Management Tips for Horse Owners that Can Favorably Affect the Environment
“Environmental stewardship is the responsibility for environmental quality shared by all those whose actions affect the environment.”(1) A more sustainable future hinges upon environmental stewardship. There are approximately 4 million horses in the United States (2). Everyone in the horse industry, from single-horse owners to commercial stable managers, face the same environmental challenges that other livestock owners must confront. Since pasture, paddock, and manure management practices directly affect soil and water quality, good environmental stewardship starts with the responsible planning and management of these resources.
Let’s face it – manure happens! All of that nutritious alfalfa hay or timothy hay that you feed an average 1000-pound horse each year turns into about 8 tons of manure (3). A draft horse will produce twice that amount, while a pony will produce half. Manure, which includes urine, feces, and bedding, can be a valuable commodity if it is used properly. It contains nutrients that plants need to grow, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, over-application of manure to crops results in more nutrients than the plants need. In this case, the extra nutrients can seep into groundwater and contaminate wells or runoff in surface water and pollute streams, rivers, and lakes. In addition, manure may contain parasites or pathogens that may infect horses if they graze pastures where contaminated manure was spread.