A recent study on the horse-owning population by Brakke Consulting Inc. confirms what most equine veterinarians already know—owners are growing older and becoming less active in equine competitions and activities.
The third edition of the Brakke Equine Market Mega Study was released in January. This most recent version surveyed 1,000 horse owners about what they buy, how much they spend a year on their horses, and who influences their purchases. It also collected demographic data.
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First, there is some good news. The study results show that the frequency of veterinary visits has been relatively consistent in the past four years, with most horse owners (72 percent) reporting two or more visits annually.
Looking at the overall picture, the typical horse owner is a married female, 45 or older, who is employed full time and has a household income of more than $50,000.
Further, the proportion of horse owners ages 18 to 34 has declined from 24 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2009 to 11 percent in 2013, according to Brakke. So overall, Brakke has observed a gradual decline in the proportion of young horse owners. The same goes for the rate of participation in equine competitions, particularly at the local level.
Since 2009, the percentage of horse owners who participate in competitions has declined from 36 to 30 percent. Competition participation at regional, national, and international levels has remained about constant; however, the proportion of these horse owners who also compete at the local level has declined by nearly 10 percent, from 84 percent in 2009 to 77 percent in 2013. And the mean amount of time horse owners spend on equine activities has declined from 20-plus hours a week to 17-plus.
The 2013 Brakke survey revealed that 85 percent of respondents are recreational horse owners—compared with 86 percent in 2009. More notably, 30 percent of horse owners were participants in competitive horse events in 2013, a 6 percentage point decline from 2009. The percentage of owners with breeding livestock has decreased, too, from 16 to 11 percent in that time frame.
The horse industry has taken notice of the decline in younger owners and is making an effort to boost their numbers as well as keep existing horse owners involved.
Time to Ride was started in 2013 to promote riding and horses, specifically among mothers and their children. Created by a coalition of horse organizations, the website helps the public find riding lessons and camps, trails, rodeos, fairs, equestrian events, and shows. Locations of equine practitioners will be added soon.
In addition, the American Association of Equine Practitioners launched this past December AAEP Touch: Tools to Connect to Your Clients and Their Horses. Web-based tools and resources give tips that focus on what various clients value in veterinary care.
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