Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on January 29, 2001. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Mississippians go horse crazy
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's horse industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and the state's agricultural college is expanding equine programs to keep pace.
In the last few years, Mississippi State University has directed efforts toward expanding its horse program in areas such as 4-H, therapeutic riding and a collegiate equestrian team. Also, research and academic options for people pursuing careers in horse-related fields have increased. Equine specialists believe MSU's efforts parallel a growing interest statewide in horsemanship.
While the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine has been conducting equine research, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences only in recent years has renewed horse research efforts. Much of the early research phased out as tractors replaced mules on the farm.
Terry Kiser, head of MSU's Animal and Dairy Sciences Department, said some department researchers are working on fescue toxicity, which causes miscarriages in broodmares, and on gate analysis work to study lameness in gated horses.
In April 2000, Millennium Molly became the first mule foal born on the MSU South Farm in the last half century. Her mother, a Tennessee Walking horse, was part of a fescue toxicosis study.
"In recent years, 4-H and MSU have been able to hire people with expertise in therapeutic riding, equestrian team competition and youth development," Kiser said. "These efforts are a direct reflection of the growing interest of Mississippians in horses."
"Mississippi probably has between 140,000 and 150,000 horses, and that number is growing by 5 to 7 percent annually," said Brett Scott, assistant 4-H equine and livestock specialist with MSU's Extension Service.
Enrollment in the 4-H horse program has increased 42 percent since January 1999.
"We receive more calls than we did a couple years ago from people looking to purchase their first horse," Scott said. "Because of the financial and time investment required, I usually recommend people get involved in one of our horseless horse programs or attend a camp first."
Some of the 4-H horseless horse programs include photography, art, public speaking, judging, quiz bowl and demonstrations. Extension sponsored horse camps, which do not require horse ownership, have grown from one in 1999 to seven planned for this year in the state.
"Before buying a horse, people who think they want one should visit and volunteer at a horse facility to see the amount of work involved. Taking lessons may be a good investment before making the bigger investments," Scott said. "In addition to the purchase price of the horse, additional expenses include the equipment, stabling, possibly a trailer, feed and medical costs."
Scott said most horses in Mississippi range from $500 to $2,500 each. Boarding can average from $75 to $300 per month if owners have to rent a boarding facility.
Horse populations follow people, creating a significant challenge for finding appropriate land to hold these large pets. Scott said a horse kept primarily on a pasture will need about 3 acres to thrive on. The competition of encroaching human population in rural areas is driving up the cost of pasture land and the expense of owning a horse.
"As time goes on, it's getting harder and harder to find a place to keep a horse and to afford the costs," Scott said.
Contact: Dr. Brett Scott, (662) 325-3515