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109/04 25 March 2004

Huge Potential For United Horse Industry To Grow - Alun Michael

Minister for the Horse Alun Michael today challenged the horse industry to unite in order to maximise its potential. Speaking at the National Equine Forum, he invited everybody interested in horses to contribute to the development of a strategy for the industry's future growth.

Mr Michael also announced publication of the first-ever research on the horse industry as a whole, jointly funded by Defra and the British Horse Industry Confederation. He commented:

"When I came to Defra I was shocked by the lack of data and analysis that would be standard in any other industry. How can any industry plan ahead - and how can Government help - without facts, analysis, evidence, trends? And when the industry is as varied, stratified and divided as the horse industry, it's a recipe for disaster. Working with the industry, the Government has made great strides in putting that right."

Drawing on the research, Mr Michael described the horse industry as consisting of activities based on the use, possession or ownership of horses, plus suppliers of horse-related goods and services for those core activities. The core ranges from professional through to leisure activities, and includes many semi-professional riders, and participants whose interest is split between commerce and leisure. Suppliers include farriery, feed, equine medicine, livery yards, racecourses, tack, and training.

Mr Michael said:

"The researchers' best approximation of the horse industry's gross output is £3.4 billion, but they acknowledge that this figure is not very reliable. Other estimates are that the horse industry employs 50,000 people directly and up to 200,000 people indirectly, 2.4 million people ride, and there are between 600,000 and just under a million horses in Great Britain."

Turning to the future of the industry, Mr Michael stressed:

"It is absolutely essential that divisions and disagreements within the industry are overcome and that those with an interest in the industry begin to view it as a partnership. The principal requirement for growth over the next ten years is to develop the necessary infrastructure to build and implement a successful strategy

"It is abundantly clear is that there is huge potential for the horse industry to chart a course for development and growth over the next decade. The British Horse Industry Confederation and Defra have begun working on the strategy, which we plan to complete by the spring of 2005. But we want everyone who is involved in any way with horses to have an opportunity to contribute to it."




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