Aug 17, 2023 - News

A hairy horse market complicates equestrian programs

A photo of horses.

There are still some spots available in coming weeks for guided trail rides at Jester Park Equestrian Center. Photo: Courtesy of Polk County Conservation

A booming horse market is contributing to a deficit in the ideal number of animals available at Jester Park Equestrian Center in Granger.

Why it matters: The outdoor recreation center also hosts equine-assisted therapy programs for people with special needs, including veterans and children.

What's happening: Inflation and a rise in horse sales and race purses is pressuring the industry, per trade industry magazine Blood-Horse.

  • Some horse shows have seen average sale prices jump more than 80% since 2018, Farm Progress reports.
  • That's making it harder for Jester Park to find reasonably priced animals that meet its program needs, Jessica Lown, a spokesperson for Polk County Conservation, tells Axios.

Zoom in: Summer drought caused a hay shortage and increased feeding costs.

🐴 State of naaay: Jester currently has 24 horses, down four from its ideal capacity.

  • No programming has been eliminated but the park could add more trail ride sessions if it had more animals, Lown said.
  • Johnston resident Diana Deibler tells Axios she discovered all of Jester's guided trail rides last year were booked months in advance. She snagged a spot for a student she tutors this year as soon as the schedule opened.

What's next: The search for the right Jester Park horses continues.

  • Animal donations would be considered if they can pass "guest-safe" evaluations to meet program needs, Lown says.

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