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Despite the costs of ownership and the proliferation of the unwanted horse population, the horse remains an important part of US culture. Over

the past few years, Americans have illustrated their love of horses in a variety of very visible, public ways as sales in the US equine market reached $23 billion in 2013.

In the recently released report, The U.S. Equine Market, 2014, market research publisher Packaged Facts reveals why horses and the people who own them continue to be an essential component to the U.S. pet market. The report can be found at: packagedfacts.com/redirect.asp?progid=86538&productid=8198982.

Here are five key findings from The U.S. Equine Market, 2014 that pinpoint why horses cannot be overlooked in a pet market largely dominated by products and services geared towards more traditional household pets such as dogs and cats:

1) The horse industry has its own marketable celebrities. These are successful riders and trainers who have built names for themselves throughout the years as reliable sources of information about horse care. Using a film star to endorse horse feed will not have quite the same impact as having a rodeo star who eats, sleeps, and breathes horses and says a particular feed is the only one he uses. Consequently, the names used to endorse horse products may not be familiar to the average consumer, but in the horse market these names are worth their weight in gold, notes Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle.

2) Horse owners are receptive to Internet marketing, blogger opinions, and online peer reviews. For many horse product marketers, the best promoters of their products are their customers. Opening up websites for consumer comments, via a blog or other audience-participation mechanism, allows other customers to obtain unbiased feedback about the products. Additionally, marketers encourage brand communities through actively recruiting customers to participate in different challenges or contests, or even by asking for them to submit testimonials of how they use the products and how their horses have benefited.

3) The human-animal bond is just as strong between (wo)man and horse as it is with other pets. One of the most potent and relied-upon marketing tactics among pet product marketers is the human-animal bond, and the equine market is no exception. The bond between horse and owner at times goes even beyond that between other pets and their owners, in that riding a horse requires a constant physical communication between horse and rider, a connection that can foster emotional attachment in a way that simply petting a cat or dog does not.

4) Horses too can play a role in animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Much like therapy dogs and cats are used to help humans with emotional and physical ailments recover quicker, equine therapy (also referred to as horse therapy, equine-assisted therapy, and equine-assisted psychotherapy) is a form of experiential therapy that involves interactions between patients and horses. Equine therapy typically involves activities—such as grooming, feeding, haltering and leading a horse—that are supervised by a health professional, with the support of a horse professional. The goal of equine therapy is to help patients develop needed skills and attributes, including accountability, responsibility, self-confidence, problem-solving skills, and self-control. Equine therapy also provides an innovative environment in which the therapist and the patient can identify and address challenges.

5) "Natural horsemanship" provides marketers with opportunities to bring premium pet products into a unique segment. Running counter to many traditional horse keeping practices and training techniques, the "natural horsemanship" movement has grown popular among horse enthusiasts. Definitions of natural horsemanship vary depending upon the region, but in general, it is the belief that horses prefer to learn from humans who use gentle techniques, and allow the horses to think and make decisions based upon the information that is given to them. A major part of natural horsemanship is the environment in which horses are kept. Those practicing natural horsemanship point to the fact that horses prefer to be kept in large outdoor environments in groups, and not in stalls or small pens alone.

Despite the focus on "natural" conditions, natural horsemanship actually presents a marketing opportunity for the horse industry. Overall, the horse product market has been slow to ride the premium and natural product wave that has been developing in the small companion animal markets for some time. However, this growing trend toward natural horsemanship has caused some owners to rethink the products they are buying. Although natural horsemanship owners may spend less money on shoes and veterinary care for ulcers and colic, they may actually end up spending more in the long run—e.g., on natural feeds and supplements, holistic treatments and herbs, specialized (i.e., expensive) barefoot trims or boots, etc.—to enable their horses to live without shoes, and bitless bridles. In fact, the demand for natural products is great enough that most major equine retailers now have a section just for them, and natural equine product websites abound online.

For more information on The U.S. Equine Market, 2014 and other reports in Packaged Facts' industry-leading market research catalog focused on pet products and pet services please visit: packagedfacts.com/.

SOURCE Packaged Facts

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