With a large increase in the number of horse owners that supplied information, a new economic impact study for the horse industry, the first in almost 10 years, is expected to be more statistically reliable than its 1996 counterpart.The study, performed by Deloitte Consulting of Parsippany, N.J., could be completed in May, said Geoffrey Engler, who works for the company and provided an update on the study April 18 during the American Horse Council National Issues Forum in Washington, D.C. Engler said the number of participants was about 17,000, up from about 5,000 for the 1996 study.The study is based on about 5% of the population. Like opinion polls, however, such studies often rely on statistical samplings."We're close but not quite there yet where we can be comfortable releasing information," Engler said. "We can say the horse population will probably exceed the number reported in the 1996 study. We're confident it's going to come in well ahead of what we found in 1996."That increase in the number of horses figures to boost the industry's contribution to the gross domestic product, which almost 10 years ago was $25 billion. The GDP indicates direct spending from an industry, a figure Engler said is "most critical" when it comes to legislative endeavors."We're confident the number is going to be larger in this study, and it's going to indicate the industry's growth and overall significance in the U.S. economy," Engler said.The study is based on information from individual horse owners as well as members of about 70 organizations. Again, that number is up from 1996, when membership lists from only 17 organizations were used.The study will include horse-population totals for all 50 states, and more detailed "breakout" information for 16 states, up from 12 in 1996. The breakout states in the new study are California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, New York, Texas, and Wyoming.The study is being funded in large part by industry contributions. The breakout states paid more for the more detailed information.Engler said a key aspect of such studies is the "multiplier effect," or how many times a dollar is circulated. He said the average is 1.5 to three times, with the horse industry in the 2.6-2.7 range.There is, Engler said, a "non-cash value" in horse ownership that is different from some other industries. "A lot of people that own horses lose money," he said. "I'm speaking more to the recreational owners."Engler said Deloitte Consulting believes the numbers in the report are "defensible and justifiable." A steering committee will review the final numbers, which then will be presented to the AHC."To be quite frank, it has been more challenging than anticipated," Engler said of the study. "But the 1996 study has been referenced by many people. I think we recognize the importance of a quality product."The updated economic impact study will be used by organizations such as the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which has worked with the AHC since the late 1990s to protect the pari-mutuel industry's interests in Washington, D.C.