Sustainable Horse Management on Small Properties

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Many horse owners are unaware of issues such as carrying capacity, managing groundcover and weeds, particularly on small acreages in peri-urban areas. A study published by the Upper Murrumbidgee Catchment Coordinating Committee and building on similar studies in central Victoria highlights the challenges in raising the environmental awareness of many landholders in peri-urban areas because there appears to be no single community of purpose, and often a lack of land management skills or even a lack of awareness of the need for such skills.

A significant number of landholders owning horses had been engaged by two previous evening seminars as part of the Sustainability on Small Farms project and had expressed an interest in furthering their knowledge of managing animal health through land management techniques. The next step for these and other landholders was to conduct all-day workshops combined with a field trip to a property which is currently utilising best practice, to demonstrate the methods that may be applied for sustainable land management and in so doing improving animal health. Such days were designed by a trainer, trusted by the horse-lover community, to work with up to 20 landholders at a time to improve understanding of land management.

The Molonglo Catchment Group, assisted by the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust, conducted a series of 7 one-day workshops targeting horse owners with the intention of addressing problems of land degradation on horse properties in peri-urban areas surrounding the ACT.

The workshops focussed on relating horse health and horse behaviour to specific land management issues: carrying capacity, retaining groundcover (particularly native grasses), managing weeds, controlling erosion, and employing sustainable grazing practices. Participants brought aerial photos of their property to allow them to take home a conceptual property plan to guide their addressing land management issues. Workshops were presented by horse industry experts, Jane and Stuart Myers, of Equiculture and local ecologist, Alison Elvin, of Natural Capital. A total of 102 people attended, with excellent feedback.

Participantsí initial knowledge of land management issues and horse behaviour was self-assessed by a brief questionnaire filled out at the start of the workshops. They were asked to complete a similar questionnaire online at least 8 weeks and up to 12 months after their workshop attendance to gauge their current knowledge of land management issues, and determine how many were actually implementing recommended best practice. At the time of the workshops, knowledge ratings for all categories other than horse behaviour averaged in the poor to satisfactory range:

  • while 90% were managing weeds, less than half were protecting / enhancing native vegetation or controlling grazing to minimise erosion around water sources; and
  • only 53% undertook any form of erosion control.

Post-workshop knowledge ratings were on average raised to satisfactory to good. Participants were also implementing many of the management practices advocated:

  • 71% reported managing native vegetation (up nearly 40%);
  • 79% were promoting native grasses in pasture;
  • 79% were actively controlling erosion (a shift of 25%); and
  • over 20% more were implementing some form of erosion control around watering points.

The results are shown in the graphs below.

Figure 1: Participants were asked to rate their level of knowledge on a range of topics.

 

Figure 2: Participants were asked if they were undertaking each of the listed actions

Download leaflet ( 200KB)

Download 95x95cm poster ( 2,135KB)

Download feedback (self assessment) form ( 149KB)

 

This project was assisted by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust.

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Last modified: 27/03/2014