According to information from the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, horses and mules were the number one agricultural commodity in the Commonwealth in 2008, with sales of horses and mules making up nearly 25 percent of Kentucky’s entire agricultural commerce.
That is not exactly surprising, except perhaps to a few fatcats in Frankfort who are deep in the pockets of casinos interests from other states.
One fact among the mass of information from the UK study that struck me as monumental, however, was that Kentucky’s sales receipts for equines make up 92.7 percent of the gross value for all horses and mules sold in the nation. That’s amazing.
The Thoroughbred auctions at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton (four each) provide the lion’s share of the equine gross, but a third contributor is the stud fees sold for Kentucky stallions, which are also taxed by the Commonwealth, unlike any other farm animal. In 2008, only 12 percent of Thoroughbred stallions stood in Kentucky, but they bred 40.7 percent of the mares in the country. And only four stallions with a stud fee of $15,000 or more stood elsewhere.
All this economic vitality is an essential component of the welfare of Kentucky, and yet a certain portion of the legislators in the Commonwealth seem bent on doing as much as possible to correct this imbalance between Kentucky’s horse business and that of other states. They want the Kentucky horses to go away to greener pastures, where their owners make money and race for larger purses.
Kentucky legislators prefer inaction on slots legislation that might offer parity between Kentucky racing purses and those from slots-enriched states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Delaware, Ohio, and Louisiana.
And while Dim Witt and his band of recalcitrant thugs hold the Commonwealth hostage to their personal agenda, stallions leave the Bluegrass. Mares, in van loads of 10 and up, are shipped out of Kentucky for permanent residence elsewhere.
This issue is important to everyone, not just farm owners. Yet the obstructionists in Frankfort want to dismiss the importance of the horse business because some owners are wealthy.
Only a handful of Thoroughbred farms are owned by millionaires, many of whom have worked 20 or 30 years to earn that distinction. Some of the rest are making a good living, and some are not.
Even so, every farm is paying taxes right and left, as well as enriching the local economy by providing work for farriers, vets, feed men and others who then plow that income back in to automobiles, homes, clothing, equipment, building supplies, restaurants, and everything else in the community.
So, whether the horse industry employs 50,000 people or 250,000, the number affected and benefitted by all the jobs and businesses, tourism and taxes is a simple number. It’s EVERYONE.
Let’s stand up and say it out loud: THE HORSE BUSINESS IS A GOOD BUSINESS, AND EVERYONE IN KENTUCKY OUGHT TO REALIZE THAT IT IS GOOD FOR THEM ALSO.