(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the equestrian sector
A favourable economic climate during the the mid 2000s encouraged people to ride and to buy a horse or pony and the equestrian industry grew strongly. The number of horses and ponies increased considerably as people looked for healthy activities to occupy their leisure time. According to the National Equestrian Survey, which is carried out by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), in 2006 there were around 1.35 million horses in the UK. However, the economic downturn during the late 2000s and into the 2010s affected demand for many types of business in the horse industry. Some horse owners were forced to sell their animals and many cut back on expenditure as far as possible. The 2011 BETA Equestrian Survey found that the number of horses and the value of the equestrian market had both fallen since the mid 2000s.
Even though the economy started to recover at the end of 2013 and the recovery continued throughout 2014 and into the first half of 2015, the 2015 BETA survey found that the number of horses and the number of regular riders had both fallen since 2011. The survey also found that the amount spent on equestrian items like hats and clothing had hardly increased between 2011 and 2015.
Unfortunately the recovery slowed during the second half of 2015 and into 2016. As a result of the increased economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote in June 2016, consumer confidence in the economy fell and economic performance was poor throughout the second half of 2016, all of 2017 and into 2018 as household budgets came under strain due to inflation and limited real growth in wages putting pressure on consumers' disposable income. Little change is expected in 2018 and 2019, with growing pressure on disposable incomes continuing to lead to consumers tightening their belts, cutting back in particular on discretionary spending like horse ownership and riding.
Following the success of the British Horse Society (BHS) Ride Out Week, the BHS introduced a Ride Out Month in May 2017. Their aim is to encourage riders to use their local bridleways and routes and raise the profile of riding generally. Despite initiatives such as this, it's likely that the market will remain very competitive. A lot of farm supply businesses have diversified into equestrian products in recent years. Other competitors include riding schools and online retailers that offer a wide range of tack and related items.
Keeping up to date with developments
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up to date with developments in the industry.
The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) represents the interests of retailers within the equestrian industry. Members must operate as a bona fide business - registered for VAT - observing normal working hours and based in proper retail premises (or with dedicated business premises if the business just makes distance sales online or by mail order). They must also comply with a Code of Conduct. Membership of the Association provides many benefits and being entitled to display the BETA symbol indicates to customers that the business is run to certain standards. BETA also offers a Business Fledgling Pack for people who want to set up an equestrian business. The pack includes 'Equestrian retailing - an essential guide to starting out' as well as other benefits. Contact BETA at Stockeld Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS22 4AW or visit the Association website for more information and also for details of the BETA International trade exhibition, held in Birmingham each year.
The British Horse Society (BHS) is a charitable organisation that promotes the interests of all horses and riders in the UK. The BHS website contains a wealth of information about the equestrian sector.
Subscribing to a trade journal is another good way of staying up to date. The Equestrian Trade News journal is a monthly magazine for the industry published in partnership with the BETA. Visit the journal's website for more information.
Specialist publishers Bettrends stock a wide range of horse business, saddlery and harness books. Visit the Bettrends website for more information.
Other useful sources of information for the equestrian sector include:
- Equestrian Business Monthly
- Horse and Hound