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Report2013Open access

Current status of the equine sector in the central Baltic region (Finland, Latvia and Sweden)

Lunner Kolstrup, Christina; Pinzke, Stefan; Löfqvist, Lotta; Järvinen, Maija; Korpa, Viola; Paula, Liga; Kursitis, Andy


This report covers basic descriptions and characteristics of the equine sector, including statistics on number of horses, horse farms, employment, current structure and recent dynamics in the horse sector in Finland, Latvia and Sweden and also the mobility (e.g. trade, import, export and tourism) within the Central Baltic Region. The information was gathered through literature reviews, round table discussions and interviews with equine organisations and stakeholders, and through visits to farms with equine business activities in each of the three countries. Horses in Finland, Latvia and Sweden At the moment the horse population in Finland is growing steadily. In 2010 there were about 75 000 horses. Most of these are warm-blooded trotting horses, but riding horses are becoming increasingly popular as riding as a hobby increases in popularity. Approximately 35 000 people own at least one horse and co-ownership is becoming a common way of owning a horse with relatively small costs and responsibilities, especially among trotting sports. There are approximately 16 000 stables, of which over 3 000 are business orientated. These numbers are still only estimates, because Finland is lacking a comprehensive register of stables and stable enterprises. Although statistical data on the number of horses, breeds, herds, stables etc. are being collected and are available in Latvia, there is still a lack of statistical data that characterise the sector in relation to employment, provide an idea of the financial results, and characterise horse uses for tourism or therapy purposes. For example, there are no data on the number of people working with horses. This is perhaps related to the perception of the sector as being located within the context of horse breeding. Statistical data show that the number of horses in Latvia in general has decreased, from 15 250 in 2005 to 11 476 in 2012, and the current trends indicate that it could decrease even more. The number of livestock has decreased correspondingly, from 9814 in 2005 to 5577 in 2012. More than 84% of all farms have 1 to 5 horses, and only a few farms have more than 100 horses. The number of horses in Sweden decreased in the early 1920s from about 700 000 to about 70 000 in the 1970s. During the past 30 years the number of horses has increased tremendously, but the trend seems to be stagnated the last few years. Today there are approximately 362 700 horses and about 20% of all horses in Sweden are within business establishments. The number of horses per 1 000 habitants is 39 for the whole country and Sweden is now estimated to have the second highest density of horses per capita in Europe. There are approximately 77 800 establishments involving horses in Sweden. The equine businesses have on average 4.7 horses and provide full-time or part-time work for a total of 25 000 people. About two-thirds of those working with horses are women. Horse related legislation in Finland, Latvia and Sweden Environmental legislation is one of the broadest judicial systems in Finland. It consists of a number of different laws and regulations, relating to waste disposal, water protection, environmental protection, land use and construction. After EU membership, environmental legislation in Finland was harmonised with EC (European Community) legislation, especially in the case of environmental protection and conservation. The main environmental legislation concerning the horse sector in Finland consists of following laws, directives and regulations: 1) Environmental protection law and regulation, 2) Waste law and regulation, 3) EU waste incineration directive, 4) By-product regulation, 5) Nitrate regulation, 6) Law concerning dead animals in remote areas, 7) The law on processing household water in remote areas, 8) Health protection law and regulation, 9) Fertilizer law, 10) Conservation law, 11) Land use and construction law and 12) Law about neighbourliness. According to the requirements of the Ministry of Agriculture, the policy of the horse breeding sector in Latvia is based on: a) Horse breeding is performed according to the targets stated in the breeding programme, which are based on production of high quality animals, preservation and improvement of the genotype through purposeful use of the breeding stock and improvement of horse monitoring, b) The importance of the development of horses and equestrian sports within the framework of the common agricultural policy is emphasised in order to encourage development of the rural environment, and c) Horse breeding is compliant with welfare regulations. National and European Union aid for the development of the agricultural sector is allocated to horse breeding too. Most of it consists of aid for breeding measures in the equine sector. Currently there are no specific regulations in Latvia which define requirements for keeping horses. Horse breeding is not distinguished separately within the field of animal welfare in Latvia and therefore the main document is the Animal Protection Law. Its norms are general, while Cabinet Regulation No 959 ´Welfare Requirements for the Keeping and Training of Sport, Work and Exhibition Animals and Use Thereof in Competitions, Work or Exhibitions´ does not specify actions with horses and can easily be interpreted in different ways. There is no measurable evaluation system to assess fulfilment of the requirements in the Cabinet Regulations. The law stipulates the actions and activities which may be undertaken with an animal and those which are strictly forbidden and lists the institutions that should supervise compliance with the law and the welfare requirements. Latvia lacks the basis of normative documents that would specifically regulate personal safety in the horse breeding sector and in businesses related to horse use. Therefore the common normative basis has to be considered, the foundation of which is the ´Labour Protection Law´. The foundation of Swedish environmental legislation is the Swedish Environmental Code. The purpose of the Swedish Environmental Code is to promote sustainable development which will assure a healthy and sound environment for present and future generations. The Code is a legislative framework based on a number of fundamental principles permeating international environmental protection and resource management. These include the "precautionary" principle, the "polluter pays" principle, the "product choice" principle and principles governing resource management, natural cycles and appropriate siting of industrial (and other) operations and remedial measures. The main environmental legislation in Sweden concerning the horse sector consists of the following laws, directives, ordinances and regulations: 1) Environmental Code, 2) Ordinance concerning environmentally hazardous activities and the protection of public health, 3) Ordinance on environmental consideration in agriculture, 4) Nitrate directive, 5) Water directive, 6) Swedish guidance on storage and spreading of manure, 7) Regulation on environmental consideration in agriculture as regards plant nutrients, 8) Ordinance on inspection and enforcement according to the Environmental Code, 9) Ordinance on self-inspection by operators, 10) Ordinance on animal by-products, 11) Ordinance on fees for examination and supervision under the Environmental Code and the fees ordinance, 12) Regulations on the protection of the environment, in particular the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture, 13) Regulations on consideration for natural and cultural values in agriculture, 14) Ordinance on environmental penalty charge, 15) The Planning and Building Ordinance, 16) The Land Code. In Sweden the occupational safety and health issues in general are regulated in the Work Environmental Act (SFS 1977:1160), in the Work Environmental Ordinance (SFS 1977:1166) and in several provisions. There is no specific legislation regarding occupational health and safety in the horse sector. However, these issues are included in the provision Working with animals (SFS 2008:17). Some results of the round table discussions in Finland, Latvia and Sweden In general, the participants in round table discussions in Finland were hoping for concrete solutions and examples of low-cost and easy help for everyday businesses. Entrepreneurs with lower profitability need more support, but the challenge is to get them involved in education or advisory events. The riding sector at least is much divided, with some businesses having as many customers as they can serve, and others who are constantly on the edge of bankruptcy. To help those small and medium-sized enterprises that need help the most, the project should produce advice that can immediately be used in practice, and concrete results and solutions. The problem with small and medium-sized businesses is the lack of capital and the related impossibility of investing large amounts of money in new technologies or large-scale facilities. In this sector the profitability and competitiveness are often low, but small changes in operations could improve these. Many business owners are still lacking business skills and they may not see what they could use as a competitive advantage. The current understanding of the equine sector in Latvia has to be reconsidered or a better understanding has to be created. Therefore the policy guidelines and the aid to the sector will have to be reviewed. For example, according to the view of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Latvia, the equine sector only concerns breeding and accordingly state aid is predominantly provided for this purpose. The Latvian Horse Breeding Association also considers breeding to be its priority, but several representatives of the tourism industry expressed the opinion that horse breeding should be reconsidered, paying special attention to the Latvian horse breed, which could be interesting for foreign and local tourists as a special feature of Latvia. Latvian breed horses possess a nature and traits that make them suitable for tourism and also therapeutic riding purposes. The equine sector in Latvia in general lacks a clear direction for orientation, what should be bred, what might be a profitable product or an exportable product. Since this is not clear on a national scale, it is difficult to discuss aid instruments. The people working in the sector often lack skills in project preparation, they do not have time to learn and study it all, and therefore it is difficult to apply for and to receive the aid. In order to solve this, it is usual practice to involve companies that prepare the project application. Other entrepreneurs try to master these skills themselves. The horse sector in Sweden is now on a downward trend, pointing out the decreased number of served mares. The horse businesses need to streamline their business ideas, look for better locations (closer to customers) and the activities offered must be more adapted to customer needs and demands, such as different types of activities and livery stables with more specialist services or diversified food production. In general, horse stables will have a lot of opportunities in the sector if they can keep up with the changes in the sector. The interest in Sweden regarding keeping horses and attending riding sports was perceived to be decreasing and it was thought that there is a system change underway. The way to keep horses in the future may not be the same as it used to be. People are not willing to sacrifice time and efforts to keep on with horses any more, people are getting older and there is limited recruitment of young people into the sector. The horse activities mainly take place in urban and periurban areas.


Equine business; Horse entrepreneurs; Cross boarder collaboration; Economically Competitiveness; Innovation; Central Baltic area; Sweden; Finland; Latvia

Published in

Landskap, trädgård, jordbruk : rapportserie
2013, number: 2013:17ISBN: 978-91-87117-48-0
Publisher: SLU, Institutionen för arbetsvetenskap, ekonomi & miljöpsykologi