Therapeutic riding programs are only one of many ways that communities benefits from access to equines. Image courtesy of the International Museum of the Horse

While most horse people can easily explain the benefits our equine friends have on our lives, we should also be aware that they have a strong positive impact on our communities. Horse business and industry can be a significant economic driver, creating tourism and cottage industry for communities. Horses also have a positive impact on human health and local ecology.

The economic benefit of horses is hard to deny. According to the American Horse Council 2005 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry Study the equine industry accounted for 460,000 fulltime jobs with an annual impact of $39 billion annually to our economy, generating $1.9 billion in taxes.i

Horses require many professionals, from vets to hay growers and from farriers to trainers. A community that is open and receptive to horses will find that the economic impact of these cottage industries far outweighs the cost of providing municipal services for them. A well-maintained and equine friendly fair ground or trail system will also lead to horse tourism, a great advantage for local businesses, hotels and restaurants.

In addition to the economic benefits horses have on communities, they have an amazing impact on human health. According to research conducted by the University of Brighton and Plumpton College on behalf of The British Horse Society, horse activity can be classified as a moderate intensity exercise.ii This is especially important when coupled with the information that horseback riding appeals to traditionally underserved populations like the physically disabled and older women.

Therapy programs have also shown that horses have a positive impact on our emotional and mental well-being. Programs exist for mentally disabled individuals, children with learning disabilities, those suffering with PTSD and even prison inmates. These programs are typically provided by local nonprofit groups and have a great impact on the lives of those who need it most.

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Well managed horse properties protect natural waterways and maintain healthy groundwater. Photo courtesy NRCS.

Horses also have a very positive impact on an area’s ecology. Well managed horse facilities protect groundwater and water ways, reduce brush load, lowering the instance of wildfires; conserve soil; and encourage biodiversity. View sheds are also a benefit of having horses in your community. A large sprawling field with healthy horses grazing has been believed to increase real estate sales and tourism.

Knowing about the benefits that horses have on communities as a whole is vital to ensuring that horses maintain their place in our local communities. Whether it be planning and zoning commissions, city councils, park commissions or community groups, non-horse people make decisions that impact us all. Educating them that horses are important, not to just to a small group of recreationists, but to the economic, physical, emotional, and environmental well-being of the entire community, helps keep horse lands at the forefront of the conversation.

ELCR has recently introduced a new section to our website: Benefits of Horses to Our Communities. The new section includes information on all the positive impacts horses make on our communities. Arming yourself and your equine group with this information could make all the difference when you are advocating for your local horse facilities. To find out more, visit http://bit.ly/1sZz3LI.

i American Horse Council. National Economic Impact of the Horse Industry. www.horsecouncil.org/national-economic-impact-us-horse-industry.

ii The British Horse Society. The Health Benefits of Horse Riding in the UK. https://elcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Health-Benefits-of-Riding-in-the-UK-Full-Report.pdf