Ten Ways to Protect Water Sources on Your Horse Farm From Pollution

HHHP_Ten Ways to Protect Water
Understanding how your horse and horse farm can impact nearby water sources is important. When it rains the water will either soak through the soil into the groundwater or travel until it reaches a body of surface water.

Either way as the water travels  it can pick up pollutants and become contaminated, then, when it reaches the pond, stream or river nearby, it adds those pollutants. This can cause health and environmental issues.

Here are ten fairly easy tips to help you do your part in reducing the risk of pollutants from your farm reaching the water.

1. Maintain as much vegetated area as possible between the general site of your horse operation and any permanent water body.

NH-MA10-tbf-barnVegetation can absorb pollutants, slow down the volume (power) of the run-off and the possibility of mud. Select native plants, grasses and trees to increase the viability of your plants and eliminate invasive species.

2. Locate heavily used areas on high grounds that will be less impacted by runoff.
Heavy use areas like paddocks are prone to compaction and erosion issues. Locating them away from roof run-off reduces the chance of the water picking up the soil and filling the creek beds with sediment.Sacrifcelot13. Strategically position drinking troughs to serve multiple fields.

mytractorfarmAreas around troughs usually get torn up due to horses congregating, stomping, and splashing. This results in mud, loss of vegetation and compaction issues. Having one trough serve two fields rather than having two separate troughs reduces the size of the impacted area.

4. Separate pastures with gated-fences or electric tape fencing to control animal movement and grazing.

chronofhorseThe best way to decrease erosion is through a healthy stand of vegetation. Grass needs time to rest and regrow so creating a rotational grazing system gives you different areas to move your horses, resting one while grazing another.

5. Install diversions or downspout extensions to direct runoff around areas that might have manure and mud.

oldworldgatefarmsGutters and downspouts help control where roof run-off goes and keep it  from running through areas with manure or loose soil.  If you direct the water onto areas with heavy vegetation or into swales it will lower the amount of pathogens, nutrients and sediment that reaches the water ways.

6. Locate manure storing or composting site at least 100 feet from a stream or well.
100 feet is an adequate distance to allow the pollutants in the run-off to get absorbed into the soil before reaching the water source. Obviously your manure pile shouldn’t be on higher ground than the water source either to ensure a slower rate of water flow and higher absorption .

Manure pile location

7. Recycle roof run off to reduce water flow volume.

cistern_Sustainable stablesSending your roof run-off into a downspout that ends in a cistern or rain barrel keeps the water flow from traveling over the ground and picking up pollutants. A 1,000 square roof can generate 625 gallons of water with just a 1 ” rainfall so you can imagine the volume of that water hitting the ground.   Recycling your water can also reduce your electric bill and provide a water source for areas on your farm such as plants,  the dusty ring and even for your animals if you use a charcoal filter.

Rain Barrell8. Cover you manure pile.

Building a cover for your compost or manure pile is the best way to reduce the risk of pollutants from the pile reaching the water.  If the rain doesn’t hit the pile full of manure t won’t pick up the pollutants.  Simple as that.  If you cannot afford to build a permanent structure, a less expensive but very effective way is to just throw a tarp over your pile. This can reduce pollutants in the run-off by 90%.  compost1_small

9. Planet a vegetative strip along banks of the water source to filter run-off.

AFO2005_clip_image010Vegetative buffers (riparian areas) act as filters for the water just before the run-off reaches it.  Vegetative strips can filter pathogens and sediment. You need to make sure horses are kept way from the vegetative buffer strip so they don’t eat it down, create mud and it stays healthy.

10. Fence horses out of stream or create one area for them to drink.

Depositphotos_3004787_mNo one wants their horses to drink water with manure in it.  Allowing horses free range of your stream increases the area of impact and results in a higher rate of erosion and degradation. Fencing your horses out of the water and providing an alternate water source (maybe a trough filled from your cistern?) is the best way to protect the water. If you must use the water source to water your horses, fencing off all but one area for access will keep most of the stream bank healthy and reduce pollution.

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Creating a safe water source for your well, your horses and the wildlife on your farm doesn’t require extensive equipment or much of a change.  Most of the things you can do provide benefits that far out way the costs.  Try and remember that everything is connected, what impacts one area of your farm can have a ripple affect and before you know it your pond is full of algae, the stream bed is full of sediment and your well is full of bacteria.  On the other hand, the improvements and best management practices you choose to implement can have a positive affect on horse health, wildlife diversity and your pocket book!

Thanks for reading! Until we meet again.

Let’s save the planet one horse at a time……

~Laura

The Effects of Climate Change on Horse Health

I wrote about climate change with a focus on how it will affect us as horse owners.  This is a terrific article written from a HORSE HEALTH perspective. Click on photo to go to article

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My Mom, Nature and Me

Today is my mother’s 87th birthday. She is in amazing shape; body and soul. She attributes much of this to her connection to the outdoors.

1966745_10100242802319131_1878260963071194755_nAs far back as I can remember my mother spent time outside every day. Of course I don’t remember this as a toddler although there are photographs of us, but I have vivid memories as a young girl. I remember we took long walks into the woods and creek behind our house. We spent summers in the woods of the Berkshires and on the shores of Cape Cod.

mom sal gail in woodsOn our adventures she would point out the moss or a wildflower and tell me about it. She taught me about color through the examples we found; yellow flowers, green pine needles, lavender weeds and grey stones. She taught me to count using sticks and pebbles.

ButterfylShe also taught me many life lessons in those interactions with the natural world.

I remember her stopping on the path with her hand in the air.  It’s when I learned to be quiet, to listen for a bird’s song.

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Learning to be quiet is a challenge for any young child, but for a loud, hyper one it was really hard. Somehow I did it and I truly believe that I am a better person for it. Today I know how to quiet my soul when my life is too busy and I am feeling stressed out.

In nature I learned to have patience as we planted seeds and waited, and waited, and waited for those flowers and vegetables to pop their heads through the soil. I still get impatient, but when I do, this lesson from nature reminds me that a big part of reaching a goal is enjoying the journey itself.

Tree log walkwayOur walks in the woods sometimes involved play acting characters or dressing up with ferns as our hats. I think this helped develop my creative side and gave me confidence.  Although it doesn’t look like it in this picture, these nature lessons prepared me for new schools, new towns and new friends.

Fern headsThey gave me courage to be silly and the ability to laugh at myself. As an adult I recognize that the confidence it takes to stand up in front of 300 people and give a speech has its roots in these moments in the woods with my mom.

The lessons from nature with my mom might have turned into “reminders” as I matured, but even today they have a tremendous influence on my life.

I used to share a driveway with my parents so I would often see them throughout my day. My mother sits on her porch a lot. One day I caught a glimpse through my window of her sitting there for hours. When I had a break I walked over and sat next to her and asked her what she had been doing here for so long?  She replied, “Watching a robin make it’s nest in that tree”. Sure enough there was a perfect little (finished) nest in the small tree next to her porch. I was struck at how simple this seemed, yet how profound. It occurred to me I was racing around trying to find joy when it is as easy as being quiet and having patience while you watch a bird build a nest.

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I tried to raise my own children in this same manner with lots of time outside and an appreciation for our planet. There were more distractions than when my mom was raising me but we made it a priority. Now, I try to have every visit with my grand-kids involve nature. To spread the wonder and teach the lessons.

IMG_4571I feel blessed to be able to do this and I am aware of the value in these simple, wonderful lessons. I feel a need to help protect the planet, it’s natural spaces and these teaching opportunities. It’s what keeps me going with my company Happy Horse Healthy Planet.

Thanks for teaching me to love nature Mom. Oh, and Happy Birthday!

~Laura

My Take on GMOs and Horses

HHHP_GMOs_CoverI get asked quite often what my opinion is pertaining to certain things. Not sure if that’s because they think I’m well-educated or that they know I am opinionated. I am pretty sure it’s the later. Lately it’s been the question of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This has prompted me to do some extra research and to decide how I feel about GMOs.

There seems to be two trains of thought; you are either pro-GMO or totally against them. Hardly much wiggle room in there that I can find. Normally I am not so quick to choose a side, especially if it means discrediting the other side’s very valid points. Below is what I can find for the “pros” and “cons” of GMOs. After you have read through them you will find my take on them and how they affect horses. But first things first….. Continue reading