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UK-led Kentucky Equine Survey launches

UK-led Kentucky Equine Survey launches

UK-led Kentucky Equine Survey launches

Published on Nov. 18, 2011

An accurate assessment of the number of horses in Kentucky and their economic impact are two fundamental pieces of information unavailable to those who need it. A University of Kentucky College of Agriculture-led study will accurately quantify that information.

UK's Equine Initiative, in conjunction with the University of Louisville's Equine Business Program and the Kentucky field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and in partnership with the Kentucky Horse Council, will conduct a statewide comprehensive survey of all breeds of horses in 2012. The last comprehensive study of this kind was conducted in 1977.

"Making good policy for the horse industry requires good facts. This statewide, all-breed survey will gather information we currently do not have, including accurate estimates of the number of horses in Kentucky at the county level, the economic impact of the equine industry - including revenue and expenses, the value of land and buildings, and the state, federal and local taxes paid by equine operations. It will also build a framework for future research and equine health monitoring purposes," said Jill Stowe, UK assistant professor in agricultural economics, who is leading the project.

"In addition, this study will allow us to establish a sample frame to conduct follow-up studies roughly every five years to track changes in the industry. Knowing this information will establish a benchmark enabling the industry to nimbly adapt to changing market conditions," she said.

According to Stowe, many nearby states have conducted similar analyses recently, including Michigan, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia, and in none of those states is the horse as critical to the economy as in Kentucky.

The announcement Thursday by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board on its approval of $300,000 in state funds to the Kentucky Horse Council for an equine economic impact survey was one of the final pieces needed to launch the study.

"The UK Equine Initiative is delighted at the formal partnership with KHC and appreciates the Governor's Office of Agricultural Policy, Agricultural Development Board for its support. We also thank our other numerous partners. Those who have been with us in the early planning stages, in addition to the Horse Council, include the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, Inc., Kentucky Quarter Horse Association and Kentucky Equine Education Project. Finally we appreciate the Kentucky Office of National Agricultural Statistics Service for providing the best survey platform available for agriculture in the U.S.," said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research in UK's College of Agriculture, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station director and administrative leader for the Equine Initiative.

The cost of the study is anticipated to be about $600,000. In addition to the $300,000 committed by the Agricultural Development Board, the College of Agriculture has committed $200,000 for the study. The remaining $100,000 will be provided by equine industry organizations and fundraising is underway. 

The bulk of the cost goes directly to the Kentucky field office of National Agricultural Statistics Service, an agency that conducts this type of census research regularly and is able to provide the highest level of confidentiality to participants. Neither UK or UofL are charging overhead costs. The remaining funds will be used for staff support, travel, supplies and equipment.

The effort has broad equine industry support and has been several years in the making. In early 2006, the Kentucky Equine Education Project and UK partnered to gather a snapshot of some of the numerical information Kentucky was lacking. Funding was limited and the time frame for gathering information was narrow. While they received important information from participating counties, more information was needed to get an accurate statewide picture. In 2009, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club board approached UK to explore conducting an academically rigorous study of the number of horses in Kentucky and their economic impact to the state. That led to a partnership with the Kentucky Horse Council, Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club and the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association in securing funding and educating horse owners around the state about the study and its importance.

"Over the past few years, the Kentucky Horse Council board has discussed the need for accurate and current data on the horse industry across the state," said Anna Zinkhon, Kentucky Horse Council board president. "Without good information, the Horse Council could not provide adequate advice to those wanting to start new equine businesses in the Commonwealth, or to local officials who wanted to promote equestrian activities for local tourism. This study will answer those questions and provide the much-needed detail and economic analysis for true industry development and promotion."

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club board of directors responded to news that the project had secured funding with the statement, "The Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club is greatly impressed to learn that substantial funding has been raised for the most comprehensive equine economic impact study in state history. The diligent work by those involved has made this project become reality. This important study will scientifically quantify the contribution of all horses to Kentucky's economy."

According to Stowe, sample frame development, promotion, education and survey design have already begun. The mail survey will be administered near the end of July 2012, and it is anticipated that a summary report will be ready from National Agriculture Statistics Service sometime around the end of December 2012. Additional analysis of the data will be completed by UK and UofL in early 2013.

In preparation for the survey mailing, UK personnel have begun traveling statewide, holding meetings to educate the public about the project and gathering ideas from county extension agents and equine industry participants about important issues facing the industry. Information collected during these forums will help shape the questionnaire mailed to participants, as well as help determine the direction of follow-up analyses.

Horse owners can get involved now by sending their contact information-name, mailing address and phone number-directly to National Agriculture Statistics Service at with "Kentucky Equine Survey" in the subject line. National Agriculture Statistics Service provides the highest level of confidentiality and includes a confidentiality pledge on its site at Horse owners can also send this information to and it will be forwarded to National Agriculture Statistics Service. Those connected to the equine industry can email issues they feel are relevant to the Equine Initiative at the above address. Finally, if horse owners receive a survey in the mail, they are urged to complete it and mail it back.

More information about the Kentucky Equine Survey can be found at




Writer: Holly Wiemers, 859-257-2226

UK College of Agriculture, through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

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