As a Horse Hippie I care about the planet. I try to use Best Management Practices (BMPs) on my farm and with my horse. Here are a few tips to help you “go green”.
These tips can be implemented quickly, easily and cheaply. In honor of Earth Day let’s all work together to reduce your farm’s footprint and your horses’ hoofprint upon this gorgeous planet we all call “home”. It is our responsibility as conscientious horse owners to use eco-friendly horse care for better overall health of our horses and the welfare of our planet.
1) Do a Fecal Exam
This will help you be sure which wormer you really need to use. Doing a fecal will tell you exactly what worms to treat so you are not using (and wasting) more chemicals than you need and creating needless impact to the earth. When you are done put your empty wormer syringe in a baggie before throwing it away, this will help prevent the chemicals from leaching into the soil at the landfill.
2) Use Natural Methods for Worming:
Until about 25 years ago when chemical dewormers came to the market, horse caretakers had used natural deworming practices. Chemical dewormers, have their place and are effective in killing parasites. They are problematic though because they kill more than just the bad bugs and the chemicals are toxic to the planet. Nature provides us with various gentle, effective, health-enhancing means of accomplishing the same goal plus natural dewormers such as diatomaceous earth and garlic rid the horse of parasites without causing harm to the planet.
3) Use Biodegradable Grooming and Health Care Products:
Have you ever looked at the labels of some of the products in your grooming tote? Some can be outright hazardous to the health of our animals, our earth, and our health. To stop the toxic overload we need to use biodegradable products on our horses. These are products that microorganisms can break down into compounds found in nature. A green product contains no phosphates, chlorine bleach, or dyes. Check the label for ingredients.
4) Use Natural Fly Control:
There are many natural products like flax oil, minerals and plant extracts that are digested and pass through the skin that can create a protective shield which help your horse’s body deal with flies from the inside out. Garlic has been used traditionally in this role. Diatomaceous earth, grape seed extract and cider vinegar are also believed to do the same thing when added to your horse’s drinking water or grain. Non-chemical fly sprays, fly masks & sheets also help control pests without harming the Earth.
5) Supplement with Natural Product:
As horse owners we love to supplement. Truth is there are very few horses that actually need supplements. If they have a forage-based diet, (appropriate) exercise and turnout, companionship and routine health care the need for all those chemically laden supplements is rare. If you do have hoof, joint or digestive issues, try to use herbs and other natural products before reaching for the pharmaceuticals. Bee Pollen is terrific for weight gain, coat conditioning and immune support. Herbs such as devils claw, white willow, and meadowsweet have been useful for arthritis and slippery elm and licorice root are terrific for digestive issues.
Five Tips for the Farm:
6) 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. 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. How to take a Soil Sample
7) Cover Your Manure Pile. This is a super easy one. 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. An added bonus is that this has been shown to be partially effective in killing developing fly larvae!
8) Compost Your Manure. Gardeners understand the value of composted horse manure for improving soil fertility and moisture holding capacity. In addition to gardening, horse owners should recognize the other benefits of composting such as reducing the volume of waste produced on the farm, killing fly eggs, and weed seeds. The runoff from manure piles can cause water quality issues for creeks and wetlands as well as for drinking water, a serious concern if you have your own well. Composting and properly spreading the manure will reduce the potential for this environmental impact. How to Compost Your Horse Manure
9) 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. 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. How To Build A Rain Barrel
10) Put a simple recycling bin in the barn. 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. If you don’t have curbside pick-up you might have to see if someone you know would mind taking it to theirs, or you might have to haul it to the transfer station, but most horse farm owners I know don’t mind haulin stuff! Reducing waste lowers the costs of municipal waste control, thus lowering your costs. Landfills are filling up faster than we can create them. Ways to Recycle around the Barn
I hope this gives you some ideas for “greening-up” your farm. Together we can Save The Planet One Horse at a Time™.
til we meet again….