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The equine industry has a significant impact on the national economy. If a recently released report from the American Horse Council Foundation is any indication, that impact is far greater than most people—even equine enthusiasts—might suspect.

Completed in cooperation with The Innovation Group, the 2017 Economic Impact Study of the U.S. Horse Industry examined several financial facets of the equine industry, including employment numbers, land reserved for horses, and the current prominence of horse enthusiasts in families across the nation. Below, we delve into these results—and what they might mean for those hoping to pursue a career path in the equine industry.

The Equine Industry’s Total Economic Impact

Comparing results from the 2005 and the 2017 studies, the equine industry appears to have grown significantly over the course of the past decade. In 2005, the industry generated a total economic impact of $102 billion, compared to an impressive $122 billion in 2017. These numbers are valuable both for the American Horse Council Foundation’s efforts in Washington and in the public sphere. The foundation aims to demonstrate to the public the huge role that horses play in American households and in the national economy.

The Surprising Prominence of Horses and Horse Enthusiasts

In the 2017 study, the American Horse Council Foundation reported a total horse population of 7.2 million. The population varies considerably from one state to the next, with the most horses currently present in Texas, California, and Florida. In general, the equine population has declined slightly in recent years. These reductions were largely expected, however, due to cited “[declines] in breed registration trends over the last few years.”

Declines in the horse population don’t necessarily indicate a decline in public interest. According to the AHC study, 38 million U.S. households are currently home to at least one horse enthusiast. With 38 percent of these enthusiasts under the age of 18, the future appears bright for the equine industry. The American Horse Council President Julie Broadway believes that it is critical that the industry gain a “better picture of the number of youth in the pipeline.”

Abigail Nemec, Program Chair for Equine Studies at Post University says that the “indirect” economic impact margin is truly massive and works with her students to look for career goals and envision their own futures.

“It’s in that vision that choosing their academic specialty is most valuable,” she says.

“Our students might double major in Biology (on campus) and develop a career working in laboratory research. They might study equine with political science or the law and go into government. They might do a pre-engineering track (also on campus) and work to develop innovations in horse transport equipment.

“All businesses need social media managers now,” Nemec continues. “Even something as simple as a minor in one of the business disciplines—Accounting, Marketing, Human Resources, and Sport Management are popular—can give a student a real leg-up to a great opportunity in the larger and growing aspects of our industry.”

Popular Equine Careers

The equine industry is a huge source of employment throughout the United States. Currently, the industry employs over 1.74 million individuals, generating $79 billion in wages and benefits. Career paths can range dramatically for equine enthusiasts, who leave an indelible impact on their communities by using their love of horses to improve the lives of others. The following are just a few of the many careers available to those with a clear passion for horses:

Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-assisted therapy is an increasingly popular mode of treatment for people with a variety of mental and physical health conditions. This unique approach draws on the powerful yet calming nature of horses to serve as an instrument of healing. Equine therapists often see major breakthroughs as they work with patients resistant to traditional forms of therapy.

Activities offered during therapy sessions depend somewhat on the patient’s needs and comfort factor, but grooming, walking with, and playing games with the horses are all common pursuits. PayScale reports an average annual salary of $44,733 for equine-assisted therapists with top earnings reaching $61,000.

Barn Manager

Unfortunately, those most passionate about horses are often unable to keep them on their property. Stables and barns provide a viable solution, allowing enthusiasts to visit their horses as they see fit. When they’re away, these individuals can feel confident that their horses are properly cared for at all times.

Responsible for the day-to-day operations of the barn or stable, managers must possess a blend of equine, communication, and management skills to ensure that everything runs smoothly. No two days look exactly alike in this exciting environment. Common tasks include delegating responsibilities to groomers and stable cleaners, ordering feed and equipment, and keeping records of horse activities. According to Indeed, the average barn manager earns an annual salary of $36,587.

“While it’s a great entry level job after graduation, we generally encourage our students to look beyond barn management as their career target,” says Nemec. “It’s a great place for grads to start after school, but it often turns out not to be as much fun as they think it’s going to be, so having additional skills beyond that are helpful.”

Horse Trainer

Horse trainers spend much of their time working directly with horses. This job is therefore best suited to anybody with a strong passion for horses—and the ability to interact and communicate with them effectively. Trainers develop and execute detailed plans that may differ significantly from one horse to the next. Depending on the position, they may be responsible for training horses for shows or other purposes.

Salary largely depends on where and under what context the horses are trained. Experience also plays a role. Based on a report from PayScale, the average horse trainer earns $15.66 per hour, with opportunities for significant bonuses and commission often available.

Horse Breeder

As its name suggests, this important job involves breeding and selling horses—often for use in shows and races. Breeders must thoroughly understand equine reproduction and genetics. Management skills are also essential. Job duties could include facilitating breeding, assisting with veterinary examinations, maintaining health records for the entire herd, and managing farm staff. Additionally, breeders involved in the thoroughbred industry must abide by Jockey Club restrictions.

In 2017, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics highlighted the mean annual salary for all types of animal breeders as $37,560, with some reaching nearly $70,000 per year. Mean wages can vary considerably based on region, with breeders in Ohio, Texas, and Washington typically commanding between $52,740 and $64,690 each year.

Although, Nemec says that breeding is something that may turn out to be a little unrealistic for an equine graduate, since the amount of money needed to produce a horse, and the very slim profit margin (often negative) means that it’s really an area for people of means.

“It’s worth noting,” says Nemec, “that when we start looking at equine industry jobs in a more corporate environment (e.g. marketing, communications, legal, financial), the compensation looks more like what someone would earn outside the industry, as well. These people then have jobs ‘with legs’ and can negotiate using both their general abilities AND their equine industry expertise.”

A Bachelor of Science in Equine Studies from Post University can serve as a valuable stepping stone, providing a well-rounded education that delves into everything from nutrition to management. Students learn a great deal both in class and in the field, with seminars and internships preparing them for success in a variety of roles.

The future is bright for the equine industry, which promises to change lives across the nation. With the industry’s economic impact on the rise, there has never been a better time to get involved.