Rural Development and Horse Farms

Understanding the Economic and Social Impacts of Horse Farms in the Urban-Rural Fringe Regions of Ontario


Dr. W.J. Caldwell, Professor,
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
University of Guelph


Bronwynne Wilton


Research and Corporate Services Division Branch, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

executive summary
Horse farms are one of the least understood forms of agriculture in Southern Ontario and yet from an economic development perspective, they bring a multitude of economic benefits and spin-offs that create employment, encourage investment and protect the rural landscape. This project is aimed at understanding the impact that horse farms may bring to the rural-urban fringe of urban centres in Southern Ontario.

As the demographics of society shifts towards one of more affluence and leisure time, there has been a corresponding increase in the popularity of owning horses and horse farms in Ontario. While anecdotally, there has been an awareness of this increase in the number of horse farms in Ontario, there has been little quantitative analysis of the role of these horse farms in relation to the economic and social quality of the urban-rural fringe areas. This project will examine these issues through an initial quantitative analysis of the economic impact of horse farms and their role as an important rural land use. It will also consider the nature of their capital investment and innovative business ideas that promote the link between urban ‘consumers’ and the rural countryside. This project will also compare and examine the character of horse farm ownership in the United States and Ontario through a comparison of Kentucky, U.S.A., and Southern Ontario. Overall, this project will contribute an important analysis of the role of the horse farm in the urban-rural fringe areas of Southern Ontario. It is believed that the pursuit of this industry represents a legitimate economic development strategy. Finally, the research will identify the merits and opportunities for local economic development strategies that encourage the equine industry in Ontario.
goals and objectives
  • A research advisory committee will be established to provide input to the research. Invitations will be extended to the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, Regional Economic Development Agencies, The Ontario Equestrian Federation, Equine Guelph, and municipal land use planners
  • To conduct a comprehensive literature review on the role of horse farms in the landscape
  • To provide an initial quantitative assessment of the economic importance of horse farms, their role as a land use, and their choices with regards to location, adoption of BMP’s, capital investment, and innovative business strategies
  • To compare and examine the character of horse farm ownership in the United States and Ontario with respect to spatial patterns (i.e. are horse farms located in close proximity to each other), input requirements (i.e. veterinary services, feed suppliers, etc.) through an examination of Kentucky, US and southern Ontario. This will help to identify local and/or state level strategies that target horse farms from an economic development perspective
  • To develop a theoretical explanation for the findings of the literature review and the quantitative assessment of horse farms (i.e. why are horse farms not evenly located on a spatial plane?). This theoretical model will provide a base for future research on the horse industry in Ontario
  • To publish appropriate articles, guidelines, and press releases such as journal articles, an article in the OPPI Journal, short articles for Economic Development Newsletters, and the quarterly newsletter produced by the Ontario Equestrian Federation