It is no coincidence that at almost every entrance to Williamson County a horse farm – large or small – stands near the welcome sign.  Farms with horses romping through the fields flank even two of the main arteries into the city of Franklin. The equine industry is an important part of the identity and the economy of Williamson County, area equine veterinarian, Dr. Monty McInturff of Tennessee Equine Hospital recently told members of the Williamson County/Franklin Chamber of Commerce.

Although Kentucky claims to be the horse state, nationally, Tennessee ranks fourth behind Texas, California and Missouri in equine population – Kentucky is number 11 – and Williamson County is home to the most diverse population in the state, he added.

Two million horse-owners posses 9.2 million head of horses nationwide and nationally 4.6 million or one out of 63 people are involved in the horse industry. In Tennessee there are between 190,000 and 210,000 horses with almost 80,000 head valued at more than $250 million located in the Middle Tennessee area.

Breeds from the thoroughbred racehorse to the Belgian workhorse to the cowboy’s favorite quarter horse and showy horses like the Andulasian and the Paso Fino and more are represented in the area.

“When it comes to horses, people outside of here think of Franklin, Tenn.,” McInturff said. “And Williamson County has got it all.”

The reason – horses are a large part of the rich history of Tennessee. In the early 1800s Tennessee became the center of the thoroughbred industry. It remained the center of the industry until the 1930s when racing was outlawed and the industry moved a few miles north to Kentucky. That opened the door for the expanse of the Tennessee walking horse industry as noted by the history of Harlinsdale, which has been an active walking horse farm since the 1920s.

Spacious horse farms like Harlinsdale and Brownland farms and backyard pet horses stabled on one-acre lots, generates a $30 million dollar equine industry in Williamson County. Major competitive events like Chukkers for Charity, premier hunter jumper shows and the Franklin Rodeo along with small horse shows, clinics and workshops held at local stables and community arenas have become a major contributor to the local economy.

And the equine industry is not limited to just horses – there is the mule, pony and miniature horse population that are also a part of the equation.

Even in a down economy filled with bad news, the good news is, “Horses are a big business,” McInturff said.

Chukkers for Charity and other polo events, which feature at least a dozen of the best polo teams in the country and the 10 annual Grand Prix events at Brownland Farms together generate more than $22.8 million dollars for local businesses. The more than 25,000 people who gather for fun and entertainment at the Iroquois Steeplechase bring more than $2.5 million into the county, McInturff added.

“At the Ag Center, weekend roping, cutting horse, rodeo or barrel racing events bring in about than $5 million,” McInturff said.

Those dollars are money spent by visitors and locals – people who just want to have fun with horses. They don’t include dollars spent on general up keep of the animals – feed, medical care, foot care, general health care like fly sprays, liniment and bathing products and people products like clothing and tack, he said.

“The good news is there is an industry that continues to positively impact Williamson County,” McInturff said.

Williamson Herald 5/20/11

By Carole Robinson, staff writer