New to Polk County’ equine workshop at Derbyshire

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, July 25, 2013

by Judy Heinrich

Twenty-four local horse owners gathered for the “New To Polk County” equine workshop presented at Derbyshire on July 23.

According to Derbyshire Operations Manager Jennifer Dennis, the topic was chosen to help horse owners new to the area.

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One of the new residents attending was Sandy Malliris, who recently moved from Pennsylvania with her husband, Rick.

“Bringing horses in from out of state, I want to know what to expect here – there are many things that are completely different from Pennsylvania. I hope to get all the information I need,” Malliris said.

The opening presentation was “Why Horses Matter in the Foothills” by Polk County Economic Development Director Libbie Johnson. Johnson covered the role of horses in the county’s history, social structure and present economy.

The area’s horse community contributes to the economy through local jobs including veterinarians, farriers, barn and fence builders, tack and feed shops, hay farmers and dealers, trade and construction, farm employment and more, and through tourism related to horse shows and other equestrian events. Johnson pointed out that NC is one of the Top 10 states in the US in number of horses and is the only Top 10 state that does not have a horse-racing track contributing to its number.

“That tells me that NC has a very strong horse economy,” Johnson says. “And Polk County is near the top: with more than 6,100 equines we’re ranked 16th out of 100 counties, but we’ve got one horse for every 3.3 people, so we’re number 1 in horse per capita.”

Horse-show related visitors are estimated to spend on average $170 per person per day for meals, fuel, lodging, horse supplies, entertainment and other retail, for a direct impact in the millions of dollars.

With the economic recovery under way, FENCE and Harmon Field are seeing increases in the number of people showing, and the addition of the planned White Oak Equestrian Center in Green Creek should dramatically increase equine tourism, Johnson said.

Polk County’s charitable organizations received more than $250,000 in 2012 from benefit horse shows, the Western Carolina Hunter Pace series and special events, as well as individual equestrian-related gifts.