Market Information

The fact that we now describe the economic activity surrounding the horse as an “industry” shows the progress we have made over the last 10 years, as well as reflecting the changing face of the agricultural and leisure markets in this time.

But what is the horse industry?

The horse industry is more varied than almost any other sector either within agriculture or in the wider leisure industry.

Essentially it can be divided into two parts:

  • Activities based on the use, possession or ownership of horses (Core activities)
  • Suppliers of horse related goods and services for those core activities (providers to the core)

Activities forming the core part of the industry range from professional through to leisure. In between lie many semi professional riders and participants whose interest is split between earning a living and pure leisure activity.

The industry core caters directly for the needs of consumers. The activities geared toward professional riders include commercial breeders, affiliated sports such as dressage and show jumping, training and racing. The leisure oriented activities include the provision of riding lessons, trekking and tourist attractions.

The other part of the industry is made up of providers of goods and services to the core. Examples include farriery, feed supply and veterinary services, livery yards etc.

Each of these components offer employment to significant numbers of people often in a rural community where opportunities are reducing.

2011 Survey Overview

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) allows these statistics and estimates below to be reproduced, on the understanding that full acknowledgement is given to BETA.

The British Equestrian Trade Association’s 2011 National Equestrian Survey – conducted by Sportswise – highlights new spending patterns and changing trends over the past five years. It uses accurate statistics and reliable estimates to present a clear picture of the British equestrian sector. Headline findings include:


 An estimated 3.5 million people in Britain have ridden during 2010-11. Although this is 19 per cent less than in 2005-6, it is 1.1 million more than in 1998-9.*


 There is increased interest in riding for pleasure, schooling, riding lessons, competition – both affiliated and non-affiliated – and hunting.


 About 1.6 million people ride at least once a month, up from 1.4 million in 1998-9 but considerably lower than 2005-6 estimates of 2.1 million.


 Forty-eight per cent of regular riders are aged 24 and under, but significant growth has appeared among those aged 45 and over.


 The seasonality of riding has changed, with 98 per cent riding all year round, whereas the figure was only 61 per cent in 1995-6.


 The main reason given for stopping riding is that it is too expensive – a change from 2005-6, when a loss of interest was cited.


 Forty-two per cent of ex-riders – 1.3 million – said they planned to ride again in the future.


 There are an estimated 900,000 privately owned horses and 451,000 horse owners in Britain. This figure rises to just below 1 million when the 88,000 horses owned by the professional sector are added.


 It is estimated that direct expenditure for the upkeep and care of horses stands at £2.8 billion – £3,105 per horse, per annum – compared with £2.6 billion in 2005-6.


 Other costs involved in owning a horse are estimated at £557 million a year, including £191 million spent on footwear and £129 million on riding hats and body protectors.


 The gross output of the equestrian sector is valued at £3.8 billion a year, lower than previously but reflecting the shrinking consumer market caused by the economic downturn. It is still, however, an extremely large figure in its own right, boosted significantly when other equine-related activities such as racing (an estimated £3.7 billion) and major equestrian events (an estimated £6 million) are factored in.


* The variation between 2006 and 2011 estimates might be partly a result of margins of error in each survey. The actual number of people who have ridden in the past 12 months could be several per cent plus/minus the proportion shown in the survey, for example.

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2006 Survey Information

Size and scope of the industry

Horse Riding in GB

Our Survey now shows that riding is increasing in popularity with an estimated 4.3 million people having ridden a horse at least once in the last 12 months. This shows considerable growth since the 1999 survey gave us the number of riders at 2.4 million.

In comparison with other sports and leisure activities horse riding holds 35th place beneath cycling and gymnastics but is more popular than fishing, sailing or rowing. When you look at horseracing, this is the 20th most popular leisure and sporting activity, more popular than skiing and rugby and only one place beneath golf.

Percentage of population

Our figures also reveal that a greater percentage of the British population is riding than was recorded in 1999 with the current 7% of population having ridden compared to 4.5% previously. With more people riding there is more demand on the businesses servicing these riders, whether they be one of the more than 1000 riding schools offering lessons, or one of the 2000 saddlery shops selling equipment.

In total there are now more than an estimated 23 000 businesses engaged directly in servicing the needs of horses and riders in Britain today.

Regular riding

The frequency with which riding is undertaken has also undergone significant change with the number of regular riders (those that ride at least once a month) growing by nearly 50% from 1.4 to 2.1 million riders.

This is backed up by other results such as those showing that riding, more than ever appears to be unaffected by seasons. The majority of riders, that is over 90% now appear to ride all year round- this compared to 77% in 1999 and only 60% in 1995. This consistency of activity serves to ensure that the related employment becomes permanent rather than seasonal, with the need to employ and train more people to a higher level of professionalism and capability.

Horse population

Turning to our horses, the new survey estimates that the total horse number in Britain has now reached 1.3 million and is therefore the highest number in any one European country.

This is an inclusive figure and combines all animals whether owned by consumers or kept within professional establishments. It also indicated that the percentage of British households owning horses went up from 2.2 % in 99 to 3% in 2006.

Once again the higher the numbers of horses, the greater the need for people to support these horses, whether in the form of veterinary services, grooms, feed suppliers or farriers.

Horse related expenditure- private

We also asked horse owners to estimate what they spend on keeping and maintaining their horse. Direct expenditure includes the amount of money spent on the general upkeep and care of horses, including accommodation, feed, healthcare, equipment and insurance. Totalling £2.6 billion (€3.7b) this showed that it costs as much to buy a horse as it does to keep it for a year ( €3100) and is up by just under 10% on 1999. The biggest growth in expenditure fell into healthcare, farriery, grooming products, insurance, competition fees and training. On the other side of the equation, the areas showing greatest contraction in expenditure were transportation and stud fees.

Adding to this the indirect expenditure of £409m (€589m) which covers more rider related expenditure such as clothing, footwear and accessories and the estimated expenditure on riding lessons of £732million (€1b) gives the total economic value for sector.

Economic value of the Horse Sector

When we look at the total economic value of the horse sector, our estimate of consumer expenditure is now around the £4.3 billion (€6.1billion) per annum mark. This is an inclusive figure and brings together the costs associated with owning and riding. The figure it excludes is the income and expenditure related to horse racing and betting. This equates to an annual expenditure per horse of over £2000 (€2800).

This increase in the contribution by the horse industry to the national economy and the acknowledgement of this from other sectors has seen a significant growth in the number of companies diversifying into equine from both agricultural enterprises and other non related areas.

Horse Racing *

The significance of horse racing to Britain’s economy is also growing. The total economic impact of British Racing – that is the combination of direct, indirect and induced expenditure – in 2005 was £2.5 billion (€4.1b).

This comprises £870million (€1.2b) direct expenditure by the core racing industry, £180 million (€259 m) from off course expenditure including travel, accommodation and betting papers and secondary expenditure of £1.8 billion (€2.6billion).

* All statistics referring to horseracing were obtained from the June 2006 report “Economic Impact of British Racing” prepared by Deloitte on behalf of the British Horseracing Board.

The equestrian trade and employment

Employment within the horse industry can be a very difficult area to put figures to, due not only to the number of voluntary, unpaid help, but also due to the different definitions of “employment”.

Looking back to our earlier structure of the industry, the trade comprises those businesses supplying the core with goods and equipment ie manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of horse and rider equipment and feed and healthcare products.
Currently we estimate that there are over the 4300 companies active, including 2000 Saddlers and feed merchants and 1800 suppliers offering nearly 20 000 full time jobs.

The advantage of the specialist nature of equestrianism is that it attracts specialist types of businesses requiring skilled individuals who often require specific knowledge.

There are more than 19000 businesses now servicing this requirement for specialist information, services and products. There are nearly 100 specialist equestrian magazines servicing the market, covering specific disciplines (British Dressage), services, (Trainer Magazine) and general activities (Horse & Rider). We have over 1200 livery yards, 1100 riding schools, 2000 studs, 2500 farriers as well as a wide range of specialist equipment and service providers from Mechanical horse riding simulators, to journalists, photographers and dealers.

These 19000 businesses provide employment for at least 28500 people on a full time basis.

Horse racing employment

In comparison to other sports, horse racing like general horse riding has a more extensive employment structure and hence more employees. For example, breeders, trainers, jockeys and riders as well as administrative staff form part of the core full time industry.

With other professional sports, the core full time employees primarily comprise playing and coaching staff and admin staff at clubs.

In the horse racing industry, the 500 Trainers and 400 thoroughbred breeders provide 7800 full time jobs, in addition to the over 600 jockeys active in racing. Add to this other core employment groups associated to racing such as auctioneers, racecourse operators, and regulatory bodies and part time jobs and the total Full time job equivalents (FTE’s) amount to 18825 from the core of racing alone.

Further secondary economic activity generated through horseracing creates additional employment of approximately 25 200, (excluding betting and construction jobs).
Of this additional employment approximately 2300 individuals are employed in activities directly related to the racing industry such as vets, horse transportation and farriers.

Combining the total direct employment figures from the 3 areas gives us a total figure for full time employment in the equestrian industry of 67 325 with between an additional 100 000 – 200 000 employed indirectly.

Total industry employment

This yields a total employment in the horse industry of between 167 – 267 000. This compares with 234 000 for Agriculture, hunting and related activities and 381 000 for sporting and other recreational activities, which will both overlap with the horse industry employment to some extent.