The American Horse Council Economic Impact Study of 2018 estimated that as of 2017 there were 7.2 million horses in the United States, of which 1.1 million were Thoroughbreds.  As demonstrated in my article of August 15, 2018 (click here), the 1.1 million figure is an actuarial impossibility.  Following is a “ballpark” estimate of the number of Thoroughbreds currently in the United States.  (The reader can easily make his or her own estimates by changing the figures used in the assumptions.)

Fact:  The Jockey Club registered 875,660 Thoroughbreds between 1990 and 2018.

Assumption 1:  The mortality rate between 1990 and 2018 for the Thoroughbred population from natural causes averaged about 3.4% per year.  Thus, to illustrate, from an actuarial perspective, 62.1% of the Thoroughbreds registered in 2007 and 31.9% of the Thoroughbreds registered in 1998 could be alive and 4.6% from 1990.  Some horses born before 1990 are still living but the number is so insignificant that it does not add much to today’s Thoroughbred population.  Using the calculations based on these actuarial assumptions, the total number of Thoroughbreds is about 409,183, give or take some for rounding.

However, exported Thoroughbreds and slaughtered Thoroughbreds must be deducted from the total of 409,183.

Fact:  According to The Jockey Club data, from 2007-2017 net exports of Thoroughbreds (i.e. exports minus imports) ran at about 8.7% of each year’s foal crop (The Jockey Club exports do not include registered Thoroughbreds sent to Mexico, Canada, and other countries for slaughter, which technically are exports.)

Assumption 2:  From 1990 through 2018, the number of net exports was approximately 76,182 horses.

Assumption 3:  The number of U. S. Thoroughbreds sent to slaughter from 1990 through 2018 averaged between 5,000 and 6,000 per year.  Take the midpoint of 5,500 and the aggregate lost to slaughter is some 159,500 over the 1990-2018 period.

Using these facts and assumptions, the number of registered Thoroughbreds in the United States in 2018 is:

X = 409,183 – (76,182 + 159,500) = 173,501

Fact:  Not all Thoroughbreds born in the United States are registered.

Assumption 4:  Say that 10% of all Thoroughbreds born each year are not registered, which comes to 87,566 over the 29-year period 1990-2018.  Using the same actuarial assumptions as above, 41,156 could still be alive, but accounting for those sent to slaughter, the number living is perhaps 33,748.

Number of registered and unregistered Thoroughbreds in the United States in 2018 is:

Y = 173,501 + 33,748 = 207,249

Suppose this figure is in error by a large margin of 20%.  The range would be between 165,799 and 248,698 living Thoroughbreds in the United States.

Even if one were to significantly change the assumptions used in the forgoing calculations, the total number of Thoroughbreds in the United States is far less than 1.1 million.

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