North Cheshire Riders

Doing a survey of local riders and horses - Knowledge is power.


The surveys we carried out in July 2003 and again in 2005 proved very illuminating and have been very useful in subsequent discussions and meeting with the Council and other bodies.  In fact we have been asked to extend the survey to the whole of the north of East Cheshire by East Cheshire Council in 2010. If you are interested in doing something like this in your area then this is how we went about it.

North Cheshire Riders selected the boundaries of our key priority area as being a triangle bounded by the B5085 to the north, the A535 to the east and the A537 south and west so including the towns and villages of Warford, Knutsford, Mobberley, Wilmslow, and Alderley Edge.

 We found out that Cheshire County Councils Equestrian Strategy estimated that there are 30,000 horses overall in Cheshire. As the area of Cheshire is 2083 sq. km. (Source: CCC Research and Intelligence Department) this is an average of 14-15 horses per sq. km.  

 We had already decided to focus on improving riding in a 5mile radius of our yard to include the few available bridle paths that currently exist that you can access on horseback from the locality. The majority of horse riders do not have readily available access to horse transport and it is the need of these riders that is paramount as they often have to do a lot of road work to reach the bridle paths.

 Our small area of North Cheshire was divided up into square kilometre boxes, and we carried out a riding /walking/ car driving survey over a period of four weeks. Numbers of horses were counted in all sites visible from roads or public rights of way and personal enquiries were made at all larger livery yards in the area. By splitting this task between us and doing quite a bit whilst on our normal rides through in the area this was actually an enjoyable task and not as time consuming or daunting as it may first appear. 

The first count revealed 901 horses present in the 47 kilometre squares sampled within the target area, an average of 19 per sq. km, and therefore well above the expected average. In addition, there were notable hot spots within the area with upwards of 70 + horses per sq. km. We won’t have spotted every horse but the second count was very similar although the numbers of horses in some areas did change

 So North Cheshire is already a hot spot of equestrian activity. Its location is convenient for many horse owners who live in and around the Knutsford, Mobberley, Wilmslow, and Alderley Edge areas and further a field. This high level of horses indicates a thriving local economy supporting local equestrianism.

According to ‘The Cost of Horse Ownership’ January 2009 by Victoria Lowe, BSc Hon for North Lancashire Bridleway Society, the cost of horse ownership is £4,752 per year, the main cost of which is accommodation. The annual average cost of transportation is an additional £3,536. Virtually all this expenditure is spent locally with livery yards, farriers, tack shops, equine specialists, fuel, horsebox repairs and servicing, vets, etc. etc. etc. 

The North Cheshire Riders 2005 horse number survey of 989 horses in our particular part of cheshire combined with this 2009 cost evidence gave a figure of £4.7 million contribution to local GDP (Gross Domestic Product)  before transport costs were factored in.

 In our area the percentage of owners with access to transport for their horse is about 40%. Adding this figure raises this figure to £6.1 million total contribution to our local economy per annum, from just under 1000 horses in a very small area. We believe that there are now even more horses in the area. Although the equestrian market is affected by the recession, current evidence shows that horse owners will give up other luxuries before their horse.

Even with a more conservative estimate of £3.5 million contribution to local GDP in 2003, that grabbed the attention of our Council as the area we surveyed is a tiny part of the whole and if we did assume that the horse population in our area (which borders on suburbia) is representative of Cheshire as a whole, then 2083 sq km divided by 47 sq km times the number of horses 901 means that there are 40,000 horses in the county, a third more than the Council’s data predicted. This number is increasing all the time. It could be that Equestrianism in East and West Cheshire returns around £1 BILLION into the cheshire economy on an annual basis - a staggering figure.

 As for the UK as a whole - the mind boggles! Horse ownership is on the increase. What other hobbies contribute so much to the economy and historically has had so little account taken of their needs and safety?

 If you are interested in setting up a bridleways group in your area then doing a survey like this will give you the facts and information that you can then start using in discussions with your County Council.

 If you keep a horse in the Warford, Mobberley, Knutsford, Alderley Edge and Wilmslow areas of Cheshire then join our group.

 Concerned about lack of spare time? You need not be actively involved in NCR activities unless you wish to, although the more members that help out with the various tasks, the more we can get accomplished and in a quicker period of time