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BETA survey lifts lid on impact caused by COVID

The survey set out to measure the impact of COVID-19 on riding and equestrian spending habits

18 March 2021, at 3:00pm

The findings of a new British Equestrian Trade Association survey provide a fascinating snapshot of the UK’s equestrian sector in the wake of a global pandemic. The survey set out to measure the impact of COVID-19 on riding and equestrian spending habits. It took place in December 2020 and January 2021, with 1,508 horse owners and riders providing input on their activities since the beginning of 2020.

The detailed survey, commissioned by BETA and carried out by JDA Research, reveals that online shopping has increased by a staggering 38 percent, highlighting an increased trend for “armchair” spending. This unexpected boost is thought likely to play an important role in helping to shape the future of retail.

Although affiliated and non-affiliated competition has been impacted, there is only a slight decrease in riding overall, which is expected to recover and return to pre-COVID-19 levels. Meanwhile, there has been little change in horse ownership.

“It has been two years since the last BETA National Equestrian Survey was published and the world has had to contend with enormous challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “The past 12 months has been incredibly tough for many of us in the equestrian sector, affecting riders, their horses and the industry.

“This new survey offers us a unique insight into the way in which the pandemic has affected our core activities of shopping for equestrian goods, riding and horse ownership – and helps us to shape our response for the future.”

Here are the key findings on equestrian spending:

  • 9 percent of those surveyed said they were spending more on equestrian goods.
  • 21 percent said they were spending less or had stopped spending.

Increased spenders tended to be younger, with 23 percent of under-25s spending more – and on items associated with riding rather than on the upkeep of a horse, with 58 percent of them buying saddles and 35 percent investing in general rider clothing.

Older riders and horse owners (over-45s) were more cautious with their spending and only 5 percent of this age group were spending more, compared with 23 percent who were spending less or had stopped.

Top three items bought during the pandemic:

  1. 58 percent bought equipment for horses such as saddles and rugs.
  2. 35 percent bought rider clothing.
  3. 34 percent bought horse feed.

Online spending showed significant changes, with 49 percent of riders and horse owners shopping online more than they did at the same time in 2019, and they were spending 38 percent more on average than they did before the pandemic. Two in three said they would continue with online purchasing in future.

Impact on riding

Competitive riding has been severely hit by COVID-19, with only 15 percent of riders taking part in affiliated events compared with 30 percent in a typical year. Despite this, six in 10 equestrians said they continued to ride the same as or more often than they did before the pandemic. Here are the key facts on riding behaviour:

  • One in 20 riders said they had stopped riding completely since March 2020.
  • Hacking remains the most common riding activity and the one least hit ,with only a 7 percent fall from 93 percent of riders participating in a typical year.

Impact on riding

The overall impact of COVID on the frequency of riding is generally small, with the following key findings:

  • 59 percent of riders were riding more often or at least the same.
  • 41 percent of riders have been riding less often since the pandemic
  • The average frequency of riding days per week was down from 3.9 in a normal year to 3.3 during the pandemic.
  • Riders under 25 are three times more likely to ride more often than those aged over 45.
  • The overall number of people riding over the previous 12 months was down from 3 million in 2018 to 2.5 million, while those riding at least once a month fell from 1.8 million to 1.5 million.

Impact on horse ownership

Overall, there have been only slight decreases in the number of horse owners, from 446,000 in 2018 to 433,000, and privately owned horses, from 670,000 to 650,000.