Going Equine Green Tips from the Forum

Read "green" tips from EquiSearch.com forum members for advice on how to make your barn more eco-friendly and reduce your--and your horse's--environmental footprint.

We asked our EquiSearch.com forum members what they do to reduce their “environmental footprint” and here’s what they told us.

Conserve Water “Simple stuff matters!!! Put a sprayer head on your hose that you can easily turn off water flow during baths, between water buckets, etc.” –Solaris

“Bathe with a bucket and sponge. Your horse doesn’t need a shower! Soak, turn off the hose, later up, than rinse. There’s no reason to keep the water running constantly.” –Citabobita

“I re-use rain water. We have the down spouts run into tubs to catch the rain. If it’s not clean enough for horses to drink (depends on your roof shingles), we use it around the barn for dust control and/or watering plants.” –Spragueme

“In stalls, move your water buckets away from the feed buckets. A water bucket that is not located within ‘dribbling’ range of the feed tub will stay cleaner much longer, saving you both water and time.” –Citabobita

Manure Management “Manage the manure pile–closely packed and warm means less smell, faster composting and quicker kill of insect larvae. Keep it moist, but not soaked. Turn it and don’t add animal fats. Surround the pile (3 sides or so vented slats work best for our northern climate) and turn it once a month or so–it’ll be great for spreading on fields or into the garden. Or give it away or sell it, but it has to be well composted to consider that. Weed seeds are another concern in compost, so it has to be hot enough to destroy them also.” –Karice

“The barn I used to board at found a composting company that brought a BIG dumpster out for all the mucking, hay, etc. When it was full they would haul it off and replace it. It was great for upper body strength too, since by the time it was full, we had to lift the muck buckets way up!” –povertybyhorse

Barn Management “Switch to straw bedding. Good straw is less dusty than sawdust/shavings, and once you get the hang of it, it is just as easy to clean. Straw is a much more easily renewable resource than trees, and in buying it, you help support your local farmers and preserve open space in your area.” –Citabobita

“A wood burner/glycol system heats our barn. We throw all the muck from cleaning stalls in the burner. All the poop from scooping in the arena and in the turnout pens gets burned, too. We also compost poop for the garden, and neighbors will come get it from us in the spring. Several construction companies drop their scraps off at our place so we can burn it. And a few landscaping companies drop off their tree trimmings and grass clippings. They save dump fees and in the two years since we installed the wood burner we have not had to buy fuel to heat the barn!” –Tickin

Recycle and Reuse “Buy as much as possible used. Local tack sales and shops often have used saddles, bridles, halters and leads, boots, wraps, saddle pads, attire, etc, that are cheaper, in good condition and by buying these instead of all new things we can ‘recycle.’ It works both ways, too–if you have something that would normally sit around in your basement or the tack room consider selling it or giving it away.” –FlakeMusic

“We use large round bales or large square bales so I save the twines and braid them. I’ve made all sorts of items from a horse harness, bridles, breastcollars, scrimsheet (a fly sheet for the horse), hanging planters, hammocks, hay bags, rugs (crocheted)… and the oddball repairs–everything from gate ties, to emergency stirrup straps.” –Karice

“I get shavings in very large paper bags which are recyclable. The plasticised bags that grain comes in are re-used for a multitude of things including the trash (the grain bags do eventually decompose unlike green garbage bags).” –Country Mouse

“I reuse both paper and burlap bags. I put the bags in trash cans, and I put garbage in one and the wire from the hay bales in the other. I re-use the wire as much as possible. What I can’t re-use gets taken to the scrap yard, which makes me a little cash.” –spragueme

“Rags, towels, T-shirts, etc. get stored and used during calving and foaling. I keep the better ones for wound washing and keep old sheets for wraps, saddle underpads, and old bed linen for emergency covers! At -40 we’re not too picky as to what we can get a hold of to cover a cold animal!” –Karice

“I use old quilted bedspreads found at garage sales for making saddle covers, carriers and gear bags–I can make quite a few items from a queen size. I make saddle pads, saddle bags, and cantle bags. I find canvas, Duck and all sorts of items at garage sales.” –Karice

Pasture Management “Don’t overgraze your pastures. Overgrazed pastures cause soil erosion and continually lessen your chances of growing anything worth eating. Rotate your pastures or at least supplement them with hay.” –Citabobita

“Manage your grass–most horses don’t need on grass 24/7. Create a system where even on a small acreage your horses rotate, so one area is rested for a few weeks (and it’s good to get it harrowed when you first rest it to get piles distributed and sunshine in to kill those pesky larvae). Especially in drought conditions, it’s vital not to overgraze. This year our hay meadows look like a dirt road, so managing livestock is vital, so when we do get moisture there’s a plant that’s not been abused so it can grow. Rest and rotation is the best way to beat weeds–mowing or clipping, then rest. Not letting plants get overly rank is the other extreme: If plants are mature and tough, animals continue to go back to the short trimmed off stuff in that pasture, and over graze those areas.” –Karice

Trail Tips “Make a conscious effort to stay on ‘legal’ marked horse trails that are in good condition. Don’t trailblaze and don’t ride in the mud. The amount of erosion and soil damage caused by horses’ feet is not necessarily trivial, not only to the environment but to fellow trail users.” –QHAllAround

“Being both a biker and an equestrian I have the advantage of both perspectives:

  • Large hoofprint ‘holes’ are awful and very uncomfortable if not downright dangerous to other trail users and negatively represent the impact of horses on the environment and trail system in a very obvious way.
  • Manure (I know there isn’t much you can do about this, but if it’s a trail you frequent regularly volunteering for some trail maintainance and shoveling the large stuff off the trail occassionally would likely go a long way.)
  • Massive erosion of trail banks because of horses veering slightly off trail (trying to pass, not paying attention, etc.)”


“Also try to find some time to help clean up the trails (remove broken glass, large rocks, tree limbs, fill in/smooth out major ditches, etc); these are generally organized events in my experience. Not only will you help the environment out some, you’ll get to keep using the trails and may convert a few of us crazy bikers into people that can tolerate horses.” –QHAllAround

“I’ll repeat: STAY ON TRAILS and don’t ride trails when muddy–erosion and the resulting sediment in streams (from horses, bikes and ATVs) is a huge pollutant and threatens much of our aquatic life. Stream crossings are the worst for this–I know it’s fun to splash through, but try to avoid it if you can and use established and stable crossings only.” –Solaris

Join in the conversation in the EquiSearch.com forum. Plus, read more “Going Equine Green” tips in the winter 2008 issue of Everything For Horse & Rider. Call 301-977-3900 ext. 0 to order the issue.




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