Anne M. Eberhardt

Kentucky Reports Growth in Horse Exports for 2016

Value of all horse exports up 33.1% to $195.2 million.

Economic statistics recently released on Kentucky's international trade showed a 33.1% increase in the value of exported live, purebred horses.

These statistics include all breeds, but the percentage of exported Thoroughbreds has historically accounted for at least three-quarters of the number of horses shipped out of Kentucky to other countries. The percentage of exported Thoroughbreds among all breeds in Kentucky was 83% in 2014 and 75% in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Specific Kentucky exports by breed are not available yet for 2016, but all live purebred horses shipped abroad last year totaled $195.2 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The robust trade—higher by value than has been reported since 2012—contributed to Kentucky setting an all-time record of $29.4 billion in exported goods and services, which is 5.8% higher than in 2015.

"American horses did very well overseas last year and that gets noticed," said Chauncey Morris, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders. "We've been able to attract some new buyers to the sales that we haven't seen for awhile. Everyone has done a collectively good job to deepen the export bench."

Besides two-time Eclipse Horse of the Year California Chrome  winning the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1), American-breds Tepin (Queen Anne Stakes, G1), Lady Aurelia (Queen Mary Stakes, G1), and Caravaggio (Coventry Stakes, G2) all won during Royal Ascot.

Nationwide the total value of breeding stock of all breeds exported from the U.S. totaled nearly $175.5 million and the total of all other horses (which would include yearlings, 2-year-olds, and other racing stock) exported was more than $125 million from January through November of 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The value of the breeding stock rose 22% compared with the same period of time in 2015, while the value of "all other horses" dropped 23%.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales, said the Lexington auction house did see year-over-year increases from Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and South Africa, among others. He also noted increased participation from China Horse Club.

While the U.S. Census Bureau data applies to all breeds, the statistics for China in the "all other horses" category shows a 71% increase to $739,000 in the value of horses exported, up from $432,000 in 2015. According to this data, buyers in the United Kingdom spent the most on U.S. breeding stock, which was valued at more than $60.3 million, up 22% from 2015. 

"America has always done very well, because we have speed and the world is going more toward speed. That is what they are coming to buy," Russell said.