Aiken/Edgefield lawmaker, others studying equine industry in South Carolina

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AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Some South Carolina legislators are studying the economic impact of raising and racing horses in South Carolina.

“It’s an over $2 billion industry,” Rep. Bill Hixton told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk when discussing the impact.

It’s that industry that state lawmakers and others are working to understand. The Equine Industry Support Measures Study Committee made up of two house members, including Aiken and Edgefield Representative Bill, two senators as well as two people in the horse industry and a representative from the state agriculture department, will spend the next few months studying what horses do for the state’s economy.

“To attract more people to come here and winter here and bring their horses because a lot comes with a horse cause he just doesn’t show up by itself,” Rep. Hixton added.

The group will have to report back to the general assembly in about eight months. “You see Kentucky what horses mean to them, but we never really have done a defined study to see what horses really mean to us,” he recalled.

There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to providing for horses in the state. Which means more revenue.

“Hay, saddles, gasoline for trucks, trucks, and cars and trailers. So a lot goes with a horse because he’s got to eat, he’s got to drank water. You got the saddle makers, you’ve got the bootmakers, the hat makers and the blacksmiths. Horses need new shoes. So we just tried to see if we could be a better state to be more friendly to the horses and the horse people,” Rep. Hixton shared.

He also mentioned working to get the national forests horse-friendly as horses are not allowed on the trails. “You can go bird watching, but they won’t let you go on the trail riding part and take your horse,” he added.

In a recent meeting of the group, a small part of the conversation involved betting on racehorses. “The betting part is not what I’m concentrating on. I’m just trying to see what we can do as a committee to make this state more horse-friendly,” he said.

But the representative is not slamming the thought of it coming up in the future.”I’m sure there will be some more conversation about it, but keep in mind, we were trying to determine in that meeting, whether horse betting or whatever was legal, and I think it would be illegal based on our constitution.”

Meanwhile, any proposal to legalize gambling, including horse betting, would require a constitutional amendment passed by two-thirds of the house and senate and then approved by voters.

The group is in talks about having their next committee meeting in Aiken. For that date, head over to the South Carolina House website.

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