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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

  • A number of thoroughbred horses wait along a fence line.



By Allen Wallace,
Posted on March 26, 2019

The economic impact of the equine industry in South Carolina has nearly quadrupled in the past 14 years and now contributes nearly $2 billion and 29,000 jobs annually to the state’s economy, according to a new study conducted by the University of South Carolina for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA).

“The study confirms that horses are a galloping industry in South Carolina in terms of economic impact,” says Simon Hudson, director of UofSC’s Richardson Family SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development and the lead researcher on the study. “Effective knowledge development and sharing between scholars and industry professionals provides a competitive advantage for South Carolina that is critical for industry growth. The data from this study can be used to inform future policy and business decisions.”

The Palmetto State has long been favored by the equestrian community for its warm climate and optimal soil conditions, and has become known around the world for racehorse training, polo, fox hunting, showing, and trail riding. The purpose of the study was to quantify the specific economic impact of the equine sector on South Carolina.

“Agriculture is a very diverse industry and the continued growth in the equine sector truly speaks to why agribusiness is the state’s largest industry. Whether it’s training facilities, racing or recreation, we are passionate about the impact the agriculture industry contributes to the state’s economy,” said Hugh Weathers, South Carolina’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

Study Finding Highlights:

  • Annual economic impact of $1.9 billion, supporting 28,545 jobs and more than $1 billion in labor income

  •  524 horse owners and 88 horse-related facilities surveyed

  •  73,600 horses in South Carolina (about 1 percent of total horses in the U.S.)

  •  17,963 Thoroughbred horses in South Carolina

  •  Nearly 26 percent of all horse-related expenditures are for recreation / leisure

  •  95 percent of economic impact comes from spending by horse owners on all horse-related goods, services, and transportation.

These numbers add to South Carolina’s agribusiness industry impact, which already contributed $42 Billion and 212,000 jobs annually to the state’s economy. 

The six-month study was funded by a $46,500 grant from the state and the findings were announced by SCDA in March 2019. The research was led by the university’s Richardson Family SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development, which is part of UofSC's College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management.  The Center is dedicated to conducting tourism and hospitality research that is relevant and directly applicable to South Carolina and expanding a network of knowledge sharing that can help support economic growth across the state.

The interdisciplinary research team included specialized expertise in tourism, equine business management, and state-wide economic impact analysis, including SmartState tourism researchers Fang Meng and Kevin So as well as Todd Koesters from the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management and Joseph Von Nessen from the Darla Moore School of Business.

Hudson and his team have conducted other equine-related studies, including a comprehensive study in 2012 for Aiken's Chamber of Commerce on the feasibility of an international horse park in Aiken. These prior studies and strong partnerships across the equine and agriculture community helped provide a foundation for continued innovation and partnership.

The full equine industry economic impact study is available at

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