Equine community making ‘significant’ contribution to Alberta economy: report IG News

Irshadgul News report,

Horses, donkeys and mules make up a huge horse community in Alberta.

Industry is a major contributor to the provincial economy, according to newly released research findings from a study initiative by the Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF).

The AEF has been around since 1978 as a membership-driven non-profit association, representing the interests of the equine industry in all sectors throughout Alberta, but did not conduct a study concerning the economic impact until 2021.

“Over the years, we’ve been thinking about (how) it looks like our industry is really contributing to the provincial economy, and we should try to measure that,” said AEF Jason Edworthy, elected president.

“The horse industry is actually surprisingly complex when you think about the people who supply hay, the people who ride the horses, trailer sales, truck sales, vet services.”

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A horse and rider at Tailwind Equestrian in Lethbridge, Alta.

Eloise Therian / Global News

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Edworthy reported that the AEF had hired an independent contractor to come up with the estimates, which found that there are approximately 142,000 horses living on 25,000 properties in Alberta.

He suspects there is more to it, but there is no comprehensive way to track the population at this time.

Despite the exact size, his contribution is making a splash.

A horse at Tailwind Equestrian in Lethbridge, Alta.

Eloise Therian / Global News

According to the AEF’s website, “the findings indicate a total economic impact of the equine community in terms of GDP, which stood at just over $1.4 billion in 2021.” “Direct spending in the equivalent community totals more than $1.7 billion. These expenditures result in an $855 million contribution to labor income.”

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“The fact that it’s such a significant contributor to GDP really helps us justify our investments and our plans to help the industry grow,” Edworthy said.

According to the report’s summary, more than half of the horses in the province are used for recreation, while 40 percent are used for sport, and about six percent are work horses.

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“There are a lot of people who enjoy their horses and can do everything from backcountry packing to trail riding for fun,” Edworthy said.

Meanwhile, it was also found that the cost of caring for a sport horse is nearly twice that of a recreational horse, and three times the cost of caring for a work horse.

Donna Ferguson, owner and head trainer of Tailwind Equestrian in Lethbridge, currently has 23 horses in her care.

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“To take care of your horse (the cost), I would say $12,000 to $15,000 a year, and that’s before you take yourself to competitions for any training on your horse,” she said.

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Ferguson said the cost of fodder and hay has risen recently — in some cases more than double.

“Most horse owners will tell you that the joy of owning a horse outweighs those expenses.”

Tailwind offers riding lessons for a variety of skill levels. Ferguson said he is pleased with the growing interest in the recreational component.

“I would say, historically (this) is the first time that I’ve had a waiting list that I can’t bring someone on right away, so that’s a really good sign,” she said.

“I hope to continue to see the industry grow. Alberta is a great place to engage with horses and sport horses.”

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