Economic impact of the horse industry

Hannah Lochner
University of Minnesota Extension Livestock Communication Specialist

In 2017, the American Horse Council evaluated the economic impact of the horse industry in the United States (U.S.). They further looked at the economic impact in individual states including Minnesota.

The U.S. is home to over 7.2 million horses. Of those horses, about 145,727 reside in Minnesota, which ranks 18th in the nation for the largest horse population. The leading states for horse populations include:

  • Texas: 767,100 horses.
  • California: 534,500 horses.
  • Florida: 387,300 horses.

The two most popular breeds in the U.S., as well as Minnesota, are the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred. Household surveys of about 7.1 million horses in the United States indicated about 2.1 million were Quarter Horses and 1.1 million were Thoroughbreds. Similarly, household surveys of 143,000 horses in Minnesota indicated 41,000 were Quarter Horses and 20,000 were Thoroughbreds. Households surveys didn’t include horses within organizations or Amish communities.

While 30.5 percent of U.S. households have a horse enthusiast, only 1.3 percent own a horse. The other 29 percent includes individuals that either participate in horse activities or spectate at horse events.

In Minnesota, about 680,000 households have horse enthusiasts, where about 29,000 own a horse. Many Minnesota horse owners take lessons (17 percent), manage barns (17 percent) and train horses (15 percent). Many also spend their time volunteering and up to 14,000 Minnesota residents volunteer their time towards horse-related activities.

The U.S. horse industry directly contributes $50 billion to the economy and provides about 988,000 jobs. Direct contribution refers to economic activity occurring within the horse industry itself, such as horse care or recreation. However, these direct economic activities also prompt additional economic activity outside the horse industry. As a result, the total economic impact of the horse industry in the U.S. is $122 billion and 1.7 million jobs.

The horse industry also contributes largely to Minnesota’s economy. The direct economic impact of the horse industry in Minnesota is $541 million with a creation of 15,113 jobs. However, the total economic impact of the horse industry in Minnesota is $1 billion with a creation of 21,039 jobs. Thus, the horse industry adds great value to Minnesota’s economy.

Horses are most commonly used for recreational activities such as lessons and trail riding. Over 10 percent of Minnesota households participate in trail riding and 8.4 percent participate in riding lessons. These activities drive spending on horse care, activity fees and equipment. As a result, recreation in Minnesota contributes 7,181 jobs and a $341 million value added to the economy.

In addition to recreational activities, many participate in competitive horse events in Minnesota. Competition requires a variety of goods and services including training, specialized equipment and feed, travel arrangements, facilities etc. Furthermore, varying disciplines, age groups and competition levels increase the participation in competitive events and leads to differences in spending. Horse competition in Minnesota contributes 7,666 jobs and a $366 million value added to the economy.

Additionally, Minnesota is home to two racetracks that host about 122 live race days. The racing sector drives an array of economic activity including spending on training, breeding, jockey fees, facilities, broadcasting services and wagering. Racing in Minnesota contributes 2,044 jobs and a $123 million value added to the economy.

For more information on this study, visit

The full reports for the horse industry’s economic impact in the U.S. and Minnesota may be purchased from the American Horse Council.