When I tell people I’m a Horse Hippie, they usually ask me about “greening up” their horse farm and horse care. There are many ways you can do this and in this article I will offer 6 tips to get you started.
Area One- The Horse:
Tip 1: Look for ways to improve the forage in your horses’ diet. Most horse owners understand the importance of forage but many overlook the quality of the hay, haycubes and/or pasture they feed. It’s a simple rule: FEED THE BEST YOU CAN. So why bother? Good quality fiber will reduce feed costs, vet costs and is easier on the planet than feeding poor quality and trying to make up the nutrient difference with grain.
2) Focus: HORSE HEALTH (medical, hoof and eyes)
2) Tip: Ask your vet to do a fecal exam so you are sure how much wormer you really need to use. So why bother? Using (and wasting) more chemicals than you need adds expense to your wallet and needless impact to the earth. There is research that indicates parasites are developing resistance to the chemicals so the less we use the better!
Area Two- The Farm
3) Focus: THE PASTURE
Tip 3: Get a soil sample done. ALWAYS start here with your pasture. This can be collected free of charge by you or through a County Extension service. The analysis from each sample is under $10. So why bother? This will give you much needed information to help keep your pasture healthy so it can be a source of nutrition for your horse. It will also tell you exactly how much fertilizer you need to use, taking the guess work out, reducing your costs and the amount of nutrients that can run off.
Focus: MANURE MANAGEMENT
Tip 4: Cover your manure pile. This is a super easy one. I recently did a survey of horse owners and, of the farms that utilized a manure stack pile to manage their manure, 90 % of them did not have it covered. I wasn’t surprised as it confirmed what I have seen over and over but I was excited by this statistic as it’s such an easy “fix” to this. So why bother? When rain water falls on the pile, it picks up pathogens, bacteria and nutrients and carries them to the soil and water. By throwing a simple tarp over your pile you eliminate a huge amount of this run-off! It’s as important (and easy) as covering your clean shavings pile and your hay but so few do it.
5) Focus: WATER QUALITY & QUANTITY
Tip 5: Reuse your water through a rain barrel or cistern. This is a fun one and can be either a DIY project or you can sometimes find them through your County Soil and Water District. All farms in the olden days used cisterns (giant rain barrels) because the thought of a dry well was not an option. So why bother? Re-using rain water can save money (it’s takes power to run a well water pump) and by giving the water somewhere to go (instead of directly out your gutter or off your barn roof) you decrease the potential for sediment ending up in the water ways.
Here is a great link to water collection systems: http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-create-a-rain-barrel/index.html
6) Focus: WASTE As in reducing the amount of trash generated and reducing the amount of energy wasted.
Tip 6: Use a simple recycling bin. I have noticed that most horse shows, boarding barns and public riding arenas fail to offer their riders the chance to recycle their cans and bottles. Research indicates that given a choice most people will throw their can (bottle) into a recycling bin rather than in the trash. So maybe you could help! If you don’t have curbside pick up you might have to see if someone you know would mind taking it to theirs. You might have to haul it to the transfer station but most horse farm owners I know don’t mind haulin’ stuff! So why bother? Reducing waste lowers the costs of municipal waste control, thus lowering your costs. Landfills are filling up faster than we can create them. Recycling saves energy, it takes less energy to recycle a bottle than to create a new one.
I hope this gives you some ideas for “greening-up” your farm. I look forward to sharing more Getting Green Tips with you!
Peace and good rides, til we meet again,