The equestrian industry in Serbia directly and indirectly employs about one hundred thousand people and achieves an annual turnover of slightly more than 80 million euros. This activity used to be much more developed in our country, and today the horse population is estimated at 15 to 20 thousand, among which there are less than 500 racing horses. A more intensive development of this industry would represent a “wide field” for connecting the countryside and the city and for a series of entrepreneurial activities, from the construction of facilities, racetracks and means of transport for horses, through equipment and food, to treatment and medical preparations intended for horses.
Horses were among the main protagonists in the conquest of America, and according to the American Horse Council, the equestrian industry in the USA now employs 1.74 million people. There are approximately 9.2 million horses and two million horse owners in the United States, while over 80 million acres of land are reserved for horse-related activities. Each year, approximately 870,000 horses compete in races, and the average annual income of a horse breeder ranges from $60,000 to $80,000.
According to The British Equestrian Trade Association’s National, this industry in the UK is worth around £4.7 billion and directly and indirectly employs 2.7 million people. Approximately 374,000 households own horses, while approximately 847,000 horses participate in races. The equestrian industry in France, according to data provided by “Spoga horse”, provides about 180,000 jobs, of which 57,000 are permanent employees, and the annual turnover of this industry is estimated at 14 billion euros.
As the above examples show, in countries where the equestrian industry is developed, it contributes significantly to national economies. Its impact is multiple, as it connects a large number of different businesses, often small, and combines rural activities with a multitude of city services. Although the structure of this industry, which belongs to both agricultural and sports activities, is quite complex, it can be divided into two main parts: the basic activities that include the breeding and use of horses, and the provision of services and goods for the realization of basic activities.
A unique “prop” in sports
Only 0.2% of agricultural households are involved in horse breeding in Serbia, and equestrian sports make up only a small part of the total sports activities, but even so, the equestrian industry is not a negligible branch of the economy. The horse population in our country ranges from 15,000 to 20,000, and approximately 12,000 people ride horses. This activity employs about 20,000 workers, another 80,000 people participate in activities related to horses, while the annual turnover of this economic branch is estimated at over 80 million euros, according to Milan Đorđević from the association “FEI Dressage Judge and Steward” and Kosana Vićentijević, a professor at the Academy of professional studies in Valjevo in the analysis of the prospects of the equestrian industry in Serbia.
The first equestrian society in our country was founded in 1885 in Belgrade. In 1894, the “Equestrian School” started working at the Ljubičevo state stud, which a few years later changed its name to the “Light Rider School”, focusing on the training of personnel for equestrian races. The first races were held in the Serbian capital in 1909, while the Hippodrome near Tsareva ćuprije was built in 1914 and is the oldest sports facility in Serbia. After the Second World War, in 1947, the Equestrian Association of Serbia was founded, which was oriented towards flat galloping and trotting horse races, and since 2002, the Association for Equestrian Sports of Serbia has been working for Olympic and FEI disciplines.
Over time, the equestrian industry has lost its importance in our country, so horses and riding are currently not well represented, which is also shown by the fact that there are only a few hundred registered riders who participate professionally in races. In our country, there is no complete register with precise records of the exact number of horses in breeding and how many are active in races. According to available information from the Association for Trotting, about a thousand horses participate in the races, and the number of registered foals is between 300 and 350 per year.
This is quite a large number in relation to the development of the equestrian racing industry in our country, state the authors of the study, who came to different data for the purposes of the research. According to their findings, there are less than 500 sports horses in Serbia that are registered for competitions in recognized international disciplines, while the number of foals is impossible to determine because there is no registry at the national level.
The equestrian industry is important for economic development because it is connected to a large number of different economic branches. A horse is a unique “prop” in sports, which has its own “producer”, i.e. breeder, and its own “servicemen” – trainers and riders. Other participants in the equestrian industry are: breeders, stablers, farriers, veterinarians, manufacturers of feed, supplements, equipment for riders and horses. This activity is also related to manufacturers of facilities for the life of horses and training grounds, fences, pastures, means of transport for horses, tools and horseshoes, medical equipment and medicines intended for horses.
Plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurship
Therefore, the equestrian industry is a “wide field” for the development of entrepreneurial ideas. They may include the production and sale of riding equipment, feed, straw and sawdust horse mats, fences, hurdles, carriages, transport trailers. The jobs also include the production of vans and trucks, prefabricated and permanent stalls for horses, and stable equipment in the form of brooms, shovels, carts and drinking troughs. This industry also needs manufacturers of textile goods, blankets, saddle pads, pads and bungees, as well as medical supplies, equipment and drugs, photos and videos.
The basic costs of keeping a horse are almost identical, regardless of whether the horse is raised from the worst or the best quality heads, but the later value, as well as the longevity of the horse, are not the same. Therefore, special attention should be paid to proper selection, in order to avoid bad investments in horses, the research points out.
The authors state that the main problems burdening equestrian sports in our country are the weak organization in the industry itself, as well as the lack of spatial and technical conditions for training. Sports facilities and hippodromes in Serbia, for the most part, are in a rusty condition and neglected. This reduces the possibility for safe equestrian sports and racing, limits the opportunities for the development of top sports, and at the same time discourages citizens from participating in riding programs.
Some of the infrastructure facilities are hippodromes in Belgrade, Požarevac, Šabac, Subotica, Leskovac, and there are also smaller equestrian centers and clubs. However, incomplete databases on the number of facilities, sports fields and tracks in Serbia, as well as their ownership structure and categorization lead to spontaneous and unplanned reconstructions of existing facilities and the construction of new facilities.
Also, existing sports facilities are mostly inaccessible to athletes with disabilities due to architectural barriers. In Serbia, there are no specialized or at least adapted sports facilities and centers, nor the necessary sports equipment and props for the training and preparation of athletes with disabilities. The problem is that there is no educational institution that deals with the training of new staff and the professional training of coaching staff, as well as a specialized institution that would improve the work of breeders and all workers in the equestrian industry.
One of the ways that would contribute to the revitalization of this activity is the development of the National Equestrian Center, as a hub for equestrian activities in the entire territory of Serbia, the authors of the study suggest. The Belgrade Hippodrome is considered the most important resource for the development of equestrian sports in our country, since production, services and organization in this area are also concentrated in the capital. Therefore, the National Equestrian Center, in addition to its basic role of promoting racing and equestrian sports, could integrate business people from different industries and contribute to the development of recreational tourism, connecting Ada Ciganlija and Kosutnjak, BiF writes.