In 1982, the Horse Industry Association of Alberta (HIAA) was established to act as an organized body for local breeders and owners. Before 1982, many of the activities were organized by the University of Calgary. Located in Red Deer, the association grew large enough by 1991 that it needed to be incorporated as a non-profit organization.
Since 2003, the HIAA has been directly involved in the development and growth of the horse industry in Alberta. Grants are received annually to help local breeders and owners manage their herds with greater efficiency. Events are held each year to promote the industry, provide sporting support, and offer networking opportunities.
Although herd populations have been increasing globally in the horse industry, Alberta has seen a different trend. There have been slight declines in the overall population over the past decade. The province has just begun to recover from an economic recession and, since most horse owners have private ownership, they have sold their horses because they could not afford them.
Important Alberta Horse Industry Statistics
#1. In 2010, there were an estimated 963,500 horses in Canada living on 145,000 different properties. 33% of the herd was located in Alberta. (Equestrian Canada)
#2. The total number of horses in Canada has been slowly declining over time. In 2005, there were 1.092 million horses in the country, representing an 11.8% decline. Only one province, New Brunswick, reported a higher estimated herd size. (Horse Journals)
#3. 59% of the individuals involved in the horse industry are above the age of 18. Since 1998, this ratio has been shifting more toward adults than children. (Horse Journals)
#4. Most horses within the Alberta horse industry are between the ages of 6-8, accounting for 59.9% of the total herd. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#5. About 28% of the herd in Alberta is reported to be more than 21 years old. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#6. The most common breed of horse in Alberta is the Quarter Horse, with over 55% of owners having at least one member of the breed. They are followed by Arabians (22%), Thoroughbreds (20.5%), and Paints (16.8). (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#7. About 1 in 5 horses in Alberta are a cross-breed of some type. About 25% of cross-bred horses involve a Quarter Horse. Another 25% involve a cross with an Arabian. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#8. In a survey of Alberta horse owners, 68% noted that their horses are primarily used for recreational riding. Breeding (42%) and trail rides (40.9%) were also top responses to a question that allowed for more than one answer to be selected. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#9. Over 64% of owners in the Alberta horse industry state that no one outside of their household rode or drove their horses within the past year. Of those that did have outside individuals working with their horses, 11.2% of them were business owners. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#10. 72% of the horses found within the Alberta horse industry are involved in some type of regular competition. 1 out 4 horses involved in competition is owned by an operational business. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#11. The most common area of competition for horses in Alberta is jumping and dressage. This is followed by racing, shows, and gymkhana. About 40% of horse owners pay $1,000 or less on annual competition expenses with their horses. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#12. 0.8% of horse owners in Alberta spend more than $100,000 on competitions annually with their horses. In a survey of owners, one stated that they averaged more than $400,000 in annual competition costs. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#13. 47% of horse owners in Alberta have between 11-80 acres of rangelands or pasturelands for their horses. Another 17.5% of owners stated having up to 160 acres of space to use. 16% of owners stated that they owned horses on 10 acres or less of land. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#14. Just 18% of horse owners in Alberta are involved in direct employment support for horse-related activities. Jobs include breeding, PMU operations, racing, coaching, stable work, and meat production. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#15. For horse owners that do hire employees, the average number of people employed at a facility is just 7. 38% of the workers employed by the Alberta horse industry are classified as “occasional.” (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#16. 40% of horse owners in Alberta report that they breed their own horses. Owners rely on family and friends for purchasing horses more often than auctions, claiming, or private contracts. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#17. About 11% of horse owners in Alberta admit to not using veterinarian services within the past 12 months. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#18. For those that do regularly use veterinarian services, 60% of owners say that their most common need is for routine health care. Injury treatments (35%) and pregnancy testing (31%) are common services as well. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#19. The most challenging health issue facing the Alberta horse industry is the West Nile Virus. Additional concerns include horse cough, infectious anemia, and swamp fever. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#20. Over 78% of horse owners in Alberta report that they need to add supplements to their feed because of shortages, poor weather conditions, and poor food quality. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#21. About 11% of horse owns report that they use performance enhancers with their animals. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#22. 96% of owners report that they use minerals, vitamins, and proteins to supplement their feed. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
#23. About 1 in 3 horse owners in Alberta report owning other livestock. Cattle is the most popular complementary option, but sheep, pigs, bison, and chickens were also quite common. (Alberta Horse Industry Association)
Alberta Horse Industry Trends and Analysis
Environmental conditions can have dramatic and immediate impacts on the horse industry in Alberta. Arid conditions create downward pressures on the values the industry can experience, while upward pressures on feed and supplements are also present at the same time.
When an economic recession is present at the same time as difficult environmental conditions, owners decide to cull their herds. That creates a large spread in pricing for the industry. The best values are for horses that are well-bred and well-broke.
The industry in Alberta is changing. Lessons and training don’t bring in the same revenues they once did. Participation in special events, such as reining or rodeo, is almost mandatory to generate revenues.
Over time, the Alberta horse industry may be able to experience high levels of growth once again. In the meantime, the goal is to stabilize the losses that have been occurring as of late.