Kentucky 'Horses Count' Survey Nears End

More than 2,000 surveys have been returned in the "Horses Count" project, a collaborative effort between the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky Equine Initiative, Kentucky Horse Council, and Kentucky Equine Education Project.

The idea for the survey stemmed from the fact that even though Kentucky is known as the "horse capital of the world," the actual number of horses in the Bluegrass State has only been estimated in the past. About 90% of the 2,000 individuals who completed the survey indicated they would be willing to participate in future equine surveys.

"(Ninety percent) is a phenomenal response," said Lori Garkovich, a sociology professor in the UK College of Agriculture who has taken on the technical aspects of the project. "It's a measure of how passionate people feel about this issue and their own recognition of the real potential of building an incredibly powerful equine economy in this state."

"I think people have been leery of the (National Animal Identification Program), so we were afraid it might mean many people wouldn't respond, but we've had good success," KEEP equine director Gene Clabes said.

Horses Count, which is collecting anonymous information about the number and breeds of horses in the state, has encouraged grassroots help by offering counties the chance to compete for grants to support youth-related horse activities. With funding provided by KEEP, the grants will go to the 10 county extension offices that count the most horses.

While the Horses Count project carries a mission of demonstrating the economic value of the horse industry in Kentucky, Garkovich said it also will provide researchers with more information than the United States Department of Agriculture census, which simply counts horses located on farms. Results will be used for marketing efforts for the equine industry, as well as a source of information for policy decisions and legislative activities.

"We've turned the mechanics of this count over to UK," Clabes said. "Our mission was to get the word out and urge people to participate and take the surveys wherever we went across the state, but the design and implementation has been done (by Garkovich).

Garkovich said follow-up surveys would assess the economic impact of horse activity in Kentucky, such as what people spend on their horses and related activities. Other reasons for completing the Horses Count study and other follow-up surveys include finding opportunities to increase the number of horse events in the state for monetary purposes, and knowing the number of equines in each county in case of a disease outbreak.

"Once we get the numbers, we'll be publishing and producing, posting and distributing summary reports," Garkovich said. "This is one of those tough things. We're not working from a mailing list (like a census), so we're totally relying on people being willing to participate. I think (2,000) responses is pretty impressive because this is being spread essentially by word of mouth and personal contact with people.

"My goal was to get as many as we could, and to really try and tap into that group of people that own horses who would not be typically picked up on a census. We're getting a lot of that--one and two horse owners--so I'm very pleased."

Those interested in participating in Horses Count should contact their local extension office or complete the online survey at The last day for participation is March 31.

About the Author

Esther Marr

Esther Marr is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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