“We have this agricultural product that is being produced, but the primary market is to sell into the sport and recreational part of our society.”
Horses may be used mainly for recreation, but that doesn’t mean they’re not an important of Alberta’s agricultural industry, says Les Burwash, who was manager of the horse program with Alberta Agriculture for 35 years.
Burwash told the farm women’s conference here last month that the horse industry is divided in two components. The first component is the agricultural part of the industry, which involves the breeding, raising and marketing of the animals. “This is the same as what we do with pigs, with chickens, with all other classes of livestock,” he said.
The other component is sport and recreation, which includes riding and driving. “We have this really unique scenario here,” said Burwash. “We have this agricultural product that is being produced, but the primary market is to sell into the sport and recreational part of our society.”
Saddle businesses, farriers and veterinarians are all sustained by people who ride recreation-ally and spend their disposable income on riding, Burwash said.
People selling horses are actually competing with people who sell skis, golf clubs, snowmobiles and quads, since the recreational component is really the heart of the industry.
In 2008 there was $8 million in farm gate receipts for stallion service fees. Sales of registered horses brought in $24 million, while stable returns brought in $40 million. When all the numbers are calculated, the horse industry puts $100 million a year into the Alberta economy, said Burwash.
There are 275,000 to 300,000 horses in the province, which makes up 35 per cent of the entire Canadian herd.
About half of the farms in the province that have cattle also have horses and about 15 per cent of Albertans ride a horse at least once a year.
“There are at least 450,000 people in the province who look at a horse as part of their outdoor recreation,” he said. “That’s a lot of people and most of them don’t own horses. So that’s a potential market.”