Horse owners and riders spend around £4 billion on equestrianism each year, the latest National Equestrian Survey (NES) has revealed. The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) commissioned the 2006 survey, which was launched at the National Equine Forum last week.

“The figures show that conventional wisdom may have underestimated just to what extent the industry has grown since BETA last reported in 1999,” said BETA’s executive director Claire Williams. “The report’s findings will contribute significantly to the debate surrounding the structure of the industry, its role in Britain today and its strategic development in the future.”

BETA invested more than £70,000 into the survey. The results show that the number of horses in Britain, including those kept with both private owners and professional establishments has reached 1.35 million. A total of 720,000 care for or own these horses – an astonishing 1.2% of the UK population.

The survey also reveals that 4.3 million people ride each year – nearly double that of the last survey. Around 2.1 million now ride at least once a month, with a further 2.2 million having ridden at some stage during the last 12 months.

“These figures are particularly encouraging, especially if infrequent riders can be persuaded to take to the saddle more often,” said Williams.

However, a shortage of places to go riding and a lack of opportunity were cited as deterrents within the research. BETA is currently promoting riding as a leisure activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and on a wide range of budgets, while the government’s Strategy for the Horse Industry is working to make equestrianism available to more people.

At the launch of an action plan to implement the strategy last week, Minister for the Horse Jim Knight said: “The horse industry offers a multitude of social, educational and health benefits to the wider community, and the Government is committed to helping you promote and maximise these.”

More than 90% of respondents believe the ‘Olympic effect’ will further raise the profile of horse sports and generate more interest in riding. Competition riding, both affiliated and unaffiliated has increased dramatically since the 1999 survey ,with the number of riders who school their horses almost doubling. Leisure riding remains the main activity, up by 5%.

BETA’s research also provided evidence that hunting is attracting more followers, with the number of mounted participants increasing from 10% to 18% of regular riders over the last six years. Meanwhile the number of people keeping horses mainly for hunting has gone down by around one third.

“It is good to see so many people supporting their local hunts in the face of political adversity, sending the government a clear message about opposition to the Hunting Act. However, it is of great concern that this legislation is already proving such a threat to livery yards and other businesses who depend primarily on hunters,” a Countryside Alliance spokesperson told HHO this morning.

  • The National Equestrian Survey, with additional specialist sections, will be available to purchase. Contact BETA on 01937 587062 or visit www.beta-uk.org
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