More co-ordination and support is what the Scottish equestrian industry needs to develop, according to a new study published earlier this month (13 April).

The study by Scotland’s Rural College’s (SRUC) rural policy centre, in conjunction with British Horse Society (BHS) Scotland, said the equestrian industry in Scotland is too fragmented to access funding.

“Nearly all legislation pertaining to the horse in Scotland is devolved. For our industry to compete fairly with other rural industries when it comes to recognition and funding opportunities, we realised that we needed to collect evidence on the value of the [Scottish] equine industry, instead of relying on figures extrapolated from the UK,” said Helene Mauchlen, director of BHS Scotland.

The desk-based study was started last summer and took six months to complete. It includes six industry case studies.

Ms Mauchlen added that it was a “great step” for the industry.

There are no accurate figures for the equine market in Scotland, but according to Horse Scotland the industry — excluding racing — contributes around £228m to the local economy each year and there are an estimated 75,000-100,000 horses.

Membership of the BHS in Scotland is still relatively low, at 5,500.

“For Scotland this study is the first step by the equestrian industry to say we are important,” Ms Mauchlen told H&H.

Last year the EU announced that all countries must have a central database by 1 July 2016 to try and prevent a repeat of the 2013 horsemeat scandal (news, 25 September 2014).

Currently 25 out of the 28 member states have a database, but the UK does not — following the closure of the National Equine Database in 2012 due to lack of government funding.

The new study states that, in order to become more efficient, the Scottish equine sector needs to create a separate equine database, provide quality assurance for riding and trekking centres and staff training.

“The equine industry makes a big contribution to the rural economy, and has significant potential — with adequate support and guidance — to deliver integrated business and environmental benefits,” said Gillian McKnight, one of the report’s authors.

“A thriving horse industry means more people, including a high proportion of women, participating in sport, recreation and access to the countryside, which is good for our physical and mental health.”

The report has been sent to the Scottish government and will be available to equine businesses.

Ms McKnight said further research was needed to find out more about the health and well-being benefits of horses.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 April 2015