Equine population — Ramona is NOT a one horse town
As an equestrian and trails advocate in Ramona I ponder horse related topics constantly. Our current economic state has created so many issues for horse owners such as the number of homeless horses increasing dramatically in the past three years across the nation, the cost of hay going up 125 percent (and climbing) since 2008, gas prices that are incredibly unaffordable, more expensive veterinary care — and the list goes on.
All of this has really earned my attention and concern, so I started to dig into what the United States and especially California — and, more locally, Ramona — looks like so far as horse population and economics are concerned. I found some interesting and amazing information:
All of the following information was gathered between 2005 and 2007 and is the most recent information I have been able to find.
The United States has more than 9.5 million horses across the nation, according to Veterinary News, with California and Texas leading the way.
Our nation owns more horses than any other nation. The American Horse Council study (2005) concluded that recreational use (trail riding) is the number one and largest segment of use of the horse. I honestly suspected that racing or any sanctioned sport, or even showing would have represented the largest use of equines, so this fascinates me.
Even closer to home, at the state level in a separate report I found that there are close to 700,000 horses in the state of California and that San Diego has more horses per capita than any county in the country. You may be wondering why I have chosen to write about this subject, so I’ll get to it.
I’ve made assumptions about Ramona’s equine population based on my personal knowledge and beliefs for a long time and wanted to have more accurate information, something more concrete.
Right here at home, in a recent survey (2007) of Ramona by the Ramona Equine Industry Network (REIN), the trends follow right along the national and regional reports.
Ramona residents surveyed did not include the large ranches or businesses where there are possibly hundreds of horses, but only included individual/family residents.
What the community survey showed is that Ramona has approximately 10,000 family owned or individually owned horses. The survey showed that on average people owned 3.92 horses — the respondents owned between one and 20 horses each.
Of course these are averages, because no one can own .92 parts of a horse, but compare that with the Ramona Chamber of Commerce survey that shows the average Ramona household has 3.2 people living in it. Looks to me like most families have more horses — on average — than people.
We can’t ever say that Ramona is a one horse town with this information. That many horses have to have an impact economically — nationally and locally as well.
The horse industry contributes approximately $7 billion a year to our economy and employs 130,200 in our state. In Ramona we all see as we drive around town that there are more feed stores than grocery stores, but what you may not be able to see or be aware of is all of the smaller hay cooperatives and family run feed businesses that those with horses know very well.
The economic impact generated by horse owners is significant. The REIN survey estimates that equine owners contribute more than $10 million to our local economy in horse related goods such as feed and bedding. More than $11 million in horse related services such as farriers and veterinarians or trainers is also contributed to the local economy, keeping many of our friends and neighbors employed.
Not only do horse owners make major contributions to our economy, but they also care about our community character. In the survey, residents were asked about community character, and results showed the number one thing horse owners care about and want to see in Ramona are trails and pathways with cohesive connectivity. Ninety-five percent of respondents placed trails and pathways as their highest priority. Horse owners are interested in trails and pathways because the number one activity reported was recreational trail riding, just like the national surveys showed — go figure.
More than half of the survey respondents commented in the survey, “Build more trails in Ramona,” as a top community improvement suggestion, followed by trail access, then trail connectivity. This is, of course, significant to me as a trail user and advocate.
I am excited and renewed by all of this information. I knew that Ramona was not a one horse town, but I had no idea that there were so many thousands of equine up here on the hill or that the equestrian portion of our community contributed so much each year to our economy. Even with the economic downturn since 2003, horses are obviously important to Ramona residents, and I am very happy that I looked into the subject of horses and our economy and learned so much about our community to share with you.
(A copy of the REIN survey can be made available upon request.)
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