers, and more formal education. The elite sphere will continue the slow march of professionalization. Having horses will come to mean something completely different than being an equestrian, which in certain circles will probably become more of a loaded term than it already it.

                    Maybe I'm too pessimistic, but I'm projecting based off of trends I see in the area I live in. There's not much room for people in the middle, either financially (or geographically in this case) to have horses be a truly fulfilling pursuit anymore. 30 years ago, according to some folks I've talked to, the situation was much better for the average horse owner.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Texel View Post
                      I had a long post written up but apparently the mods thought it was spam, so I'm just going to summarize the main points:

                      Speaking only for the United States, the base of middle class professional amateurs will likely completely collapse. The elite sphere will continue driving the traditional Olympic disciplines and shaping them in a way that is alienating to traditional amateurs.

                      Horse ownership will continue among people with perhaps lesser means who are living in rural areas where keeping horse is still fairly cheap. If there is growth in competition from the amateur base it will be in the western and western-adjacent events, such as competitive trail riding. This growth be spearheaded by the more relaxed atmosphere, affordability, and accessibility.

                      These two spheres will rarely, if ever, intersect. The new amateur base will have poorer access to good facilities, good trainers, and more formal education. The elite sphere will continue the slow march of professionalization. Having horses will come to mean something completely different than being an equestrian, which in certain circles will probably become more of a loaded term than it already it.

                      Maybe I'm too pessimistic, but I'm projecting based off of trends I see in the area I live in. There's not much room for people in the middle, either financially (or geographically in this case) to have horses be a truly fulfilling pursuit anymore. 30 years ago, according to some folks I've talked to, the situation was much better for the average horse owner.
                      Look over to (continental) Europe, horses are in professional hands, very few people have their own horses in their apartment, but the ones that own one is boarded in riding centers.
                      Not many people can afford private barns and their own horses and stable.
                      Many people go ride horses, one lesson at the time, eventually maybe even compete with a school horse and they have a large junior presence, that later some become their adult riders.

                      I don't know if that will happen here, more riding centers providing horses for people to enjoy all kinds of riding experiences, from learning a discipline and competing to just having fun and trail ride as a way to spend their free time.

                      The trouble here is, keeping a stable and school horses is not profitable enough.
                      The return on that investment so poor, any little problem and it becomes unprofitable.
                      That is one reason more and more riding schools are closing, making it hard for anyone with an interest in starting to ride is having a harder time finding opportunities.

                      If we had riding schools in every corner, as we have gymnastic, martial arts, soccer clubs, etc. we would attract and retain more of those future participants in the horse industry as adults.

                      Western riding has playdays, rodeos and junior rodeos, horse shows of different kinds and some of those are thriving, or were before COVID.
                      Are English disciplines thriving at the lower levels, schooling and open shows gaining or losing?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by 4horses View Post
                        I have noticed that most/many horse owners are retired. Once you reach retirement, you have the stability and finances to be a horse owner. I think there will be higher demand for a calm tempered, quiet trail horse and less demand for high-strung breeds or huge horses. The sport horse niche market might still be there, but might be smaller. Racing will probably be illegal in some states but probably not nationally banned.

                        I think the demand will be higher for large ponies or smaller sport horses. Not everyone wants a huge horse that needs a taller trailer. Not many people want a horse that is a hard keeper or requires shoes. There will be higher demand for a calm horse that can pack the grandkids around at a show or trail ride.

                        Given the rates of obesity, there will be demand for strong, study horses with good legs and the strength to carry a larger rider. These horses don't need to be huge, but this excludes your fine boned, delicate little flower breeds. The adults will favor sturdy horses, with ponies for the kids.

                        I expect there will be more backyard owners with small properties.

                        I expect there will be fewer farmers and more expensive hay/feed. Most farmers are retired and I'm not certain there are many people willing to fill that role, all of i.

                        Absolutely true. The largest market segment for horses and equipment is actually in the hands of us older types - boomers at the moment. Money, time, no kids to take care of. I'm 72, retired, overweight, never married, no kids. Enough income to afford to be horse-poor for a few more years with my 26 y.o. Paint gelding. At our barn there are more older adult beginner riders, primarily women, than there were 10-15 years ago.

                        I think the biggest pressure will be hay and grain supplies. Hay farms are disappearing in southern Maine in favor of development. BO bought her 75-80 acre farm 20 years ago for a song. It has been farmed since 1863 and the owners didn't want to sell it for development. There hasn't been a significant hay shortage in several years, but the BO has agreements with several hay farms who keep her stocked in square (5-6,000 per year) and round bales (hundreds). Cow hay is easier and cheaper to make than horse hay. Development is pushing sales of suitable land even though there are some tax breaks if you maintain a farm. If you sell it you get nailed for 5 years of back taxes.

                        The other thing is horse racing. Even if it isn't outlawed, it will probably decline and disappear as its market dies out. BO has had a big derby party for years, but we have to explain it to the younger crowd. It's the old people who show up in hats.
                        "With hardly any other living being can a human connect as closely over so many years as a rider can with her horse." Isabell Werth, Four Legs Move My Soul. 2019

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I actually feel that a decline in horse ownership is a good thing especially at the lower level. Too many people knowing very little and having sparce finances seem to own horses. They haven't budgeted for vet bills or considered lameness issues and are now looking for "good forever homes" for their horses. Euthanasia for Dobin is considered cruel so the poor critter ends up at auction.

                          I think riding schools will decline because of fear of being sued. In my day we accepted that there is a good chance of getting hurt but no one would have considered litigation. A friend of mine was sued because the pony spooked and the child bit her lip. Judge stated that a horse that spooked should not be used as a school horse. WTF.

                          Showing at the upper levels right now seems to be mainly adult amateurs. I do not see teenagers being interested. Several of top level trainers seemed to have died within the last few years(at least in my area) and I haven't noticed any replacements.

                          Add to it the current virus and upcoming middle class financial problems re Job security (everyone seems to be on contract) I can't see horse ownership go anywhere but down.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I agree 100% with Cat Tap.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Texel View Post

                              Horse ownership will continue among people with perhaps lesser means who are living in rural areas where keeping horse is still fairly cheap. If there is growth in competition from the amateur base it will be in the western and western-adjacent events, such as competitive trail riding. This growth be spearheaded by the more relaxed atmosphere, affordability, and accessibility.

                              These two spheres will rarely, if ever, intersect. The new amateur base will have poorer access to good facilities, good trainers, and more formal education. The elite sphere will continue the slow march of professionalization. Having horses will come to mean something completely different than being an equestrian, which in certain circles will probably become more of a loaded term than it already it.

                              This x 100.

                              The contrast is striking in our area. Our local facebook groups are a weird intersection of "ISO horse with jumping potential, sound, young. Max budget $2,500" and "Fantastic derby prospect, price competitively in the mid 5s" with not much in between. Even looking at mutual friends on social media you can see strong circles where two horse people live a few miles apart but have no idea the other exists.

                              Comment

                                Original Poster

                                #16
                                Wanted to get some relatively updated view of where we are today. Looks like AHCF did an economic impact study in 2017. I saw some graphs showing trends on 3rd party sites that I won't link, but if they are accurate, it seems like the industry bottomed out from the 2008 fall-out in 2014 and has been very slowly incrementing since then. The industry is not at this time close to the pre-crash levels though.

                                Here's an overview of where we were in 2017:
                                https://www.horsecouncil.org/resources/economics/

                                And here are some additional numbers:
                                https://www.ridewithequo.com/blog/th...by-the-numbers
                                https://www.equinebusinessassociatio...orse-industry/

                                I remember seeing old AHC reports with similar numbers, and generally feel compelled to point out when people talk about the luxe-ness or elitism of horse riding and ownership: The majority of horse-people are firmly middle class and overwhelmingly doing recreational riding.

                                If the industry contracts by 1/2-2/3 due to racing and recreational riding contracting severely, won't the competition sector get obscenely expensive? I'm thinking about the following: Fewer farmers will be able to justify the expense of producing horse hay if they don't have a local market for it, so whoever is left in "hay deserts" will have to ship in at high cost (or produce their own). Likewise if service areas for farriers and vets get thinned out, they will be travelling longer distances to appointments and passing that expense on to clients, or maybe centralizing and people will have to travel to their vet for non-emergency work. Not to mention if the local market empties out, where will people go to learn to ride? For many people (us on this forum, for example) riding is a lifelong passion that is its own reward and worth just about any expense or sacrifice. Many many people who could/would be interested in participating at a recreational level will come and go and come again if they are able. I think they are an important part of the industry because there are so many of them. I do not at all view the loss of the entry level to the horse world as a good thing, though obviously people should be educated on the realities of horse ownership before committing to it.

                                I guess since I've always played in the inexpensive end of the pool, I don't really understand the economics of the rated and breed show worlds. Are they a mostly a closed group, where new participants just come in through generational association with the sport? Is there no need for new participants from outside the current group? There's no market pressure at all to be accessible to anyone who has to budget carefully to participate? I feel like that can't possibly be true. Like if all the current prices for everything double in the next 5 years, will anyone who is currently ok with spending $50k/year now be willing to spend $100k/year? Where is the threshold where people say showing is not worth the expense? And if they aren't showing, will the still own/breed/ride/train?


                                Comment

                                  Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  More info about changes from 2005-2017:
                                  https://equimanagement.com/articles/...quine-industry

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by strangewings View Post
                                    More info about changes from 2005-2017:
                                    https://equimanagement.com/articles/...quine-industry
                                    Thanks for sharing. That blows several perceptions discussed here out of the water.

                                    Although I do not understand how they figure racing has increased by 45%. That disagrees with every single metric the Jockey Club reports, including number of TBs bred, number sold, number of races, number of owners, etc. Unless they are only referring to horse people who identify as fans? In which case, I believe that could be true thanks to a lot of high profile horses with mass appeal like Zenyatta, California Chrome, and American Pharoah.
                                    Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Great post over on FB going viral, with some comparison of the costs of showing as a H/J vs barrel racing.
                                      As to this thread: too am pessimistic.
                                      When I was in grade school, kids in my school rode. My family knew other families with kids in riding programs: lesson barns and some with their own horses. More kids were into just casual horses in pasture board someplace 8 miles away.
                                      I don't think this would be the case today. I don't live in the same part of the US that I grew up in, so I can't really know for sure.
                                      I'm not sure I know of a lesson barn that wants you as a lesson rider forever (they want you to get your own horse).
                                      Families today have a lot of expenses that weren't as big a deal back decades ago - health care and college costs were so different back then. These two suck up so much of a family budget that there is less available for an expensive hobby like riding. Add the lack of options for getting started, and bingo, base dries up to nothing in a short period of time.

                                      On a related note: I bought a horse last year for the first time in 20 years. I was really surprised at how few horses I could find, period. I looked up some brand registry numbers, and was shocked to see how few horses are being registered these days. Paint registration, as an example, has really declined since 2000.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        hillary again

                                        I was going to post about that. Even some of the girls I grew up riding with, and showing rated 3DE. There’s been about 5 of them who have switched over to western riding. Barrels and cow horses.

                                        When I was looking at shows this year fees for a week were easily 1k, that’s excluding USEF/USHJA, horse registration, hotel, hauling/gas. Last rated show I did was 5 years ago. I did a week of showing and my bill was 700, I did all my own care, and didn’t have a trainer fee because I was the poor working student.

                                        Will be interesting to see what happens.
                                        https://www.instagram.com/streamlinesporthorses/

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