Survey: Horse industry stabilizing

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Almost 90 percent of horse owners responding to a survey expect to own or manage the same number or more horses this year, compared with last year. The 2015 American Horse Publications Equine Industry Survey, sponsored by Zoetis, also revealed that 85 percent rely on their veterinarians for vaccination advice, and respondents increasingly rely on veterinarians for deworming advice.

On the basis of the survey’s findings, the researchers concluded that the equine industry has apparently stabilized in its recovery from the decline following the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and that most owners work closely with their veterinarians on their horses’ health care regimens.

Last year’s survey ran from Jan. 6-April 1 and was designed to gauge participation trends and management practices in the U.S. equine industry, identify critical issues facing the equine industry as perceived by those who own or manage horses, and lead to a better understanding of horse health issues. Previous surveys were conducted in 2009-2010 and 2012. More than 10,000 responses were received for this most recent survey. Zoetis released an overview of the survey results this past September .

Veterinary involvement

Study results showed that horse owners and managers were about three times as likely to make health care decisions themselves as they were to make care decisions in combination with other professionals, such as barn or farm managers, trainers, or veterinarians.

However, more detailed questions revealed that most owners look to their veterinarian primarily for health care needs, according to the overview.

Horse and owner
Results from the 2015 American Horse Publications Equine Industry Survey regarding deworming practices showed that most respondents (88 percent) deworm their horses themselves, and nearly as many (80 percent) said they are concerned about drug-resistant parasites.

About 85 percent of respondents rely on their veterinarians for vaccination advice. And more than 60 percent of respondents said they have their practitioners administer vaccines, while just over 31 percent of respondents said they administer their horses’ vaccines themselves.

Most respondents vaccinated once per year against eastern equine encephalomyelitis, equine herpesvirus, equine influenza, rabies, western equine encephalomyelitis, and West Nile virus. And nearly 78 percent of all respondents reported that they purchase their horses’ vaccines from their veterinarian. When asked why, nearly 67 percent of respondents said their practitioner is the one who influences their vaccination decisions the most.

Most respondents (88 percent) deworm their horses themselves, and nearly as many (80 percent) said they are concerned about drug-resistant parasites.

Yet, most respondents (55.3 percent) cited rotational deworming as their preferred method despite research now suggesting that the method contributes to parasites developing anthelmintic resistance. Another 38.2 percent of respondents said they deworm on the basis of fecal egg count results, 3 percent said they use a daily dewormer, and 1.1 percent said they do not deworm their horses.

That said, it appears the influence of veterinarians on deworming approaches is increasing, according to the overview, as there was a slight increase compared with previous survey results in the percentage of respondents who had a fecal egg count conducted and who said their veterinarian is involved in developing their deworming schedule.

Nearly half the respondents (48 percent) indicated that they include their veterinarian in creating their horses’ deworming schedules, which represents an increasing trend when compared with the 2012 (44.3 percent) and 2009-2010 (15.7 percent) survey results.

An addition to the 2015 AHP Equine Industry Survey was a section on sedative and tranquilizer use, and most respondents (70 percent) indicated that they or their veterinarians have used a sedative or tranquilizer on their horses. Common reasons for sedating horses included dental work (79.5 percent), veterinary work (75.4 percent), shoeing (17 percent), and clipping (16.9 percent).

Horse industry issue findings

The researchers also sought to learn what respondents believe to be the horse industry’s biggest challenges. More than 50 percent of respondents ranked unwanted horses and what to do with them as one of the top three issues the industry faces; however, the percentage of respondents identifying that issue has been declining (62.9 percent in 2009-2010, 55.8 percent in 2012, and 53.7 percent in 2015).

Other commonly selected issues included the cost of keeping horses (40.1 percent), overbreeding (34.5 percent), owners who don’t understand horses (32.6 percent), the loss of trails and riding areas (31 percent), and competition for open space from other agricultural commodity producers and developers (27 percent). The researchers noted that the top five issues identified remained the same from the 2012 survey.

Concern over horse slaughter appeared to increase going from west to east across the country, the researchers said. And not having the option of slaughter in the United States appeared to be a bigger concern in many parts of the western United States

Other findings

The 2015 survey results show 70.6 percent of respondents owned or managed the same number of horses in 2015 as they did in 2014. For 2016, 88.6 percent of respondents expected to own or manage the same number of horses as or more horses than they did in 2015. Further, the proportion of respondents who expected to own or manage more horses in 2016 is a few points higher than the one-year forecast from the previous survey.

Also, for 2015, 93 percent of respondents planned to enter the same or more competitions than the previous year, and 95.1 percent expected to compete in the same or more events in 2016.

An additional important finding the researchers identified was that an estimated one-third of horses owned or managed by respondents are idle, retired, or otherwise not working.