The equine sector has a little less than one million horses in France (900,000 in 2008).
In 2009, there were 100,000 breeding mares; 2% more in ten years.
In the same year, there were 55,000 companies in this sector, 7% growth in ten years, and 1% more breeders.
Number of members increased by 150,000 practitioners in comparison with 2007 (700 000 riders), making the equine sector the third federation in France in terms of members (before judo, and after football and tennis).
The number of direct agricultural and non-agricultural jobs increased by 23% (39 400) between 2002 and 2009 and by 53% (6,030 in 2009) between 1999 and 2009.
Unlike the cattle sector for example, limited only to dairy or suckler cows, the diversity of farms dedicated to horses is much greater. Horse farms can be dedicated to sporting practices, leisure, or to breeding (where foals are born) among others. These different situations correspond to various feeding practices: some prefer food based on pasture, others use food supplements. A study of the equine sector should take this diversity into account, whilst considering the geographical factor.
Diversity of Farms
In general, farms have on average between 8 and 14 horses (stallions, mares, foals, draft horses etc). Much less than cattle farms, where herds average one hundred heads. Horses require different care and handling than, for example suckler cows. This is especially evident in training centres, where time invested in a horse is significant for relatively inconsistent results.
It is very difficult to make living only from horse breeding, and also difficult to deal with breeding dozens of heads. This explains the high proportion of farms that associate equine activity with another activity (production of milk, meat or cereal crops), between 20 and 50 % depending on the region. The characteristics of each region are observed in these proportions, with nearly a third of horse farms of Champagne- Ardennes also raising cattle/sheep for meat production, and also a third of farms of Franche-Comté raising dairy cows. As a rule of thumb, horse farms are associated with cattle for meet, which require less time and labour.
Thus there are many specialised horse farms compared to mix breeding farms, but only 13 to 35% of specialised farms have more than 15 heads, and 1,5 to 8% have more than 45 heads.
|In %||Aquitaine||Auvergne||Champagne-Ardennes||Franche-Comté||Languedoc-Roussillon||Lower Normandy||Upper Normandy||Picardie|
|Part of specialised farms||69||51||54||63||72||77||81||75|
|Among these farms|
|< 15 horses||81.2||86.3||75.9||74.6||65.3||87.0||75.3||86.7|
|de 16 à 45||14.5||11.8||16.7||23.8||27.8||10.4||18.5||10.7|
|> 45 horses||4.3||2.0||7.4||1.6||6.9||2.6||6.2||2.7|
The grass area available per horse also varies significantly according to farms and regions. On average, it varies between 0.7 and 4 ha, which corresponds to weak loadings. It is interesting to notice that regions with larger areas of grass available (more than 1.7 ha) are those with farms combining horses with cattle and sheep raised for meat are proportionally the largest (between 18 and 29%, against less than 11% for other areas). This is mainly due to divisions of plots between these various herds.
In terms of food autonomy, there are strong variations. There is no significant relationship between average grass surface per horse and share of food from the structure. This shows the manoeuvre margin available to increase the forage autonomy by making the best use of available grass, in particular with pasture, thus improving the health of the horses and limiting the occurrence of respiratory diseases.