Number of UK riders is up, but horse numbers drop, major survey reveals

  • The number of riders in the UK, and the amount of money they spend, are on the up – but many of those who cannot ride cite lack of access to horses and facilities.

    The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) says the results of its National Equestrian Survey 2019, released today (26 June) show a “cautiously optimistic” view of the industry, but that there is “still work to be done”.

    The survey, the only one to investigate the size and shape of the UK equestrian industry, was part-funded by Sport England through the British Equestrian Federation.

    “It is the sixth one to be conducted over the past 25 years and plays a crucial role in providing a clear and accurate picture of the industry today,” a BETA spokesman said.

    The survey shows that the steady decline in the number of riders in the country over the previous 10 years appears to be recovering, although the UK horse population has shrunk by about 100,000.

    “This latest survey is one of the most robust ever – based on 6,151 nationally representative interviews – with some conducted online for the very first time,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams.

    Ms Williams said the survey covers riding population, activity and economy, as well as specific reports on feed, bedding, clothing and horsewear.

    “The survey provides a valuable tool for allowing us to spot trends and track changes over longer periods of time,” she said. “We can also take the information to examine the relationship between external and internal influences.

    “On the whole, this new survey gives a positive overview of the industry, with an upturn in some rider figures and an increase in annual spending, which is great news for equestrian businesses that can continue to support a sizable and lucrative market.

    “This good news, however, is tempered by the fact that a greater number of lapsed riders are citing the loss of access to horses and equestrian facilities as a barrier, which continues to be something of a challenge and a sign that there is still work to be done in this area.”

    The survey highlights new spending patterns and changing trends since the 2015 study.

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    Among its other key findings are that the economic value of the sector is £4.7bn of consumer spending annually, up from £4.3bn in 2015.

    The number of people who have ridden at least once in the past year has increased from 2.7m in 2015 to 3m, while the number of regular riders has risen from 1.3m to 1.8m.

    There are 374,000 horse-owning households in Britain, down from 446,000 in 2015, and the estimated horse population of Britain is 847,000, down from 944,000.

    Lack of access to horses and riding facilities is a barrier preventing 22% of lapsed riders returning to the sport.

    For more on the survey results, see next week’s H&H magazine, out 4 July.

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