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The government has announced a pioneering research study into the horse industry, funded jointly by DEFRA and the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC).

The research, to be carried out over the next six months by The Henley Centre, will provide the first comprehensive examination of the industry.

The first stage of the project will consist of desk-based research to map the industry and its component sectors, followed by an examination of existing baseline data and the identification of gaps.

The final research phase will be consultative, identifying areas for long-term strategy, taking into account the aspirations of the industry and considering the best methods of governmental support.

Chairman of BHIC, Tristram Ricketts, says: “Commissioning this ground-breaking research is an important first step in furthering our understanding of the significance of the horse in our society and how integral it is to our rural economy and life.”

Alun Michael, Rural Affairs Minister, announced the project. “I am delighted at this new partnership, which will build on the already excellent working relationship between the Government and the horse industry,” he says.

“The industry makes a multi-billion pound contribution to the economy and is very important to rural economies and communities. The Government is pleased to be able to help it thrive even more through this research project.”

The commencement of this research begins one year after the appointment of Graham Cory as “Official for the Horse”, which highlighted a new focus for the equine industry within the government.

“The idea behind this project has been developing during the past year,” explains a DEFRA spokesperson, “but of course it took time to find the best researchers for the job. It could only be announced once all the details had been finalised.”

The research findings will be published in Spring 2004.