Managing The Environmental Impact of Keeping Horses


image environmental issues
“Ecology Earth Concept Word Collage” by Sujin Jetkasettakorn (

A large part of looking after your horse revolves around your stable and yard care. It doesn’t matter whether this is a full commercial yard or one stable in the back garden, many of the care principles are the same.

Managing the environmental impact of your horse is also an important aspect of maintaining the health and welling of your animals, as well as ensuring that other livestock and people are not adversely affected by your yard routines.

So whether you are new to horses or reviewing your own environmental impact of an existing yard, here are some issue to consider and and/or plan for in the future.

A Stable or Shelter

If your horse is to be kept in a stable for any length of time, then you and the horse will need to establish a routine of cleaning and mucking out. If this routine can incorporate an environmental focus then it can also benefit your horse’s health and possibly reduce costs for yourself.

In order to make managing the stable as easy as possible, then here a number of things should be in place and easy to access.

  • Clean water
  • Feed and forage material (Hay / Haylage)
  • A mucking out routine
  • A designated area for dumping the horse manure
  • A system for recycling waste
  • Using alternative energy sources for lighting


Reducing The Environmental Impact of Keeping A Horse

There are a number of ways to reduce the environmental impact of keeping a horse(es) which can also reduce costs and maintain the health of your animals better.


Managing Muck Heaps

One of the biggest sources of waste in an equine yard is the manure and bedding. On average a horse can produce 19kg of manure and bedding waste a day.

By using rubber matting on the stable floors, this can reduce the waste amounts since significant less bedding is needed.

image muck heap composting
Horse manure and compostable bedding such as straw or wood shavings / sawdust will compost down to make rich green enriched nutrients for any garden or grazing area.

Composting is another way to manage the muck heaps and reduce the need for commercial companies to remove waste materials.

Composting uses a process of intense heat generated from within the manure, which also kills off parasites and weed seeds. It also reduces the volume of the muck heat by as much as 40%.

If you are interested in more information on composting muck heaps there is an article on equisearch, although it was written a number of years ago.


Covering Muck Heaps

May muck heaps are left exposed to the elements and the large amount of rainfall that we tend to receive. This can result in the highly concentrated liquid part of the manure (leachate) running off into local streams and ditches and contaminating local water supplies.

One way to reduce this is to cover muck heap areas either in a shelter or by placing tarpaulin over it. Another option is to use smaller heaps and compost them which also dries out the manure and reduces the leachate risks.


Feed and Forage Storage

Depending on the storage facilities available and the number of horses in the yard, there are options available to reduce the environmental impact of feeding.

Transport costs can be a large environmental impact and can be reduced and sometimes provide a cheaper option if feed can be bought in bulk. Pallets are one way that unopened feed can be stored and many companies will recycle the pallets so that they don’t end up cluttering your own place.

Non recyclable packaging in Haylage

Haylage in particular tends to come in plastic packaging that cannot always be recycled.

Other options might be to source recyclable packaging by asking suppliers if this is available.

The more pressure and requests made to companies 
for recyclable packaging, the greater the 
incentive for some companies to change their 
practice especially if they thought there 
could be a market for this product.

Many hard feed products are in recyclable packaging or can even be composted if they are paper based.

Clean Water

Rainwater harvesting is a cost effective way to collect water and also reduces the amount of chemicals given to the horse. Many owners also report that their horses prefer the rainwater to tap water.

Clean water sources should not be located close to the muck heap. This includes rainwater harvesting systems and even taps which tend to have excess water, which can run off into the muck heap causing further leachate problems.

Muck heaps should also not be able to flow into local streams or water sources, since animals including the horses may choose to drink from these when out grazing.


Alternative Energy Sources

Many stables do use solar lighting since it is not always possible to have mains electricity supplies extended out into the yard or to arenas.

Solar powered lighting
Solar powered lighting

This light can be stuck to any stable or building wall where it has direct exposure to sunlight, and it will shine throughout the night at low light or increase in brightness if anyone walks close to it.

It is ideal as a security light and doesn’t need any tools or an electrician to fix.
Swiftly Done Bright Solar Power Outdoor LED Light No Tools Required Peel and Stick Motion Activated

 (available on Amazon)


Waste Disposal

Although recycling, composting and reducing waste materials are all important aspects of reducing the environmental impact, there will always be some waste that needs to be disposed of.

It is important that off site waste disposal is done through registered companies and that the waste is disposed of in legal dumping sites.

In Ireland there are civic amenity sites that will take most kinds of rubbish including batteries and electric goods. There is more information on equine environmental management in this pdf booklet produced by Failte Ireland.

If you have any further suggestions for reducing environmental impact please feel free to share any ideas in the comments section below I would love to hear from you.

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