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The Equine Industry Brings Business to Sonoma County

Love of the Land

Sonoma State University has updated its 2004 economic impact study on the Sonoma County Equine Industry, with funding from the Sonoma County Horse Council. The industry includes training and boarding facilities, veterinarian services, apparel retailers, feed stores and events. The equine industry generates $613 million annually for Sonoma County businesses. It supports over 7,700 jobs, and provides almost $12 million in annual local tax revenues for Sonoma County governments.  

There are ripple effects on Sonoma County that add to the equine industry’s local economic footprint. The spending done by horse owners and allied businesses creates income for other businesses that allows them to retain their workers. The resulting conglomerate data demonstrates that for every horse in Sonoma County, businesses earn $23,386 annually.  Sonoma County equine and related businesses support horse owners with local trade, without having to import their services and products from outside the county.

A survey conducted between November 2013 and March 2014 provided primary data on equine businesses and ownership. Over 700 responses delivered information on consumption patterns, owner demography and equine businesses. Further, the survey provided evidence that owners and businesses are concerned about land use regulations and feed prices in terms of the industry’s sustainability in Sonoma County. Respondents were also concerned about the affordability of boarding horses and the lack of local equine resources, like workshops and a venue for horse shows.     

Additional information on spending by horse owners was also gathered from local businesses and equestrian operations. The survey was sent through the Sonoma County Horse Council, service providers and other contact lists that targeted horse owners and businesses. The total monthly median expenditure, based on how horse owners in the survey described their monthly expenditures, is approximately $1,475 per horse in 2013 or $464 million annually.

From an economic development standpoint, the Sonoma County equine industry is a mature enterprise due to the mix of local services, product providers and customer base. From local barns and stables to equine training and riding lessons, there are equine health providers, farriers and maintenance workers that help support recreational riding and show activities throughout Sonoma County and the region. These connections also attract equine enthusiasts as tourists.

The resulting economic impact creates local revenue from hotel stays, restaurant meals and taxes paid locally.

Based on aggregate data from Sonoma County equine businesses, approximately 26,217 horses lived in Sonoma County in 2013.  The largest concentration of owners and their equine animals are in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Petaluma. As for demographics, equine owners tend to be older, Caucasian and practice a wide range of equine disciplines in rural areas throughout Sonoma County.

Horse owners are also involved in a range of activities, from trail and pleasure riding to lessons and horse training, leading to costs of ownership and business revenues. The most popular activity for horse owners in Sonoma County is trail riding at 82.6 percent. Arena work follows at 49.9 percent.

Quarter Horses and Warmbloods are the dominant types of horses owned in Sonoma County, but Morgans, Mustangs and miniature horses are also abundant. Owners tend to possess between one and two horses each, and do not foresee a significant rise in buying and selling activity in the next five years.

The full report is available at:


Robert Eyler is the main author of The Economic Impact of Equestrian Activities in Sonoma County – 2014 study. He serves as Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.  Robert earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis in 1998.  He earned a B.A. in Economics at CSU, Chico in 1992.  Robert is also the CEO of the Marin Economic Forum, a private-public partnership aimed at Marin County’s sustainable growth through business vitality, social equity and environmental balance


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