Spring is here, and everything’s turning green. Take a cue from Mother Nature and add a little green to your farm routine. If you’re running a farm or visiting a boarding stable on the regular, you’re participating in an important conservation effort, whether you knew it or not. Farmland conservation promotes green-space in rapidly developing areas, supporting animal and plant life which would otherwise be threatened by new construction.
So just by participating in the farm lifestyle, you’re making a difference. What’s next? Here are a few ways to add environmentally friendly practices to your horse farm.
Practice Pasture Rotation: Going easy on your ground is a very basic way to preserve your landscape naturally. To keep a pasture happy, you need to prevent two things: overgrazing, and soil compaction. Overgrazing creates an obvious problem: grass is killed down to the root, and then invasive weeds are allowed to take over. Soil compaction sounds a little more scientific: too much pressure on the soil reduces the pore space between soil particles.
Either problem creates barren space, which in turn leads to an excess of rainwater run-off, and a potential need for chemical fertilizers. Avoid these environmental impacts with sound pasture management: fence off a sacrifice paddock to avoid over-grazing, and limit paddock use when the ground is wet. This will help prevent soil compaction.
Read the Labels: Whatever you’re putting into (or onto) your horse eventually ends up somewhere else–chances are, it’s in your water supply. Read the labels on the products you buy, especially bathing products that will travel from your wash-rack to your groundwater. Anything that goes down the drain will affect water somewhere, so avoid products with toxic implications for fish or other animals. Go easy on the amount you use, too, as even biodegradable solutions could have negative effects on aquatic life, as well as the animals that rely on that life for their food supply.
Bathe With a Bucket: Save some water by filling up a few buckets for bath-time instead of using a hose. All you need for bathing is a bucket of soapy water, a sponge, and a bucket or two of rinse water with another sponge to splash the soap away. We might let you use the hose just a little bit for extra rinsing if your horse is very big! Either way, you’re saving water tremendously by using a pair of buckets instead of leaving that hose running.
Try Olive Oil: Or any other natural substance for cleaning your tack. Why use industrial chemicals on your tack, when natural cleansing products will do the trick? Vinegar can polish metal bits and buckles; add some salt and polish up your brass as well. Some riders swear by olive oil to condition tack, but use sparingly, a little goes a long way (and some rodents also enjoy olive oil-seasoned leather). Pick saddle cleansers with natural ingredients on the label. Old-fashioned but low on chemicals, castile soap is a tried-and-true cleanser, made from vegetable oils and containing moisturizing glycerine.
Proper Site Planning: Are you building a new facility? Get informed site planning advice. Horse farms can be designed to be both user-friendly and environmentally friendly, using the natural landscape to the builders’ advantage, or they can be a collection of buildings and paddocks plunked down in areas that just don’t work together in the long run. Design details as seemingly mundane as wash-racks can have big environmental impacts: run-off containing the chemicals from your shampoos and liniments could be traveling into your groundwater or ponds. Careful planning and updated construction practices can give you a more green farm from the very beginning. For more information about services like this, please visit our Design Process (https://equinefacilitydesign.com/process) page.
Horse farms hold the potential to be incredibly important conservation tools, but we have to watch the chemicals that we use or our positive impact will be reduced. Take a few minutes to read the labels and plan your property carefully, and you’ll be greening up your farm for today, and for tomorrow.