Many horse owners are
unaware of issues such as carrying capacity, managing groundcover and
weeds, particularly on small acreages in peri-urban areas. A
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
and local ecologist, Alison Elvin, of
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
- 79% were promoting native grasses in pasture;
- 79% were actively controlling erosion (a shift of
- 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
Figure 2: Participants were asked if they were
undertaking each of the listed actions