Indiana Equine Operations Support $2 Billion Industry

Many equine operators view their ventures as more hobby than business, and nearly 60% function without a business plan despite working in an industry that generates more than $2 billion in Indiana, according to a Purdue University study. "This is the first time entrepreneurship has been surveyed," said Susan Conners, director of Purdue University Calumet's Equine Business Management program and lead author of the study of Indiana's horse shows, racetracks, equine businesses, and owners. "The data shows equine activity is a vital part of Indiana's economy."

The survey of the economic impact and health of the state's equine industry was conducted in the spring and covered 2010 activity. It was sponsored in part by various state equine organizations. Horse racing generates the most revenue, but people who enjoy riding and other equine-related activities for recreation comprise the industry's largest segment.

In addition to horses, the industry includes a wide range of goods and services: sales, breeding, racing, showing, boarding, riding lessons, labor, training, feed and supplements, tack, veterinarian care and supplies, farriers, facility maintenance, and fuel and transportation.

Conners said the business segment of the survey reveals a need for programs and resources that emphasize management skills.

"Many people who were interested in starting a business felt they didn't have the resources to do so," she said.

Mark Russell, an animal sciences professor and Purdue Extension specialist in equine management, said the study helps create awareness of the industry within state and local government, businesses and even among horse owners. For example, he said recreational riders with one horse might not know that they are part of a multibillion-dollar industry.

"It creates awareness among industry participants and the rest of the state," he said.

Russell, a study co-author, said the findings also illustrate how local events, such as 4-H horse shows or exhibitions, can affect economic activity at the county level.

"They have both economic and educational benefits," he said.

The survey's health segment showed a modest improvement in the percentage of live foals born at 95%, compared with 85.5% in the previous survey in 2001, said study co-author Laurent CouŽtil, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, associate professor of large animal medicine and director of the Equine Sports Medicine Center at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine. He credits this to better care, veterinary checks, and vaccinations.

The biggest performance-related health issues are lameness and hoof injuries, some of which can be prevented just as in human athletes.

"Colic, the No. 3 cause of death (in horses), is a bigger research concern because we still don't understand a lot about what causes it," he said.

Also problematic are contagious respiratory diseases; outbreaks can shut down racetracks, horse shows, and other events.

The next step is to determine how to best use the survey information. A series of public meetings in different regions of the state will be held early next year to discuss survey results and answer questions.

The survey report is available on the Purdue Equine Sports Medicine Center website at

The survey was sponsored by Purdue Calumet's Equine Business Management program, the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine and state equine organizations, including Hoosier Horse Park, Indiana Horse Council, Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, Indiana Standardbred Association, Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and Quarter Horse Racing Association of Indiana.