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Trail rides, related businesses offer financial potential

News Release Distributed 01/22/13

WEST MONROE, La. – Trail rides and other horse-related enterprises are big business across the country, particularly in the South. “Trail riders spend $50-$70 million yearly,” said Clint Depew, retired LSU AgCenter equine specialist.

“The question is, can we capture some of that revenue in Louisiana,” Depew said at an agritourism workshop focused on the equine industry Jan. 18.

Louisiana has about 200,000 horses, he said. About 60 percent – 47,000 people – are for recreational purposes, and 50 percent of those people travel to trails.

In telling the workshop audience about the value of attracting horse activities, Depew explained that an area of 1,000 acres can provide 3-5 miles of trails, which could include scenic areas and various levels of challenge for horses and riders. Good sites should be marked and mapped.

Horse-related operations could include access to public lands or private lands through cooperative ventures among landowners. Facilities can range from only providing parking and access to sophisticated operations that include guided trail rides or overnight camping trips.

LSU AgCenter regional equine agent Howard Cormier examined the range of trail riding opportunities landowners can provide. He explained how terrain can play a part in establishing a trail riding business along with what kinds of equipment riders need and what they might expect from a provider.

Agritourism operators in Louisiana enjoy several immunities, said attorney Maurice Tynes, of Sulphur, La.

“Immunity equals opportunity,” Tynes said. Louisiana law provides certain legal immunities for agricultural pursuits, including recreation, equine activity, farm animal activities and general agritourism.

“Recreational opportunities exist because of these immunities,” Tynes said.

The purpose of immunity is to encourage these activities, he said. “You can do a lot with your land if you’re creative.”

Setting up a money-making business “is not as expensive as you think,” Tynes said.

“Immunities are great, but they have limits,” he added. Consult insurance policies for limitations and exclusions, and consult with an attorney.

Many immunities in the agritourism law require a plan of operation, said LSU AgCenter agritourism coordinator Dora Ann Hatch. The AgCenter has developed a book of best management practices and instructions for developing an operating plan that meets state requirements.

“If you’re using agricultural lands and inviting the public to those lands, you’re involved in agritourism,” Hatch said.

The Internet can be a low-cost way to promote and market an agritourism business, said Bruce Garner, AgCenter broadband awareness and education coordinator.

Using the Internet can generate interest, attract customers and help establish a business with a small investment, he said.

Rick Bogren

Last Updated: 1/22/2013 4:07:24 PM

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