You and your horses CAN help to save the planet from climate change!Mar 07, 2021
Seriously, you might be astonished at what you and your horse/s can do to help in the fight against climate change!
How horses can help save the planet from climate change
There are many ways that domestic horses (and you) can help the fight against climate change. Here are just five of them:
1. Maintaining a healthy length and abundance of pasture for horses helps the fight against climate change
Short grass plants are better than no grass (but then so are weeds), but long, dense grass is the best of all. Pasture plants sequester carbon.
Horses and carbon sequestration and how this helps the fight against climate change
Firstly you need to become familiar with the term carbon sequestration, which is the capturing and storing of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change.
You may not know it yet but if you own/manage land for horses you have the power to become a champion sequester of carbon!
Good biodiverse (tall) pasture has a very high carbon storage capacity. Much more so than lawns and golf courses for example. Grass plants have roots that are as long and abundant underground as above ground - in other words, what you see above ground is mirrored underground in the root system. As the plants grow taller their roots thicken and reach further down.
Good biodiverse (tall) pasture has a very high carbon storage capacity.
When the plants are grazed their roots die back temporarily, which builds up organic matter (and carbon) in the soil. And then new roots regrow as the plant above ground regrows. This is one way that carbon is taken out of the atmosphere and stored in the soil.
Each acre (4000 square meters) of pasture produces enough oxygen for 64 people daily. One acre of well-managed grass area stores about 417.305 Kilograms of carbon per year.
Avoid overgrazing as it damages the root system, reducing its capacity to store carbon (it also stresses the plants and makes them higher in sugar per mouthful). The shorter the grass, the shorter the root system. Overgrazing leads to bare soil, which rapidly loses carbon to the atmosphere.
Overgrazing leads to bare soil which rapidly loses carbon to the atmosphere.
Think about a ploughed field with exposed soil, you cannot see it, but carbon is being lost to the atmosphere at a rapid rate. So now you know, established well managed (grazed) pasture is good for the environment and disturbed bare soil is not.
Make sure you read this blog article to find out more about the benefits of longer grass plants www.equiculture.net/blog/horses-short-grass-or-long-grass
2. Increasing biodiversity in your horse pasture helps the fight against climate change
Biodiversity includes the animal and plant life on a given area of land. Animals include mammals, birds, bats, insects etc. Plants include pasture grasses, legumes, even weeds etc. The more biodiversity there is in a given area, the healthier that ecosystem is. A healthy ecosystem is less reliant on additional fertilizers/herbicides and is more resilient to climate change, diseases, and pests.
Here is a simple example: trees that are planted for shelter provide habitat for a huge number of animals that in turn help to manage the environment for your horse/s, the land etc. So, certain birds and certain bats eat problem insects by the thousands. At the same time, those trees (just like grasses) take carbon from the atmosphere and deposit it in the trees' biomass and the soil. The trees also shade the land and reduce the temperature extremes. Their shade also blocks the sun from reaching the grasses, resulting in lower gras plant sugar levels. The trees might also be used as windbreaks/as part of a fenceline. The list of benefits of increasing biodiversity goes on.
Trees that are planted for shelter provide habitat for a huge number of animals that in turn help to manage the environment for your horse/s, the land etc.
So, even though you are managing your land for your horses, you need to consider that land's biodiversity. The really good news is it is not difficult when you know how. You will be creating a healthier place for your horses to live while simultaneously helping the planet - a win-win.
Another great way to increase biodiversity is linked to the first point, avoiding overgrazing. By not overgrazing you are allowing different plants to have a chance to thrive, especially the ones that cannot cope with too much grazing pressure. This benefits your horse's diet and encourages other plant and animal species to thrive alongside your horses.
How can you learn more about horses, land management and the environment?
Start by signing up for the free mini-course about Horses, pasture and
3. Creating and maintaining healthy soil for horses helps the fight against climate change
Every tonne of carbon stored in the soil is a tonne not in the atmosphere. You can help store carbon in the soil in two ways:
- By maintaining good ground (plant) cover.
- By increasing organic matter in the soil.
Soils under pasture have higher stored carbon levels than those under crops as they have a higher root-to-shoot ratio, are undisturbed (as opposed to ploughed up every year) and have lower rates of decomposition. Old established pasture that is never ploughed up is especially valuable for storing carbon. These old grass 'meadows' are exceptionally valuable for the environment but are now very scarce.
So by learning how to become an 'Equiculture Grass Farmer', you will learn how to nurture pasture plants so that you grow healthy plants (for healthy horses) while at the same time sequestering carbon in the soil - wow, how great is that!
4. Reducing reliance on bought-in, supplementary feed for horses helps the fight against climate change
By increasing the diversity, quality and quantity of feed that your land produces and by reducing the off-site production and transport of feed to your property you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint (and your costs).
Horse feed is increasing in price and will continue to do so as the pressure for land and crops increases (plus many other factors raising grain prices worldwide). So it also makes good economic sense to maximize the feed production of your land (even though that will be mainly pasture/hay/foggage). Many horses need more fibre and fewer concentrates anyway.
Additional land used to produce horse feed is a significant component of total agriculture. So, a large amount of agricultural land is used to feed horses, but most horse properties could improve (pasture/hay/foggage) production and help to reduce this amount.
Horse feed is increasing in price and will continue to do so as the pressure for land increases (plus many other factors raising grain prices worldwide).
As pasture is a more efficient carbon sink than land used for cropping, we can make a huge difference by improving our land's productivity and health while reducing our costs and carbon footprint.
5. Improving how you manage horse manure helps the fight against climate change
The subject of manure management on a horse property is usually fraught with myths. Such as horse manure is bad for the land. This is due to certain outdated beliefs. Stick with us; we will guide you through the minefield and teach you how to utilize the manure (black gold) that your horses produce.
There are usually various ways you can improve manure management on a horse property, depending on whether it is stable manure or manure in the paddocks.
Stable manure can be composted and used back on the land to improve the organic matter in your soil. However, a poorly managed compost pile can actually produce high levels of methane, which is 26 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
To ensure efficient decomposition, ensure your compost heap is well aerated by frequent turning or by the addition of ventilation. The simplest way of doing this is to drill holes into plastic pipes and insert them into your compost heap.
Chickens can help to manage stable manure (and collected paddock manure)! By allowing them to scatter through the manure, 'clean' it (eat parasite eggs and weed seeds), and add their own manure you are creating a valuable and natural fertilizer. You can then spread all that back on the land to vastly increase organic matter. You will need to learn about this subject first if you are thinking of doing this. Stay in touch.
Chickens can help to manage stable manure (and collected paddock manure)!
For paddock manure, the absolute best way to maximize the positives is to harness the amazing power of dung beetles.
Make sure you read/watch this blog post - www.equiculture.net/blog/horse-manure-and-dung-beetles
Dung beetles have so many benefits for the wider environment, your time, your budget, etc.; they are a whole subject in themselves. We call them the world's manure management experts - absolutely NOTHING you do when managing manure comes close to what dung beetles can do.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making changes, especially when you feel like you are 'swimming against the tide' and you feel like you are the only person who seems to care. But even if you make very small changes and say you improve things by just 10% each year, you will still see big improvements and be moving in the right direction.
How can you learn more about horses, land management and the environment?
Join this exciting and positive movement. Start by signing up for the free mini-course about Horses, pasture and