Owning, renting and using land comes with a significant responsibility, that is, that at the very least, we should leave it in the same condition than we found it, ideally in significantly better condition.
However, when keeping horses, this isn’t always easy. Any land management specialist will likely wince when you mention keeping horses, they know they eat selectively and this activity actively encourages weed growth. They also know, they tend to compact the earth, choosing to use regular paths which become compacted when dry and churned up (especially around gateways), when wet.
If I asked you to think of a dreamy field of grazing horses, what would you imagine? A vast green and flat expanse, with gorgeous white post and rail fencing? Of course, we’d all like that! However, if you think about the last time you saw horses grazing in a field, was it actually more of a nightmare? Muddy and swampy near gates and field shelters? Monocrop grasses grazed down to practically nothing? Horses stood lingering at the gate, waiting for hay?
Why is it that horses so often tend to destroy the land they live on? Is it down to them or their keepers? Is it their environment or their behaviour? We’ve witnessed this situation time and time again, and watched it begin at KBS. And, in an effort to mitigate these effects we decided to read, research, ask, trial and explore as many natural interventions as we can.
And, this is our journey…
Land and Soil
We’re not making this process easy on ourselves either. We’re starting out with almost all of our land located on a relatively steep gradient, heavy clay soil and seeded with delicate native grass varieties.
Add to this, we’re very clearly experiencing the effects of climate change, with summers’ becoming hotter and longer and rain events becoming shorter and more violent, with minimal snow through the winter.
Our Journey so Far
We learned early on, that there’s little point in making improvements to the land, without meaningfully considering how the horses can and will impact it. In response, significant changes had to be made to the way the horses live, graze and move around. From track systems and equicentral grazing plans, to barefoot trimming and 24/7 herd living, we’ve implemented various natural horsekeeping methods, while monitoring and protecting our land.
Not only have these interventions reduced stresses on the land, but they’ve improved both the healthy and quality of life for our horses.
Rain Water Harvesting
We carried out an analysis of water resources back in 2020, and while the data didn’t indicate a significant decrease in mm of water falling, it did however highlight, the changes in the ‘way’ it falls. Our region has shifted from reliable, predictable and prolonged rain events to short, violent and unpredictable fall resulting in significant damage and run-off.
In response we set about trialing various rain water harvesting techniques, both to encourage water to remain in our land for longer and to collect it from roof areas around the farm.