Horse industry the focus of economic study


The Colorado Horse Park will soon release the results of a four-month economic impact study on the still-thriving equestrian industry in Douglas and Elbert counties.

The two-pronged study – the most comprehensive of its kind in nearly a decade – will look at overall consumer spending on horses in the neighboring counties, including riding lessons, feed, tack, trailers, veterinarian bills, boarding and various other categories.

Kyle Fenner, business development manager for the Colorado Horse Park, said the research project will reveal “data to support what we have always assumed” and further legitimize the importance of what is believed to be a strong economic catalyst in the community.

“We have assumed that the horse park and the horse in general is a pretty major economic driver for the region, but it’s hard to show that when you’re talking to lawmakers, sponsors, county regulators,” she said. “We need to arm ourselves with data and arm them with data. Otherwise, nobody has any reason to take this seriously.”

The second portion of the study will look specifically at the Colorado Horse Park’s impact on the local economy. The acclaimed venue hosts national and international riding competitions, including the six-week Summer in the Rockies series that wrapped up in late July. Top-ranking professional equestrians bring teams that stay in Douglas and Elbert counties for as many as seven weeks, renting out hotel rooms, visiting restaurants and shopping at places like Park Meadows mall and the Outlets at Castle Rock.

“Each horse means multiple people (visiting),” Fenner said.

Fenner, who is overseeing the $15,000 study, distributed three different surveys aimed at gathering information and opinions from horse park competitors, horse park visitors and everyday recreational equestrians. That information will be merged with sales data collected from various organizations, towns and the two counties, several of which contributed financially to the study. Colorado Springs-based Summit Economics will dissect, analyze and make sense of the statistics to glean useful facts.

Paula Koch, vice president of the Douglas-Elbert County Horse Council, an advocacy group that helped fund the study, said she took the survey and offered information about her expenditures on her three horses. She owns 40 acres south of Elizabeth and estimated that she spends $2,400 per horse annually, all of it in Douglas and Elbert counties. She believes the far-reaching study will help local equestrians keep tabs on the health of that segment of the economy.

“We would like to be able to show that the equine industry has a large impact on this area, that we do contribute to its functionality,” Koch said.

Fenner said the research will help educate residents on the value of the industry as a whole. The Colorado Horse Park expects to release its findings in mid- to late September, before the sponsoring organizations and government agencies finalize their 2013 budgets.

The Colorado Horse Development Authority last conducted a large-scale study in 2005, prior to the economic collapse, but declined to undertake a new study, prompting the horse park to take the reins, so to speak.

“If we identify who is doing business in our counties, we can identify any gaps in the industry. Those gaps can be filled and we can identify opportunity,” Fenner said during her late-July pitch for support from the Elbert County commissioners. “Without knowing the truth about the status of the industry, we cannot make meaningful changes.”


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