Managing Land for Horses
Keeping horses is tremendously rewarding and a good form of healthy exercise but balancing the needs of the horse and the land can present various challenges, especially when managing horses with different needs. All horses can have a positive impact on landscape and the adoption of good practices can bring advantages for animal health and welfare, economics and the environment. This is a guide for
recreational horse owners and land managers, which aims to provide information on achieving good land management and limiting the potentially negative impacts of horse keeping on the wider environment.This will help to foster a positive impression of the industry and demonstrate that horses can be successfully integrated into a grazed landscape without ‘ruining’ land.
Today there are around 1.35 million horses in the UK (BETA National Equestrian Survey 2006) being kept essentially for leisure purposes. Without due care these numbers, along with changes to agricultural practices and lifestyles, can affect the quality and character of the landscape and have an impact on wildlife and the environment. The equine industry is the second largest rural employer and generates a gross output of £3.4 billion (Strategy for the Horse Industry Dec 2005*). It is a tremendously valuable and important industry, meeting economic and health objectives.
Horses can have an extremely positive impact on the landscape and may have an increasingly important role to play as key grazers in areas where other livestock numbers are declining due to the current economics of farming sheep and cattle, disease problems affecting the livestock industry and the introduction of electronic ID for sheep. Ponies are being used as conservation grazers more and more by
organisations such as the National Trust, local authorities and Wildlife Trusts.
This publication provides information and advice to help you to ensure that the impact of your horse keeping is positive and to demonstrate that horse owners take their land management responsibilities seriously. This document contains ideas on how to incorporate landscape protection and enhancement with horse keeping, many of which may also benefit your horses’ health and well being. This guide results from a two year South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) funded study (2007-09) to research and promote good practice horse pasture management to ensure that the economic contribution of the horse industry can be realised without negative impact on landscape, wildlife and the environment. This was part of the SEEDA Rural Sector Champions programme.