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COLUMBIA – South Carolina’s horse industry is booming. All across the state, more people are enjoying horses than ever before.

Since the horse industry is so diverse, and the disciplines are so specific, many equine activities go unnoticed. For example, people who enjoy trail riding probably don’t keep up with the show circuits. Riders who compete on a regular basis know exactly where their shows are, but they don’t know about other events across the state. The list of horse activities is extensive, from open shows to breed-specific shows, schooling shows, and youth or club events.

The main horse activity in South Carolina is trail riding, with the majority of horse owners saying they keep their horses for pleasure. Another huge group of people are involving in showing and other competitions, which include western riding, driving, dressage, reining, cutting horses, rodeo, hunter paces, and many more.

And both thoroughbred and quarter horse racing are huge industries in the state, providing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic development.

Horses, mules and donkeys fall under the realm of animal agriculture because of the land needed to support them and the industry that has grown up around them. Farming produces hay, oats, corn and other feedstuffs, and the timber industry provides shavings and sawdust for bedding. Other jobs associated with horses include veterinarians, farriers, suppliers, tack stores, feed dealers, grooms, trainers, trailer repair, fence and barn builders, bedding suppliers, and a huge number of specialty jobs.

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For example, equine artists and photographers specialize in depicting horses. Fabricators are needed to make the horseshoe nails for the farriers, and leather craftsmen and saddle fitters repair the tack and items used by horse owners. Some restaurants in horsey areas cater to riders, with signs like “Boots & Breeches Welcome.” Several South Carolina horse publications also create a number of jobs. Trucks and SUVs are standard transportation for horse owners.

The reason people aren’t aware of the number of horses is simple: horse owners want to be in the country, not in urban areas or near major highways. They like rural settings, where the land is cheaper and the traffic is lighter. Horse owners want to interact with nature as well as with their four-footed companions.

The majority of horse owners have full-time jobs outside the horse industry. With some 90,000 horses living in South Carolina, the economic impact runs into billions of dollars. From little girls taking riding lessons to professional cowboys, the equine industry is a major factor in the state’s economy.

For more information about the equine industry in South Carolina, contact Marsha Hewitt, 803-734-2210, or visit agriculture.sc.gov/scequineindustry.

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