Horses Prove to be $1.2 Billion Industry in Virginia Alone

Article by Brian McNeill of the Daily Progress

Proof that Live Horses Generate more Income than Dead (Slaughtered) Horses

R.T. ~ “Testimony to the fact that one live horse generates a tremendous income to not only local governments but to a multitude of business and related activities.  One horse sold off to slaughter for a few hundred bucks is a dead end, literally, to not only the horse and owner but to the equine community as a whole.  Likewise, it is refreshing to see a sane breeder point out the true reason why breeders are hurting besides pulling the deranged Duquette and Wallis line that it is because there are no slaughter plants in the U.S..  Slaughter always has been an option, unfortunately, and still is yet the perversion of the horse eating Duquette/Wallis cult refuses to see the truth.”

"Last Jump" by Terry Fitch

While the number of farms in Virginia decreased between 1997 and 2007, the number of farms with horses climbed to 13,520 from 10,972, helping to stave off what would have been a far greater loss of Virginia’s farmland.

The trend is among the key findings of a new study on the economic impact of the state’s horse industry conducted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Economic and Policy Studies at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

“Based on National Agricultural Statistics Service data, horse ownership has been increasing,” economist Terance Rephann, the study’s author, said. “We show that attendance at horse events and the number and variety of shows and competitions has increased, as well. However, the parimutuel racing component has been hard hit in recent years.”

The state’s horse industry has an annual economic impact of $1.2 billion and accounted for 16,091 jobs in 2010, according to the study.

The equine industry generated about $65.3 million in state and local taxes in 2010, with $37.5 million heading into the state’s coffers and $27.8 million going to localities.

Horse owners in Virginia spend about $873 million each year on horse-related expenditures, including feed, bedding, boarding, training, tack, capital improvements and labor. With an estimated 215,000 horses in the state, these expenses come to an average of $4,060 per horse.

There were just shy of 1,200 horse shows and events in Virginia in 2010, generating roughly $25 million in revenue. The estimated attendance of Virginia’s horse shows and competitions in 2010 was 934,000, with nearly 46 percent of attendees drawn from the event’s locality, 40 percent from elsewhere in Virginia and 14 percent from other states.

“The horse industry brings a lot of tourists into the state,” said Elaine Lidholm of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “It can be anything from a 4-H pony club to a major international event at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington.”

Not all aspects of Virginia’s equine industry, however, are galloping along at a breakneck pace.

“Honestly, business is not so good,” said Diana Dodge, a show horse breeder and owner of Nokomis Farm in Montpelier Station in Orange County, where the equine industry employed 268 and generated $511,381 in tax revenue last year.

Over the last seven or eight years, she said, horse buyers have often chosen to purchase horses from Europe, where a superior registration system generally details horses’ lineage better than in the U.S.

“It’s made it tougher for all of us breeding horses,” she said. “We don’t have a very good system in this country.”

As Rephann noted, the state’s horse racing and betting industry is also struggling.

Virginia’s racing industry saw significant growth until 2007, when it took a sharp downturn in attendance and wagering because of competitive pressures and lower consumer spending amidst the recession, according to the report.

Attendance at Colonial Downs during the thoroughbred and harness seasons was 74,000 in 2010, with 9.9 percent of attendees residing locally, 79.5 percent coming from elsewhere in Virginia and 10.6 percent from outside the state.

Plus, attendance at the eight off-track betting operations where data were available was about 325,000, with 32.6 percent of attendees living in the same locality as the facility’s location, 45.3 percent coming from elsewhere in Virginia and 22.1 percent from out of state.

Growth in the horse industry’s other two key sectors — horse farm operations and horse shows and competitions — led to an overall increase in the state’s horse population since 2001-02, according to the report.

Overall, Virginia ranks as the 12th state in number of horses, according to estimates made for the American Horse Council, as of 2005. Texas, California and Florida were the top three, respectively.

In addition to the study’s key statistical findings, Rephann said, the report underscores the agricultural transformation of Virginia and the role played by horses.

“Many farms that were formerly used exclusively for livestock and crops are now being used to keep horses,” he said. “In lots of instances, the farmland is coming under urbanization pressures as residents migrate out to exurban areas and the farmland is being used increasingly for recreational purposes.”

The Weldon Cooper study was commissioned by the Virginia Horse Industry Board for $61,630.

To read the full study, go to: http://www.coopercenter.org/econ/publications/economic-impact-horse-industry-virginia.

Horse Stars in Spielberg’s New War Movie

Story by Kaleem Atab as it appeared in The National

“We Ponder the Timeless Appeal of the Equine Film”

Scene from Spielberg's upcoming film "War Horse" - photo by Andrew Cooper

The first images from War Horse have been released in what promised to be a return to form for the ET and Jaws director Steven Spielberg. The First World War drama is based on a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo and was adapted as a hugely successful play by the National Theatre in London in 2007.

The excitement is not so much about Spielberg directing another war epic after his groundbreaking Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, but that the man who created the most famous shark in the world is making a film revolving around a horse, the animal that has featured in more good films than any other non-human creature.

War Horse tells the poignant story of Joey, a horse who is tamed and trained by a young man called Albert (Jeremy Irvine). The onset of war sees master and horse separated and the story follows the remarkable journey of the horse and the people he encounters, including British and German soldiers and a French farmer and his granddaughter.

In the 1982 Australian classic The Man From Snowy River starring Kirk Douglas in the dual role of feuding twin brothers, the value of a horse is stated succinctly: “A man without a horse is like a man with only one leg.” Like War Horse, the film is about a boy who decided to tame wild horses, but here it has disastrous consequences when his father dies in a stampede.

The list of classic films in which horses play a central role is long. The late Elizabeth Taylor became world famous though her appearance in National Velvet, the story of a jaded former jockey who helps a young girl prepare to ride a wild horse in the Grand National, the gruelling English steeplechase.

Another equestrian film highlight was Seabiscuit, which starred Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges in the fact-based tale of an undersized horse who lifted the spirits of America during the Depression era through his feats on the racetrack.

Similarly, last year saw the release of Secretariat, about the stallion that in 1973 won the American Triple Crown. As with the other racehorse films, the human drama that revolves around the animals is just as important as what happens to the animals themselves. Here it’s the tale of how a determined woman, Penny Chenery Tweedy, turned family tragedy – the death of her father after a long illness – into an era-defining story of triumph. The power of horses and their emotional impact on humans was displayed in real life in 1973 when Secretariat appeared on the cover of Time and other major publications.

The Black Stallion is one of the best examples of why horses fascinate so much, and especially of their ability to resonate with the young. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, it’s set at the end of the Second World War, when a 10-year-old boy, Alec, and his father are travelling on a ship off the north coast of Africa. On the deck is a handsome black Arabian horse Alec takes a fondness to before a violent storm results in the ship being wrecked. The only survivors are the boy and the horse and they form a remarkable bond on a deserted island.

Then of course there are all those Westerns. It’s hard to think of a cooler image from any movie than Clint Eastwood riding into town on a horse. Even when the actor admitted that he had developed an allergy to the animals for short time he carried on filming on them.

Horses even played a major part in the development of cinema. The photographer Eadweard Muybridge proved a horse could “fly” when he photographed galloping horses and showed that at one point when they run all four hooves are off the ground. Seeking a way to share this groundbreaking discovery, Muybridge invented the zoopraxiscope, a method of projecting animated versions of his photographs as short moving images. The influence can even be seen in the time-warping action of The Matrix.

It’s no wonder, really, that whether they are being ridden in Westerns, racing to glory or saving lives during wars, horses continue to play a major role in cinema.