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Economic impact of trail riding in Minnesota

$29.4 million gross state product, 522 jobs, $16.9 million in labor compensation, $3.7 million in tax revenues

Summarized by K. Martinson, University of Minnesota

Minnesota has an active equine industry with an estimated 90,140 horses and 13,048 farms, ranking Minnesota 13th in the nation with a $1 billion impact on the state annually. In Minnesota, more than 1,000 miles of horseback riding trails are managed by the Department of Natural Resources, with more than 200 miles of additional trails on other lands. Minnesota is home to over five million people, of whom 4.5% participate in horseback riding. The objectives of this research were to document the profile of recreational horse trail users, their motivations, expenditures, and their economic impact on the state.

Minnesota residents who purchased a state horse trail pass were used to develop the survey database. From this database, a random sample of 804 Minnesota residents was selected. An eight page mail questionnaire was developed, pre-tested and implemented in fall 2008. The questionnaire included sections on experiences, trips and expenditures, and demographics. There was a 60% response rate. Spending and economic impacts were estimated at the destination regions. Estimates from an exit-survey of Minnesota state park visitors were used to determine trip spending for major consumer items. Park attendance data was applied to the average spending to project visitor spending.

Eighty percent of respondents were female, between the ages of 41-50 (55%), and were White, non-Hispanic (90%). Respondents reported an average of 27 years of horseback riding experience. Of the 20 possible motivations for horseback riding, seven were important or very important to more than 75% of respondents, including to view the scenery (96%), be close to nature (94%), get away from the usual demands of life (94%), experience nature (93.1%), explore and discover new things (90%), relax physically (90%), and be physically active (88%).

Respondents spent an average of 23.5 days trail riding within 30 minutes of their home. Trips to nearby trails by residents accounted for 72% of total days spent on horseback trails in the state. Resident horseback riders spent an average of $26.88 per person-day at nearby trails. Horseback riding by residents resulted in almost $43 million in consumer spending. Out-of-state visitors added $6.9 million which increased total spending on Minnesota horse trails to almost $50 million.

It is estimated that total horseback trail riding expenditures produced $34.7 million in output of directly affected businesses, and the gross state product amounted to $29.4 million. Three hundred and fifty-nine jobs were supported by the direct spending, plus an additional 163 jobs from indirect impacts on related businesses and local suppliers. Total labor compensation was estimated at $16.9 million, and state and local tax revenues at $3.7 million.

Average annual per person equipment expenditures for horseback riding included $536.55 in horse feed, $521.91 in truck/trailer maintenance, $243.20 in veterinarian costs, $201.25 in farrier costs, $189.15 in new equipment, and $101.62 in the purchase of used equipment. Total spending reached $530.2 million. This resulted in, $390.9 million in gross state product, and $49.4 million in state and local taxes.

This study demonstrates the importance of the horse industry to the Minnesota economy. Maintenance of existing horse trails and consideration for trail expansion in Minnesota is recommended.

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