WHY THE “REAL” NUMBER OF THOROUGHBREDS IN THE USA MATTERS

The American Horse Council Economic Impact Study was conducted in 2017 and published in early 2018.  Statistics from the survey research were cited at the August 12, 2018 Jockey Club Roundtable Conference.  Laura Barillaro, Jockey Club Executive Vice President, said:

“On February 28th, the American Horse Council announced the results of its 2017 Economic Impact Study, an update from the 2005 study….according to the study, the horse industry in the United States generates approximately $122 billion in total economic impact, compared with $102 billion from the 2005 study.  It also provides employment for 1.7 million people.  The current number of horses in the United States is more than 7.2 million, with Thoroughbreds accounting for approximately 1.1 million, or 16% of the total.”

The number of Thoroughbreds in the United States is manifestly vastly overestimated.  The Jockey Club website shows that in the 28-year period 1990 through 2017, the aggregate number of registered Thoroughbreds in the United States was 855,735.  (Not all Thoroughbreds born are registered.)  Life expectancy for a horse is about 25 years.

If every Thoroughbred registered in the United States between 1990 and 2017 were alive in 2017, it would take another 244,265 unregistered Thoroughbreds to total 1.1 million.  This calculation does not take into account that The Jockey Club reports that exports of Thoroughbreds from the United States typically exceed imports by a factor of three to one, so there is a net outflow.  For example, in 2017, 2,324 Thoroughbreds were exported versus 734 that were imported.  Unregistered Thoroughbreds make up some of the differential.  But, even so, it is evident from actuarial mathematics and common sense that all Thoroughbreds registered between 1990 and 2017 are not living.

There are two reasons that the American Horse Council’s inflated figures are important.

First, the 1.1 million estimate is so obviously exaggerated that it calls into question the validity of the putative $122 billion economic impact of the horse industry in the United States.

Second, animal welfare.  The Humane Society of the United States reports that over 100,000 horses are exported from the United States to foreign slaughterhouses annually.  If racehorses comprise 16% of the total U. S. horse population (using American Horse Council statistics) about 16,000 Thoroughbreds are slaughtered every year.  This figure is far too high because there cannot be anywhere close to 1.1 million Thoroughbreds alive in the United States.

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