December 2006 // Volume 44 // Number 6 // Tools of the Trade // 6TOT3
Enumeration and Valuation of Horses: Methodological Innovations and Results from a Connecticut Study
As more statewide horse surveys are undertaken, continuous improvement of methodology is needed. We surveyed veterinarians to determine the number of horses in Connecticut. We also questioned horse owners regarding willingness to sell at fair market value. We estimate that there are 43,059 horses in Connecticut. Of horse owners, 80% would not be willing to sell at fair market value. Surveying state veterinarians as opposed to horse owners may be a more reliable method in determining horse numbers. Refinement of survey instruments and survey of a wider population may be necessary to establish the true social value of horses.
The number of surveys of the horse industry nationwide has increased in recent years in response to the industry's growth and economic impact. Some limitations, such as incomplete mailing lists, are common (American Horse Council Foundation 1996; Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences Pennsylvania State University 2003; Greene, Ather & King, 2002; Hughes et al., 2002; New Hampshire Horse Council, 2004). Attempts to counteract these problems have been made through the use of arbitrary multipliers or supplementation of mailing lists with area frame sampling.
However, there are additional problems, such as fear of government intrusion or taxation, which may lead to under-reporting of horses on survey forms. These shortcomings still need to be addressed. Another concern is that economic valuation of horses is typically based on fair market value, while owners may well value their horses beyond this estimate. Our study seeks to improve upon these existing procedures for enumeration of horses and to carry out valuation from the owner's perspective. The methodological innovations we propose are illustrated in the context of the Connecticut equine industry.
The methods and results reported here were obtained by the use of two survey instruments: a survey of veterinarians to determine the horse count and a survey of horse owners to characterize the patterns of horse ownership and use.
A complete mailing list of veterinarians obtained from the state veterinary association was used. Veterinarians were asked if they treated horses and how many horses were treated during the calendar year as well as how many of these horses were from Connecticut. Select veterinarians were also contacted by telephone interview and consulted regarding likelihood of annual vaccination, customer loyalty, and correlation of in state to out of state treated equines.
Horse owner lists were compiled using rosters of various horse clubs and organizations, the equine Extension specialist's database, and the annual Just Horses Directory. The survey was pre-tested. Included in the horse owners' survey were questions relating to demographic characteristics and economic questions such as fair market value of the horse and willingness to sell at fair market value. The horse owners were also asked how often their horses were vaccinated in order to determine reliability of the veterinary survey.
Based on the list provided by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, the total population of veterinarians in Connecticut is 149. All of them were sent surveys. Of the 79 respondents, 42 treat horses. Interviews with veterinarians also suggest that there is substantial customer loyalty and at least two-thirds of horse owners would consult with only one veterinarian in the same year. Based on a reasonable specification of scenarios (with respect to unknown variables) and sensitivity analysis, we arrive at an enumeration of 43,059 horses. This number correlates well with anecdotal reports.
The average fair market value of horses in Connecticut is $7,483. Results varied significantly by breed, ranging from $1,167 for Standardbred to $10, 084 for Thoroughbreds (Figure 1). Of the horse owners surveyed, 73% would not be willing to sell their horses at any price, while only 7% would sell at a price higher than FMV. The implication is that any statewide value of horses based on market prices alone is likely to seriously underestimate the true value of horses as perceived by their owners.
Average Fair Market Value of Horses by Breed
Implications for Future Research
The methodology used in our survey may be of use to other states in order to arrive at a more accurate horse count. We avoided some potential problems with incomplete mailing lists and the procedures currently used by researchers to address this issue.
Because the list of veterinarians comes from the state veterinary association, it is most likely to be accurate. Our horse owner survey is completely anonymous, and because we did not rely on it for horse enumeration, we did not need targeted follow-up telephone calls or reminders. Also, horse owners are not the best source of enumeration because fear of taxation or government intrusion may result in the provision of unreliable estimates. Our hypothesis is that the increasingly popular practice of area frame sampling is also likely to be unreliable for horse enumeration because of lack of anonymity. Nonetheless, in the future, it would be interesting to compare the results of a veterinary survey with an area frame sampling study.
In addition to surveying veterinarians, a cross check of results could be obtained by surveying other service providers, such as farriers or feed stores. Finally, although our survey instruments attempted to reach the major interest groups associated with the industry, it may be that a wider population should be surveyed to capture the aesthetic and recreational value of horses.
American Horse Council Foundation. (1996). The economic impact of the horse industry in the United States. 1-4.
Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences Pennsylvania State University and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. (2003). Pennsylvania's equine industry inventory, basic economic and demographic characteristics. Available at: http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/agriculture/lib/agriculture/horseracingfiles/equinesurveyresults-academic.pdf
Greene, B., Ather, J., & King, L. (2002). Vermont equine survey report.
Hughes, D., Woloshuk, J. M., Hanham, A. C., Workman, D.J., Snively, D. W., Lewis, P. E., & Walker, T. E. (2002). West Virginia economic impact study. Available at: http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/youth/Equine.pdf
New Hampshire Horse Council, Inc., New Hampshire Farm Bureau Federation, University of New Hampshire Department of Resource Economics and Development. (2004). New Hampshire Equine Study. Available at: http://www.nhfarmbureau.org/publication/2004_equine_study_state.pdf
Sleeping Giant Pony Club. Just Horses Directory for CT, MA, RI, and Eastern NY. (2002).