The findings of a new British Equestrian Trade Association survey provide a fascinating snapshot of the UK’s equestrian sector in the wake of a global pandemic.

The survey set out to measure the impact of Covid-19 on riding and equestrian spending habits. It took place between December, 2020, and January, 2021, with 1508 horse owners and riders providing input.

The detailed survey, commissioned by BETA and carried out by JDA Research, revealed that online shopping has increased by a staggering 38%, highlighting an increased trend for 'armchair' spending. This unexpected boost is thought likely to play an important role in helping to shape the future of retail.

Although affiliated and non-affiliated competition has been impacted, there was only a slight decrease in riding overall, which is expected to recover and return to pre-Covid 19 levels. Meanwhile, there has been little change in horse ownership.

BETA executive director, Claire Williams, said: “The past 12 months has been incredibly tough for many of us in the equestrian sector, affecting riders, their horses and the industry. This new survey offers us a unique insight into the way in which the pandemic has affected our core activities of shopping for equestrian goods, riding and horse ownership – and helps us to shape our response for the future.”

Some key findings showed that 9% of those surveyed said they were spending more on equestrian goods, but 21% said they were spending less or had stopped spending.

Increased spenders tended to be younger, with 23% of under-25s spending more – and on items associated with riding rather than on the upkeep of a horse, with 58% of them buying saddles and 35% investing in general rider clothing.

Older riders and horse owners (over-45s) were more cautious with their spending and only 5% of this age group were spending more, compared with 23% who were spending less or had stopped.

The top three items were tack; rider clothing; and horse feed. Online spending showed significant changes, with 49% of riders and horse owners shopping online more than they did at the same time in 2019, and they were spending 38% more on average than they did before the pandemic. Two in three said they would continue with online purchasing in future.

Competitive riding has been severely hit by Covid-19, with only 15% of riders taking part in affiliated events compared with 30% in a typical year. Despite this, six out of 10 equestrians said they continued to ride the same as or more often than they did before the pandemic.

The overall impact on the frequency of riding was generally small, with 59% of riders riding more often, or at least the same and 41% of riders riding less often since the pandemic began.

The overall number of people riding over the previous 12 months was down from 3m in 2018 to 2.5m, while those riding at least once a month fell from 1.8m to 1.5m. But, overall, there have been only slight decreases in the number of horse owners, from 446,000 in 2018 to 433,000, and privately owned horses, from 670,000 to 650,000.