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Horse Sense

State study shows equine
profitability in Oldham County

Study results will be used to promote
the industry among legislators

LA GRANGE, Ky. (February 2014) – There are not many who would dispute the economic value of the equine industry to Oldham County. A recent survey shows the tremendous impact horses have on the state of Kentucky and the benefits to Oldham County.
The Kentucky Equine Survey was conducted in 2012 to “establish a baseline for the economic importance of horses in Kentucky,” said Traci Missun, Oldham County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “To my knowledge, this is the first statewide survey that has been conducted to gather horse numbers and more extensive economic impact data by county.”
There are two phases to the Kentucky Equine Survey. Phase 1, released in January 2013, consisted of the statewide survey of equine operations that included an inventory of all breeds of equine, including horses, ponies, donkeys and mules. It also took a look at sales, income, expenses and the assets of these operations.

Kentucky Equine
Survey Results

• Oldham County is ranked seventh in Kentucky for total number of horses with 4,700 horses reported.
• The number of thoroughbreds reported in Oldham County is 2,150. Oldham County is ranked sixth in Kentucky for the inventory value of horses.
• The inventory value of horses is in Oldham County is more than $163 million ($163,019,000).
• The inventory value of thoroughbreds in Oldham County is more than $138.5 million ($138,589,700).
• Reported 2012 value of equine sold is more than $7.1 million ($7,179,000).
• The survey reported there are 510 equine operations in Oldham County involving 21,000 acres.
• Reported 2012 equine income for Oldham County is a little more than $11 million ($11,051,000).

A previous study had not been conducted since 1977. The survey was conducted between June and October 2012 by the Kentucky field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and the Kentucky Horse Council. Identified in the survey were 35,000 equine operations and 1.1 million acres devoted to equine use.
Phase 2 consisted of the economic impact analysis of horses to the Commonwealth’s equine industry. It is Missun’s belief that “having this economic baseline knowledge will help support legislation to help keep horses and horse farms in Kentucky.”
In the past, Kentucky Ag Statistics Service-Ag Census has collected information on the market value of horses that were actually sold and horse numbers. Missun said that the Kentucky Equine Survey included a breakdown of horse numbers by breed and the inventory value of horses (as opposed to KASS-Ag Census data that showed the value of horses sold).
Funding for the study was provided by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, the Kentucky Horse Council and various other industry organizations and individuals.
The last agriculture census was taken in 2007. It showed that “horses were Oldham County’s top dollar agriculture enterprise with the money value of horses sold that year totaling more than $8 million,” Missun said. The nursery industry came in second in terms of agriculture enterprises, totaling $3.6 million.
“Even with the decline in the horse industry that happened after that, there is no other enterprise that has come close to horses,” said Missun. “The horse industry is making a slow but steady comeback in Kentucky’s agriculture economy.” The survey revealed that Kentucky’s total economic impact was close to $3 billion.
Oldham County horse owner Ken Hepperman conducted an equine survey in 2007 on behalf of the Oldham County Equine Council. He is president of Equine Business Resources LLC, a consulting company in Goshen, Ky., that offers horse owners and equine business enterprises a professional approach to managing their business.
Hepperman and his wife, JoAnn, focus on thoroughbred racing.
“We are owners and we manage racing syndicates,” said Hepperman, who is also a member of the Kentucky Horse Council. “Currently, we have two thoroughbreds in training at the High Pointe Training Center outside of La Grange.”
The results of his 2007 equine survey were used “primarily to educate the legislative officials in Kentucky.” He said he hopes this information will be used to educate the public more about the value the equine industry provides. He believes there are many opportunities in Oldham County “to get involved.”
Like Missun, Hepperman says there is ample room for growth in the equine industry in Oldham County. “With Oldham County situated adjacent to Jefferson County, there is strong interest in everything equine from riding stables to race horse training and ownership,” he said.
Even so, Dell Lowell fears that at a certain point and time in the future, it will be more difficult for the industry to grow in terms of space. “I really do hope Kentucky takes this seriously and takes a long, hard look at the horse industry we have here. If it’s not taken care of, it will go away. Once it’s gone, it won’t come back.”
Lowell is manager of LaCroix Training Center, located in L’Esprit horse complex near La Grange. She manages the thoroughbred program for the center.
“Economically, Oldham County is the fastest growing county in the Commonwealth,” said Lowell. People move to the county because of “schools, green space and the quality of living.”
She doesn’t deny that there are a significant number of horses in the county. “If you take the horse industry out of the county, you’d have a very different look and feel.”
Lowell is a member of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Oldham County representative for the Kentucky Equine Education Project. She summed up her feelings about the equine industry by quoting a comment State Rep. David Osborne made about protecting the future of the equine industry in Oldham County: “Once the fields grow houses rather than horses, there’s no going back.”

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