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Conference paper2008

Horse farms as a factor for development and inoovation in the urban-rural fringe with examples from Europe and Nortern America

Elgåker, Hanna; Wilton, Bronwynne


Rural areas around the world are facing increasingly complex land use and development issues. To have truly vibrant and innovative rural areas, attention must be given to current trends in rural land use. One trend that has been noted in several developed countries in recent years is the increasing popularity of horse keeping. Sweden and the province of Ontario, Canada are prime examples of this trend and similar patterns can also be found in countries such as Ireland, UK, and the USA. Horse keeping is an interesting land use topic as horses are generally not kept strictly for economic profit, such as cattle would be, but are instead often kept for recreational purposes or simply as companion animals. This means that there is an excellent example of multifunctionality related to horse keeping as this industry connects with a number of different areas e.g. agriculture, recreation, landscape aesthetics, cultural heritage and rural planning. This paper will discuss issues related to horse keeping in rural areas including the economic impact of the horse industry, social and environmental issues, and areas of potential conflict and opportunity. Special focus will be on similarities and differences between Sweden and the province of Ontario, Canada. Both Sweden and Ontario show similar trends in horse keeping and provide an interesting case for comparison. The number of horses in Sweden is estimated at 240 000, while in Ontario, the number is about 330 000. In Sweden, the estimated number of horse facilities is 56 000 which is only slightly higher than the estimated 53 500 horse facilities in Ontario. While it is easier to compare the number of horses to human inhabitants in Sweden (one horse per 30 people), this figure would vary in Ontario based on regional population figures. The economic impact of the horse industry in both areas is substantial with the Swedish horse industry estimated at an economic turnover rate of 6.6 billion dollars. 2.8 billion of this is directly attributed to the equine industry and the rest is attributed to indirect and induced effects. The annual economic impact of the equine industry in Ontario is estimated at 579.1 million dollars and the investment in fixed assets is estimated to be 5.9 billion dollars. Currently, there is a lack of understanding and research regarding the ecological, social, and economic functions of horse keeping in rural areas, particularly as it would apply to innovation in the urban-rural fringe. As society continues to place increasing levels of demands on rural landscape and as the equine industry continues to grow in popularity, there will be an even greater potential for both conflicts and innovative opportunities. Issues of potential conflict include right of access for trail ways, multiple uses of trails, smells and dust from equine facilities, traffic concerns and public safety. Opportunities for rural areas to benefit from an increased number of equine facilities include the potential for preservation of aesthetic landscape scenery, economic spin-offs for the local economy, increased tourism and recreation opportunities, and a population with a vested interest in the region. The equine industry in developed nations must be more closely examined to understand the role that it will play in the future development of rural areas


Horse landscape; farm; rural-urban; land use; multifunction; planning; development; innovation

Published in

Title: Innovation systems and rural development
ISBN: 978-87-7903-343-6
Publisher: Forest and Landscape Denmark, University of Copenhagen


10th annual conference, Nordic-Scottish University for Rural and Regional Development

      SLU Authors

    • Elgåker, Hanna

      • Department of Rural Buildings and Animal Husbandry [LBT], Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Landscape Architecture
    Agricultural Science
    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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