BOISE — A bill introduced in the Idaho Legislature seeks to use money from an existing equine education account to help fund a statewide horse census.
The horse survey is conducted every five years by University of Idaho’s Social Sciences Research Unit at a cost of $40,000 to $50,000, depending on the type of data the industry is seeking.
“It is a very important survey for the industry,” said Stan Boyd, who introduced the legislation on behalf of the Idaho Horse Council.
The extra money could enable the survey to be more in-depth or conducted more often.
The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee unanimously voted to print the bill and give it a public hearing.
A three-page bill passed in 1990 dedicated a small percentage of monies wagered on horse races in Idaho to an equine education account.
The account has generated an average of $26,300 a year over the past decade and the money went to UI’s Northwest Equine Reproduction Laboratory, which became famous for cloning the world’s first mule, Idaho Gem.
However, the lab closed down and money from the account is being used for various equine programs in UI’s veterinary sciences department.
Boyd told lawmakers that IHC officials would like the money to be used first to fund the survey, and any excess funds would go to the university’s research and education programs “as agreed upon by the Idaho Horse Council.”
Providing more funding for the census would enable UI to do a more in-depth survey and conduct it more often, said Myron Amsden, president of the IHC, which represents the various equine organizations throughout Idaho.
He said the survey quantifies the economic impact the horse industry has on Idaho and is relied upon by many local planning and zoning commissions, banks and other private businesses, as well as the horse industry itself.
The most recent survey showed that there were 210,000 horses in Idaho and the industry had a $1.6 billion impact on the state’s economy.
It showed Idaho horse owners spend about $30 million on hay each year, $11 million on trailers, $4 million on medical care and pay $48 million in salaries for the boarding, training and care of horses.
“A lot of people don’t realize the sheer number of people who own horses in Idaho and the amount of money they spend on (horse services),” Amsden said.
The survey is the only complete horse census in the state because others are breed-specific, Amsden said.
“It’s a win-win proposition if we can get this done,” he said.