Illinois Horse Industry Worth About $1.2 Billion Annually

The recession has taken its toll on the recreational animal industry. Still, it continues to provide massive economic benefit.

Published on: Feb 20, 2012

Horsemen's Council of Illinois has updated its fact sheet, "The Billion-Dollar Fact$," verifying that the state's equine industry continues to be an enormous economic engine, despite a slight drop in numbers of horses and horse owners due to the general slow down of all economic activity.

"It's estimated that the Illinois horse industry produces goods and services valued at more than $1.2 billion," says Kevin Kline, Ph.D, professor of animal science at the University of Illinois and a director of the Horsemen's Council of Illinois.

The equine industry annually contributes $39 billion in direct economic impacts to the U.S. economy, according to Kline, who compiled the Fact Sheet, citing data from Horsemen's Council of Illinois, the American Horse Council, Illinois Racing Board, Illinois Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Horse Industry Alliance.

The Billion-Dollar Fact$ sheet is online at

The study notes that the value of the equine industry is nearly as great as petroleum and coal products manufacturing and apparel and textile manufacturing and exceeds the value of industries such as motion picture services and railroad transportation.

Illinois is home to more than 178,000 horses, mules and donkeys valued at more than $300,000 million. There are nearly 64,000 horse owners in Illinois and more than 200,000 Illinoisans are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees and volunteers. Even more participate as spectators.

Based on the horse population figures, more than 285,000 people in Illinois ride horses on a regular basis.

Illinois is home to five racetracks with long seasons and more than 100 days of County Fair and State Fair racing for Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses.

Horses rank as the fourth largest source of personal consumption for recreation in the United States. Data shows that 70% of horses in Illinois are used for recreation and showing. More than 50% of the direct expenditures bolstering the Illinois economy come from "hobby" horses ridden for enjoyment and show.

Horses are a major segment of American agriculture. Although most horse owners don't market milk, meat or hides, horses are bred, raised, bought and sold like any other agricultural livestock. Stallion stud services also are traded, bought and sold as a recognized agricultural commodity.

Horses in Illinois annually consume 500,000 tons of hay and grain worth nearly $100 million each year.

Horses also mean entertainment. Spectators attend a wide variety of equine sporting events in Illinois, including racing, showing (rated, breed, open and 4-H), gymkhana (games, speed-and-action, jackpots); community celebration parades, trail riding; hayrides; draft horse and pony pulls; rodeo (professional, collegiate, high school); eventing (dressage, cross-country, stadium jumping); polo; driving; and the annual Illinois Horse Fair in Springfield, IL, which this year will be March 2-4 and expected to attract more than 10,000 horse owners.

More than 2.6 million spectators attend horse racing events in Illinois annually. Horse events generate local economic development from expenditures for lodging meals, fuel, souvenirs and other purchases by event participants.

With more than 3,200 young people in Illinois involved in 4-H horse and pony projects, horses play an important role in the personal development of young and old alike.