by Michael Wren
Richard A. Ball, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner visited several Thoroughbred horse farms in Upstate New York recently, his goal being to show the importance and impact of thoroughbred horses beyond the scope of a racetrack. Ball said, “In addition to providing jobs and a significant boost to the economy, the equine industry, including the Thoroughbred racing industry, is critical to our growing agriculture community.”
Thoroughbred horse breeding impacts the economy much more than simply selling the horse and revenue generated from racing. A study on the economic impact of the equine industry in New York State suggests that the 2,300 horse farms and horse centers create roughly 33,000 full time jobs.
Starting out at Innisfree Farm in Galway, Commissioner Ball visited with Scott Gregory, who keeps 14 horses on his 20-acre farm. Gregory has been breeding horses for over two decades and this year he will be selling four horses at the annual Saratoga and New York-bred Preferred Yearlings Sales. Buying feed and protein pellets from New York farms as well as using veterinarians from the area, Scott Gregory perfectly exemplifies how a horse breeding operation impacts not only the racing industry but the entire community.
The next stop was at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs. The McMahon Farm has almost 1,000 acres and 300 horses in Saratoga Springs, NY. In addition, the McMahon Farm has bred horses that have won 32 Thoroughbred races this year alone. Joe McMahon, a managing partner of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds said, “The horse industry in New York is a real gem. It employs people and preserves green space. It’s a huge tourist attraction through the race tracks, especially in Upstate New York. I am very happy that the Commissioner of Agriculture took the time from his schedule to come here and ask the questions that need to be asked to ensure the future success of the industry.”
Finally the tour visited the Irish Hill Century Farm in Stillwater. The owner is a fifth generation farmer who turned the farm into a full-care Thoroughbred boarding facility that is dedicated to the breeding, foaling and sales preparation of horses. The farm today includes 500 acres of land and 140 horses, from foals to broodmares to stallions. They currently employ six people and plan to hire three more later this year. Rick Burke, owner of Irish Hill Century Farm said, “The horse racing and breeding industry is important to the economy and agriculture and we’re pleased the Department of Agriculture and Markets was able to tour Irish Century Hill Farm and see the pride we take in our operation. Our farm, and so many farms across the state, help keep land from being developed and ensure the livelihood for so many. From the hay and straw we produce to the people we employ, the impact is extensive. It’s important we work together to grow the industry.”
The industry also aids in the growth and production of key agricultural products, such as feed, hay and straw. Cornell Cooperative Extension reports that 40,000 acres of hay are harvested each year for horses in the racing industry. The report also estimates New York’s equine industry as having a multi-billion dollar direct and indirect impact on the state’s economy and generating tens of thousands of full-time jobs, such as horse trainers, veterinarians, farmers, feed suppliers, breeders, grooms, and blacksmiths, among others.
Jeffrey Cannizzo, Executive Director of New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. said, “A thriving equine industry is vital to the health of the New York State economy and to agriculture. We are pleased to join the Department on this tour of several, diverse horse breeding farms that exemplify our world-class New York Thoroughbreds. This is an excellent opportunity to emphasize the significant impact of the equine industry—a $4.2 billion effect on the state’s economy, including 33,000 full-time jobs and $187 million in state and local taxes for New York. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure the continued success of the New York horse racing industry.”
These farms all play a key role in helping to maintain a balance in the agricultural community. While racing is the face of thoroughbred horse breeding the impact of everything leading up to that is really what boosts the economy.
NYS Agriculture Commissioner tours upstate horse farms
by Michael Wren