The horse industry is in crisis

The Horse Industry in the United States is serious business! The American Horse Council has updated the most recent statistics available on the U.S. Horse Industry’s significant economic impact and included these FACTS:

  • 9.2 million horses in the United States
  • 2 million people own horses and the majority use is recreational
  • 4.6 million people are involved as owners, service providers, employees and volunteers
  • U.S. horse industry generates $102 billion annually
  • U.S. horse industry pays $1.9 billion in taxes annually
  • Recreational activities generate $32 billion (3,906,923 horses)
  • Showing of horses generates $28.7 billion (2,718,954 horses)
  • Racing generates $26.1 billion (844,531 horses)
  • 70% of horse owners live in communities with populations of 50,000 or less
  • 46% of horse owners have annual incomes ranging between $25,000 & $74,000; while 28% of horse owners earn in excess of $100,000
  • 45 of the 50 states each have a minimum of 20,000 horses

Those of us in the horse industry in the U.S. are business owners responsible for the production, management and selection of quality animals. The economic impact nationally is enormous given the statistics highlighted above. Yet, today, the horse industry is in crisis. The overall cost of caring for horses has increased exponentially while the amount of money available to the owners has decreased. By some estimates, there are upwards of 300,000 abandoned horses in this country. Shelters and rescue facilities are overwhelmed and counties and local authorities are struggling to find solutions. What has created this problem?

No “unwanted horse crisis” existed prior to 2005 – the year the updated statistics noted earlier was compiled. The year 2005 saw the implementation of the “back-door” processing ban that occurred when funding for USDA Inspectors was stealthily removed from the Agriculture (USDA) budget in November 2005. Congress effectively restored funding for equine processing in November 2012, when efforts to continue the ban were defeated. However, subsequent pending bills and re-interpretation of existing budget provisions continue to exacerbate the crisis.

The issue of feral horses and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policies and practices is a primary case in point. In general, the Agency has been forced to rein in its annual roundups because of the soaring costs of housing the animals – $44 million last year or 58% of its $77 million budget for the entire wild horse and burro program. With 47,000 animals now in holding facilities and demand for adoptions waning, the BLM plans to gather about 7500 horses and burros in each of the next three years, compared to about 10,000 in each of the past two years. The BLM has transported thousands of feral horses to contracted pasture sites in Oklahoma to live out their lives (potentially 20 to 30 years) at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer. Indian tribes are seeking relief and looking into opening processing plants on tribal lands. In a letter to the President and Secretary of Agriculture, the Yakama Nation Chairman Harry Smiskin wrote that no group was more affected by the devastation caused by feral horses on their lands and urged federal officials to reconsider existing policy restrictions.

  • 1. H.R. 1528,the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, would amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport and dispense controlled substances outside of their registered locations. Transporting and using controlled substances in the field is currently interpreted as illegal per the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under 21 USC 822(e). This Act is important for equine veterinarians and for their clients. Without the ability to carry controlled substances (i.e. pain medications and euthanasia solution) into the field, equine veterinarians are severely limited in their ability to treat their patients and relieve animal suffering.
    As of April 12, 2013 H.R. 1528 has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and, in addition, to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

We urge you to support this bill.

  • 2. H.R. 1094/S.541 – also known as the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act would amend the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. If passed, this measure would impose fines and prison time for anyone who sells, transports, imports, or exports horses going to a humane, horse processing facility. This measure would set a dangerous precedent by potentially halting the transport of livestock animals such as beef cattle and pork used for food. Today, the cost of transportation to Canada and Mexico for processing has effectively lowered the price buyers will pay. The traditional sale of 50-60 cents per pound is now bringing in only 10-15 cents per pound. These unsustainable rates have significantly increased the number of abandoned/neglected horses.
    H.R. 1094 has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and to the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry.

It is vital that this bill be defeated.

  • 3. We understand that the Secretary of Agriculture has refused, at the direction of the Administration, to provide USDA inspectors for U.S. Horse Processing Facilities, including a new state of the art facility in New Mexico scheduled to open. Such refusal is in direct defiance of existing law. According to the interpretation of USDA Budget SEC. 725, none of the funds made available in this Act may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to: (1) inspect horses under Section 3 of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (21 U.S.C. 603); (2) inspect horses under Section 903 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (7 U.S.C. 1901 note-Public Law 104127); or (3) implement or enforce Section 352.19 of Title 9, Code of Federal Regulations. [Reference: p197, Department of Agriculture Budget –]
    We urge you to restore funding for inspections and remove annual riders from the Ag Appropriations bill that prevent USDA inspection of horses.
  • 4. Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) has introduced H.R. 1518, “The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act of 2013” to amend the Horse Protection Act. Written by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), where Mr. Whitfield’s wife is a senior executive, they have secured willing co-sponsors in Congress for this animal rights-driven legislation. While the act claims to regulate the Tennessee walking horse industry, H.R. 1518 vastly expands the jurisdiction of federal inspectors and calls for oversight without funding that will harm the horse industry nationally.
    The current self-regulation system for the Walking Horse industry, the USDA coordinated DQP (Designated Qualified Person), has successfully regulated Walking Horse shows since 2009 with a citation rate 3X greater than the USDA.

This bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

It is vital that this bill be defeated.

In the overview above, I have sought to provide relevant information on behalf of the horse industry. I would like to now refer you to the following appendices:


  • Appendix A – GAO Releases Horse Welfare Report
  • Appendix B – The Promise of Cheval
  • Appendix C – Horses, the Free Market, and Equine Breeding and Welfare
  • Appendix D – A Point of View on Horse Slaughter by Dr. Richard Raymond
  • Appendix E – Facts & Answers to Frequently Asked Questions – Intl Equine Business Association
  • Appendix F – “There is a Thriving Worldwide Market for Horse Meat”
  • Appendix G – Questions That Should Be Asked Regarding Section 725 – Intl Equine Business Association
  • Appendix H – The Unwanted Horse in the United States – International Implications horse-in-the-united-states-international-implications
  • Appendix I – Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation Northwest Tribal Horse Coalition “Managing Excess Feral Horses in the Midland Northwest”

There are also a number of links referenced throughout the body of this document. I call your attention to one of particular interest – United Horsemen – – which will provide timely and invaluable insight.

Our industry urgently needs your understanding, assistance and support. Thank you for your time, your attention and your consideration.


Frank M. Hennessey

(313) 407-2070

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