U.Va. Study: Horses Give State Economy a $1.2 Billion Ride

March 28, 2011 — The horse industry in Virginia has an annual economic impact of $1.2 billion, according to a study prepared by the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and funded by the Virginia Horse Industry Board.

"The equine industry's influence is felt in all parts of the state," said U.Va. economist Terance J. Rephann, who headed the study – the findings of which were announced Friday by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "We see a very positive effect on jobs, recreation, tourism, retail sales and state and local taxation.

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"The horse industry in Virginia generates $65.3 million in state and local taxes," Rephann said. The value-added income is $670 million, he noted, explaining that this economic measure is similar to gross domestic product.  

Though the $1.2 billion annual economic impact to the state is sizable, the equine-related state tax revenue of $37 million is a very small part of overall general fund tax revenue of about $15 billion for fiscal year 2011 ¬ about two-tenths of 1 percent, Rephann said. It provides about the same proportion of local government revenue, he said. 

Key findings from the U.Va. equine survey include:

•    The horse industry's largest areas of economic impact continue to be in Northern Virginia, with more than 1,600 horse-related jobs in Fauquier and Loudoun counties.
•    The largest employment impact in the state is in Rockbridge County, the location of the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington. More than 1,330 jobs are industry-related in Lexington and Buena Vista.
•    The industry generated more than 16,000 jobs in 2010 in Virginia, with the greatest effects in the agricultural and agricultural services sectors, and a lesser effect in the areas of trade and construction.
•    Horse owners spend $873 million annually on horse-related expenses, including feed and bedding, boarding, training, tack, capital improvements and labor. These expenses average $4,060 per horse.
•    Nearly 1,200 horse shows and events were held in Virginia in 2010, generating $25 million in revenue.
•    Some 939,000 people attended Virginia horse shows and competitions last year. Out-of-state participants spent an average of $3,100 per event.
•    Virginia's equine population ranks 12th in the nation.
•    According to the Census of Agriculture Statistics, while the number of farms in Virginia decreased between 1997 and 2007, the number of farms with horses actually increased from 10,972 to 13,520 during that same period, offsetting a more significant decline in farms in general.
•    Virginia has an estimated 215,000 equines and some 41,000 equine operations.

"While I am glad to see these very impressive figures on the economic impact of the horse industry in the commonwealth, I didn't need a statistical survey to prove how important horses are in Virginia," said Matthew J. Lohr, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "My father-in-law has three horses on his farm, and both of my children enjoy riding them around his property. Horses add so much to our lives on a personal level, but when I look at the big picture, I see just how much they contribute to our state's economic well-being, as well."

The full study is available on the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center website, and highlights of the survey can be found on the Virginia Horse Industry Board website.

The Virginia Horse Industry Board, based at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, comprises 12 representatives from various sectors of the industry throughout the state. The board's mission is the promotion and economic development of the equine industry in the commonwealth.

Media Contact

Rebecca P. Arrington

Assistant Director of Media Relations Office of University Communications