American Horse Council (AHC) President Jay Hickey spoke to the International Livestock Congress in Houston, Texas on February 25 on future national issues that might impact the recreational segment of the horse industry. The address was part of the ILC’s Equine Program entitled “Saddle Up America.”

Hickey pointed out that according to the Economic Impact Study of the Horse Industry in the United States, done by Barents Group of Washington, D.C., “the recreational segment of the horse industry involves 3 million horses and 4.3 participants. It has an economic impact of $28.3 billion and supports 173,800 jobs.”

“Perhaps the most important issue facing equine recreation will be access to lands, both public and private. The industry must work with federal, state and local authorities to ensure that trails remain open. Federal and state funding for the construction, repair and maintenance of trails will be critical,” Hickey said. “The AHC is actively involved in the continued funding of the National Recreational Trails Trust Fund to ensure the maintenance and development of trails. The Forest Service’s Roadless Initiative and their proposal regarding drafting management plans for the use of Forest Service lands will be important. Finally, zoning laws could adversely impact private and public stables and the ability of people to be close to their horses.”

“Competition for individuals’ leisure time and money,” will clearly be a challenge in the future,” Hickey noted. “Marketing efforts, such as the Horse Industry Alliance’s ‘Saddle Up America’ program, to publicize the horse and recreation it provides will be important in that effort. The ‘baby boomers,’ who are approaching retirement or semi-retirement, are in good shape physically and financially and they will be a ready market for horse sports, particular