The Sonoma County Horse Council (SCHC), an important partner to Sonoma County Farm Bureau, is counting on every local horse owner to participate in Sonoma State University’s equestrian funded 2013-14 Online Survey of Sonoma County’s Equine Industry. The survey got underway Nov. 1.
As with several previous surveys conducted over the past 20 years, the results will provide crucial data on the impact of equines on Sonoma County’s economy and environment. Those involved in any manner with equines of any type or breed – horses, donkeys, mules, ponies, minis, even zebras – are being asked to go online to take the brief survey at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sonomaequine. If you don’t have computer access, to receive the survey by mail, you may contact The Survey Management office by phone at 707-664-4256. The sooner equine owners participate, the earlier the results can be published.
Ron Malone, current SC Horse Council President, recalls that the most recent SSU Equine Survey update in 2008 revealed that with near 20,000 horses counted, there are now more horses than cows in Sonoma County. “In this new century, the horse has truly become the living, breathing symbol of the vibrant agricultural sector of Sonoma County’s economy. Even after the disastrous Great Recession, I expect that the local equine industry is generating in excess of half a Billion dollars in annual business revenue.”
Such optimism appears justified when you consider that horses are found in increasing numbers providing work and play on farms and in vineyards throughout the area. Malone says that The Sonoma Horse Park, an expanding exposition and boarding facility accessed from Lakeville Highway near Highway 37, has, itself, generated millions of dollars by presenting annually up to 7 competitive horse shows drawing several hundreds of horses and equestrians to each event. The Horse Park is also home to a therapeutic riding center, using horses as an innovative rehabilitation tool for the physically and mentally disabled. Therapists fully realize that equines offer a naturally healing and calming rehab effect, even for returning military suffering from PTSD. Sonoma County is now home to an expanding variety of therapeutic riding facilities. Recently, luxury goods manufacturer, Gucci, sponsored The Giant Steps Charity Classic at Sonoma Horse Park, honoring this new-found human-healing importance of the horse.
This new Sonoma County Equine Survey is being conducted by Dr. Robert Eyler, Professor and Chair of Economics at Sonoma State University and the Director of the Economic Development and Innovation Accelerator at Sonoma State University. He is also the Director of SSU’s Executive MBA program.
Dr. Eyler says the survey will “help define the economic footprint of this industry, of horse owners, and of the land used for equine animals across Sonoma County. Sonoma County is a place where equine animals are an obvious attraction, a business, and something that differentiates Sonoma County from its surrounding counties. We want equine businesses to not only remain and survive in Sonoma County, but also to thrive. The information we gather will tell us a lot about how important the supply chain of the equine industry is to Sonoma County.”
Recognizing from earlier equine industry surveys that some horse owners and small business operators may have concerns about confidentiality, even fearing that it might be government intrusion, Eyler comments that “government plays no role in the conduct of this survey; it has been voluntarily funded by the horse owning community. Information gathered is guaranteed to be 100% confidential and will only be presented publicly as statistics; no equine owner or business will ever be identified in the survey reports.”
Once gathered, this data provides the inputs into an “economic impact” report, which tells us how different equine serving businesses are connected to each other, and how equine owners are connected to these businesses. From buying hay and tack; paying for farrier services; purchasing tickets to horse shows; or hiring your vet to vaccinate your horse, a lot of money and resources are committed to funding equine businesses, barns, and the horses themselves. Sonoma State has done such reports like this in the past; this new data helps update this valuable information.
Dr. Eyler further comments “As a horse owner myself, I know that having local equine facilities and events helps reduce expenses for families, and perhaps my own 6-year old daughter will ride sooner and more frequently.”
The SC Horse Council’s Ron Malone and Dr. Eyler ask that you please complete this survey. “The information provided by horse owners is sure to help us provide improved support for equine events, businesses, and people like you who live the equestrian way of life enjoyed throughout Sonoma County. Survey statistics will be published by spring 2014, once a full analysis is completed; the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and the Board of Supervisors will be impacted by live presentations of the data.
Please help us keep a healthy equine segment in Sonoma County agriculture, as this new survey defines and supports our own industry and pastime.”
Take the equine survey today to help yourself and your equines. Go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/sonomaequine.
Ed Weber, President
Sonoma County Driving & Riding Club