Statistics New Zealand does not record the number of horses in the country. The data held by StatsNZ only reflects horses on farms (that are GST registered).
StatsNZ shows around 60,000 horses in NZ
After the Australian Equine Influenza outbreak MAF (MPI) outsourced the creation of an equine biosecurity database.
Agribase's biosecurity database revealed that instead of 60,000 horses reported by Statistics NZ there were 120,000 horses. 40,000 of those are racehorses, the remainder (80,000) are recreational or sport horses.
This database is also assumed to be an underestimate, as it has done very little to contact the average recreational or sport horse owner. It is also very expensive to view the data, even though the company collects it for free.
UPDATE: Agribase has now been replaced by yet another database for farms. FarmsOnline. I am currently trying to gain access to stats on horses from this database.
I have also made a submission (supported by NZ Veterinary Assoc) to have animal numbers included in the next Census (2018).
On average survey respondents so far spend just under $13,000 per year per horse (excluding large capital expenses). 80,000 x $13,000 = 1 billion dollars of annual economic input from recreational horse owners.
This figure does not include capital expenses, export of horses, or downstream economic inputs from businesses.
The biggest single expenditure is on feeding\housing (grazing fees or livery), however when similar expenses are categorised - travel (vehicle expenses and maintenance), recreation and education costs are the biggest category averaging just under $5,000 per year per horse.
The first ever EquiDays event was held in 2011 www.equidays.co.nz
Over 12,000 visitors attended the 3 day event. A great success that will be repeated in 2012.