Green is Good at AQHA
Do not adjust your monitors; we're supposed to be green!
So, what is being green?
Of course, it means living easy on the Earth -- helping rather than harming our environment to keep things going for future generations.
For horse people, though, there's an added element. We're also striving to be good stewards of our animals and the land they live on and prosper in. We work to protect trails and our access to them, and AQHA's STEP Program (Stewards for Trails, Education and Partnerships) helps promote that.
Equestrian groups and individuals are encouraged to participate in trail maintenance and restoration projects, with funding offered by AQHA and our Corporate Partner Tractor Supply Co. for the projects that have the most community involvement and the biggest impact on trail sustainability.
And as for taking care of our horses?
AQHA's Greener Pastures Program is a boon for responsible horse owners. It allows AQHA members to track American Quarter Horses they have bred or previously owned and, if those horses ever become unwanted by their current owner, there will be the opportunity to provide a home or assist in finding one.
Environmentally Friendly Horse Management
Ten ways to make your horse operation more Earth-friendly, from our pals at TheHorse.com:
-Install gutters and downspouts on all buildings to divert clean rainwater away from high-traffic areas and reduce the amount of sediment that gets into the surface water.
-Plant trees as dust barriers and protection for the banks of streams and ponds.
-Use organic fertilizers and natural mineral compounds, such as rock phosphate.
-Use biodegradable and nontoxic shampoos and cleaners around the barn. Channel wash water into grassy areas so it can be absorbed into the soil.
-Mow weeds when you're about to rest a pasture; use nontoxic weed spray or a weed eater; mowing tall weeds also keeps mosquitoes down.
-Install bird houses for purple martins, bluebirds, barn swallows, violet-green swallows and tree swallows, which can eat several thousand soft-bodied flying insects per day.
-Set out shed or trimmed dog and horse hair so the bug-loving birds can use it for building nests.
-Test the well water to see what your horses are drinking; filter the city water that they drink.
-Install automatic waterers powered by geothermic heat to keep water cool in the summer and above freezing in the winter
-Use wood byproducts (wood pellets or straw pellets) rather than virgin wood for bedding. Always avoid black walnut shavings because of potential laminitis complications.
Education = Protecting Land
Dealing with a zoning board that's unfamiliar with equine operations? Oftentimes, city folks don't fully understand the benefits of wide-open spaces. The Equestrian Land Conservation Resource notes that land is being lost to development at the astonishing rate of 250 acres per hour, so it's important to protect what we can. ELCR offers a publication, "Horses Make Good Neighbors," that aims to educate people who are not familiar with horses about the important ways in which horses contribute to their local communities.
It's a valuable tool for advocates of equine-friendly land use planning and zoning to share with elected and appointed government officials, neighborhood associations, and community zoning and planning professionals and volunteers.
ELCR is the only national not-for-profit organization assisting in the conservation of land for horses and horse-related activity.
QuarterFest Celebrates Conservation
Conservation efforts take center stage at QuarterFest, AQHA's inaugural equine expo May 1-3 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Sessions will be held on treading lightly on the land while trail riding, how to build a trail bridge, campground design and other instruction from the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource.
Other items of interest include clinics on horse camping, negotiating trail obstacles, emergency first aid and GPS geocaching. Plus, there will be a guided trail ride through the nearby Cedars of Lebanon State Park.
There's still time to get your QuarterFest tickets!
Ride Lightly on the Land
The Back Country Horsemen of America organization teaches others how to travel and camp with their horses while having a minimum impact on the land. In doing so, the group espouses seven "Leave No Trace" principles. It's a code of ethics that can be applied to any land user, but here's how it relates to equestrians:
-Plan ahead and prepare -- This should be the mantra of anyone heading out into the landscape. Horse users in particular need to know which trails are open to horse use and which ones are not. Visit in small groups to limit stress on the land and be sure to have the appropriate equipment to rest your horses or camp overnight.
-Travel and camp on durable surfaces -- Stay on the trail to avoid damaging trailside plants and seek out already-established campsites. Tie horses on gravel or dry grasses to avoid damage to the land.
-Dispose of waste properly -- If you pack it in, pack it out, including trash and spilled foods. Horse users should take the time to spread manure so it will decompose quickly in the weather. Also don't let your horse leave a "deposit" within 200 feet of streams or lakes.
-Leave what you find -- This might not seem to apply to horsemen specifically, but we can leave things as we found them by repairing any damage our horses left behind, such as a hole pawed in the ground.
-Minimize campfire impacts -- When staying overnight, use only established camping spots, keep fires small, put campfires out completely, and then scatter the cool ashes.
-Respect wildlife -- Don't offer food to wildlife, and if you see any wild animals, don't follow or approach them. If you have dogs with you, keep them under control so they don't harass wildlife.
-Be considerate of other visitors -- Every one of us should follow this code of conduct in every part of life, not just when riding out in the back country. Be courteous to other land users, moving your horse to the uphill side of the trail so they can pass comfortably. Avoid leaving manure on the trail or at trailheads, and try to park your rig in a way that doesn't take up more room than necessary in cramped parking areas.
Read and Ride
Why wait for shipping? Download our recreational riding e-book and get started right away, learning new and creative ways to spend time with your horse. Get a list of AQHA trail rides and learn ways to get fit to ride. Get an inside look on trail ride competitions and brush up on trail ride etiquette and trail ride safety tips.
Spring into Action!
Horses for Clean Water is a group headquartered in the Pacific Northwest that teaches techniques such as mud management and composting manure so that animals can be cared for in a way that benefits them, the farm, the owner, the community and the environment.
Here are a few springtime tips that will help prepare your property for a productive, chore-efficient summer!
-Hang swallow boxes. Our favorite bird at Horses for Clean Water, the violet-green swallow, has returned to western Washington and will be returning to other parts of North America this month, as well. These cheerful little guys spend winters in Central America and return each spring to their previous year's nest. They are voracious insect eaters, consuming many thousands per day, per bird.
-Soil test. Check with your conservation district for assistance on this easy way to get more info on what amendments your pasture soils need to get healthy and productive.
-Pull weeds like tansy ragwort that are just coming up now and are in the rosette stage. Use gloves and bag the weeds to be sent to the landfill.
-Plant native trees and shrubs for filters, hedgerows, summer shade and storm-water management.
-Begin rotational grazing of horse pastures, in half-hour increments (to avoid digestive upsets). Work up to several hours over a period of weeks.
Springtime is also an ideal time to spread compost. Here, from the archives of America's Horse magazine, are some dos and don'ts to improve your compost pile:
Use a variety of "greens" and "browns." Green materials include things like fresh grass clippings and manure that are high in nitrogen. Brown materials have more carbon -- things like sawdust, wood chips or hay.
Break up the materials and turn the pile. The more you turn it, the faster it decomposes.
Let the compost pile get too dry or too wet. It should be as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Spread the pile out to dry if it's too wet. If it's too dry, poke holes in the top of the pile and apply water.
Use any toxic materials, such as those treated with chemicals or pesticides. Also stay away from meat and dairy products, as well as weeds with mature seeds and plants with a persistent root system (like crabgrass).
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