2017-02-19 / Insight

Lapeer County home to hundreds of ‘pet’ horses

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 •


The Brandts, sisters Amanda and Kelli Brandt and dad, Steve, head out for a ride near their home in Attica Township. Steve said owning horses brings families closer together. 
Submitted photo The Brandts, sisters Amanda and Kelli Brandt and dad, Steve, head out for a ride near their home in Attica Township. Steve said owning horses brings families closer together. Submitted photo LAPEER COUNTY — Solid data on horses is hard to come by. The last USDA Horse Census, which only looks at farms that earn more than $1,000 annually, put the country’s horse population at about 9 million in 2012 about 10 percent down from the previous census in 2007.

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates 1.5 percent of American households keep an average of 2.7 horses as pets. With 32,611 households in Lapeer County, that would give the county a population of about 1,320 pet horses.

Cindy Kapishinski, secretary of the 4-H Horse Leaders, a committee that oversees the seven 4-H horse clubs in Lapeer County, believes there are around 21,000 horses in the county.

Whatever the number, one thing’s certain, owning a horse is a significant commitment in money and time.

Getting into horsemanship from scratch — buying a horse, getting the saddle and associated, building a simple three-sided shelter for the animal and putting up a fence — can easily set you back $5,700. Then there are new shoes every five weeks at $80 a set; veterinary care, which at a minimum is $220 in annual vaccinations; and feed, a little more than $900 annually in hay alone.

A U.S. Equestrian Foundation study found the median annual income for horse-owning families is $60,000.

“It’s hard to explain,” said Attica Township resident Steve Brandt said. “Horses hook you.”

Brandt had horses growing up. “I was never going to have horses again and then I had daughters.”

“My father-in-law got a horse when he was eight. He’s 72 and he still has horses.” Brandt noted, “There’s definitely an emotional bond.”

His wife, Traci, noted their daughter Amanda trailers her horse up to the Holloway Reservoir for the day in the summer to go swimming.

Steve said they go camping as a family with the horses in the summer and Amanda does at least three point shows a year. “Horses need a job. They’re happier with a job,” he said, noting if they don’t get enough activity it leads to health problems.

Steve said Lapeer’s equine 4-H clubs represents about 50 youth between the ages of 6 and 20 and about half again as many horses. “Most people have more than one,” he said.

He said that while horse ownership does entail a lot of time and expense, not all horse owners are well-heeled. “Horse people find a way to make it work,” he said.

Lapeer’s 4-H clubs have a “good mix” with an average age of 15, he said. He said a common phrase he hears among club members is, “Two hearts, one heartbeat.”

He said there’s more to having a horse than the trail rides and the competitions, there’s a sense of community among horse owners.

“It’s definitely not the same as other pets.”

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