On the 25 March 2017 Stuart Myers from Equiculture and Jennie Curtis from Fresh Landscape Design presented a horse property planning seminar. Here is a summary and also some useful links:
Horses have evolved to eat a low protein, low fibre diet, walking and foraging in herds.
The domestication of horses and use of horses after the industrial revolution has guided often-used practices for stabling and managing horses – usually for human convenience. Horses don’t really like stables and would rather be in a yard if they have to be contained.
Most modern horses require the three F’s: friends, forage and freedom.
Horses can be used for grassland management by having a systematic approach to running horses as a herd and rotating paddocks.
The first step in horse property design is to perform a site analysis and understand the capacity of your land. The site analysis allows you to identify aspects of your property such as buildings, roads, waterways, boggy areas, dams, remnant bush and hilly areas. Locations for yards, working and stabling areas, lane ways, paddocks and revegetation sites can then be planned.
Design road access and lane ways to be wide enough for trucks and fire vehicles, allow a good turning circle at the end of lane ways.
By using good quality pasture hay in round bales you can rehabilitate areas of low ground cover by allowing the horses to feed in this area. The hay and manure will act a mulch and encourage pasture regeneration.
‘Think like a horse’ – they want to be close to the feed source ‘YOU’. Horse owners can use this behaviour to their advantage by arranging gates, lane ways and paddocks that allow horses easy access to a central yard facility where water and feed is available. This way, the horses want to come into the yard when they see you there. Consider having an all-weather yard with a suitable surface (deep wood chip, rubber matting or earth). This makes management easier and also allows horses to be called and corralled in times of emergency.
Some useful links
Information about horses, fire and flood planning at the Equiculture website. This is a great resource with links to others to help you plan for emergencies.
Would you like to develop a horse property plan that uses the natural grazing behaviour of horses to benefit the land and the wider environment? At this workshop you will develop a property plan that is horse and human friendly which maximises the natural resources available.
Participants will develop a deeper understanding of how horses’ natural behaviour can be harnessed to manage pastures and how infrastructure can be centralised. The workshop will include information about horse health and welfare, the relationship between horses and pasture, pasture management systems, water planning, worm/manure management and how to save time and resources on your horse property. Activities include seminars, hands-on property planning and a paddock walk at a horse property.
This workshop is the second in the Small Farms Network Equiculture series. Ideally participants will have attended Healthy Land, Healthy Horse 1 or a similar workshop by Equiculture to get the most from this workshop.
Stuart is co-founder of Equiculture with wife Jane Myers (MSc Equine). Stuart presents courses, talks, workshops and seminars on the subject of environmentally sustainable horse keeping practices in Australia and the UK. He is the co-author of several books on the subject of environmentally sustainable horse keeping and the creator of the concept – The Equicentral System – an environmentally sustainable system of equine management.
Jennie Curtis is an award winning Registered Landscape Architect based in Bywong. She has designed landscapes for over 250 gardens and small farms including the Roogulli small farm in Bywong which has been open to the public on several occasions. Jennie will be working with participants in this workshop to help them identify landscape opportunities and constraints for their properties using aerial photos and their knowledge of their land. This will lead into planning how different parts of the property can be used.
The cost of this workshop is $ 60.00 per ticket (plus a booking fee of $3.69) with up to two people per property able to attend. A large part of the costs for this course have been subsidised by funding from the Australian Government. Numbers are limited and bookings are essential. Lunch, morning tea and resources for property planning are supplied. Address supplied when you register.
You can purchase an aerial photograph for property planning when you book or supply your own.
The Healthy Land, Healthy Horse Field Day was a fascinating day packed with information for horse owners. Geoff and Mark from Manna Park Agistment Center in Bywong provided a beautiful setting for Stuart Myers from Equiculture to share the Equiculture system of horse management. A range of topics were discussed from horse biology to the importance of maintaining a diversity of plant species on farm for grazing.
Some key messages were:
Horses thrive on a high fibre, low energy diet.
Encourage biodiversity. Plant and encourage a wide variety of plants and pasture species on your grazing land. Horses are adapted to using various herbs and shrubs in their diet. A varied diet can have medicinal benefits for the horse and helps diversity on the farm. Encourage remnant vegetation by fencing it off and planting shelter belts of native trees.
Running horses as a herd allows pastures to be managed productively. By using rotational grazing and planning paddock management, horse owners can reduce their reliance on supplementary feeding.
Focus on ‘grass farming’ by improving your knowledge of pasture species and encouraging them to self seed and proliferate. Horses can be used to spread mulch and beneficial pasture seeds by feeding them on bare areas of soil.
Use the ‘stubby test’, graze the pasture when it reaches the height of a stubby standing up and stop grazing when the stubby reaches the height of the stubby lying down.
Native grasses can be very beneficial to horse health and provide the low energy diet they need.
Concentrate key activities in specially designed areas eg. covered feeding areas and multi-use surfaces (grassed arenas that can be used for training and grazing). Watering points at a central site can reduce set up costs and encourage horses to get more exercise.