Horse Industry Drives Huge Economic Gains Across California

February 17, 2024

Equine businesses and organizations generate $11.6 Billion for California economy and over 132,000 jobs across racing, competition, recreation, equine therapy, animal-wellness sectors and more

Santa Anita Press Box

LOS ANGELES— As California grapples with a budget deficit in the tens of billions of dollars, the horse industry has grown into even more of a financial juggernaut for the state over the last five years; responsible for billions of dollars in economic impact and tens of thousands of jobs, a new landmark report released today found. In 2023, the equine ecosystem provided a total value of $11.6 billion to California’s economy and a direct contribution of $6.5 billion to state GDP, according to the report from the American Horse Council. This marks a significant increase from the American Horse Council’s previous report in 2018, which found a total value of $8.3 billion to the state economy and a direct contribution of $4.5 billion to state GDP

Through the care of the state’s near-500,000 horses, events and recreation, and the ripple effect on other sectors of the economy, the California equine industry generates 132,496 jobs across the state and directly employs 93,467 workers. Five years ago, those numbers were 115,474 and 77,703, respectively, showing tremendous growth for the sector.

Horses remain incredibly popular in the state of California. In total, 30.48% of households – 4.1 million in California – have a “horse enthusiast” in their home, someone who participates in horse activities or attends horse events. A remarkable 220,000 California residents volunteer their time to horses, and the industry generates an incredible $6.2 billion in tourism for California, a testament to its popularity.

This report comes at a pivotal time for California, which is facing a budget deficit of at least $45 billion. As the state makes the difficult decision to cut programs and services for millions of Californians, sources of much needed and growing revenue — like the equine industry — provide a glimmer of hope for the state’s economic future.

“The American Horse Council report confirms what those of us in the industry have always known: Horses hold a special place in the hearts and minds of Californians,” said Bill Nader, President and CEO of Thoroughbred Owners of California. “With over 4 million households participating in horse events and activities across the state – 38% of whom are under the age of 18 – it is clear that the equine industry is more than just an impressive economic driver for the state; it is an integral part of California’s culture.”

“It is invigorating to see how important it is to local leaders to see the impact the horse industry has on the region and the people,” said Julie Broadway, President of the American Horse Council.

The California breakout study surveyed thousands of horse owners and suppliers across the state, making it the most comprehensive state industry study to date. Data collected was analyzed to determine the impact of the industry’s distinct sectors, including competition, recreation, racing, equine assisted therapy, and equine rehabilitation and sanctuaries.

Racing continues to be the greatest contributor to the state in the industry, with a total economic impact of $2.5 billion and a direct value of $1.5 billion to California GDP. Notably, California has hosted 18 out of 42 Breeders’ Cup World Championships from 1984 through 2025, more than any other state in the nation. It was held at Santa Anita last year and will be staged at Del Mar this year and in 2025, each estimated to generate over $100 million to the local economy. The sport is a growing source of employment for Californians, generating 24,860 jobs in 2023, up from 17,798 five years ago, and supporting a total of 36,980 jobs across the state.

“These data points show that the horse industry’s contributions to California are enormous – and growing,” said Amy Zimmerman, of the California Horse Power Coalition. “Our commitment to supporting California’s economy and workforce, preserving our state’s beautiful land, providing therapeutic services to Californians who need it, and caring for the horses we love has never been greater. We look forward to seeing our industry grow and evolve in the years to come.”

“The challenges of the last few years with the pandemic and its economic impacts on all aspects of our industry, so to see these numbers from the 2023 study shines a light on how resilient our industry is,” stated Dr. Rick Mitchell, Chairman of the American Horse Council Board.

More information and the 2023 Economic Impact Study can be found on the American Horse Council website: https://horsecouncil.org/economic-impact-study/

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