What are the Environmental Issues With Horses?

horse in wild nature

What are the Environmental Issues With Horses?

Most of us love these majestic creatures. They’ve been our most loyal human companion for thousands of years and we’ve developed a special bond with them. That’s why it is hard to provide an unbiased synopsis of the wild horse problem and their impact on the environment.

But despite all the benefits that come from horses to humanity, there are also some negative effects that we must highlight. These environmental issues come from wild horses and equine operations that have a big carbon footprint on the planet.

Wild horses are pleasant to look at, and they definitely make the landscape feel more vibrant and lively, however, there is also a negative side. Wild horses can impact soils and vegetation, and they can have negative effects on wildlife.

In today’s article, we will focus on highlighting all the environmental issues with horses, particularly wild horses, and equine operations that might need to change for the sake of a better world.

Wild Horses and Their Effects on Vegetation

Let’s start with the impacts of overpopulation of wild horses on vegetation and plant life. As many researchers suggest, wild horses can impact the quantity of plants in a certain area.

According to 2018 research, horses have a greater influence on fodder than cattle, most likely due to the fact that they eat more.

Furthermore, the study discovered that horses prefer to graze the fodder less than cattle and animals, affecting species diversity and plant cover. Essentially, it was shown that horses had the largest influence on forage height, which means they graze their food at lower and greater rates than wildlife and cattle.

However the problem becomes evident only in areas with high horse or cattle populations. Effective management may be achieved by managed grazing, but this is challenging in places with wild horses since they graze all year and have high population numbers.

Effects on Soil

The issue with wild horses and their impact on the environment, particularly on soils is understandable. Horses eat a lot, however, that’s not the issue. The issue is the traveling distance that wild horses are willing to take for a meal.

They usually travel more than wildlife or cattle to find food, which increases the trampling on soils.

Several studies have found that wild horses enhance soil compaction and surface penetration resistance while decreasing soil stability. This raises the danger of soil displacement, which can result in bare land and is more susceptible to erosion. This shift in the soil makes it easier for exotic plants to spread.

On top of that, the erosion of the soil can cause irreversible damage to all plants. Therefore, over a long time, wild horses could permanently affect the productivity of the soil, minimizing the chances of plants growing.

Effects on Wildlife

As we mentioned, horses can impact vegetation and soil, which is like a domino effect that will affect wildlife habitat. One study discovered that wildlife prefers high-quality feeding locations over degraded habitats, indicating that wild horses have an indirect impact on wildlife by producing these degraded regions.

The impact of horses on wildlife has more to do with the land trampling and the disturbance they make, rather than horses eating the same forage. So, in areas where the wild horse population is unmanaged, it can cause serious disturbance to the local wildlife, since their presence affects the nearby food and nesting areas.

Manure Management

Did you know an average horse is producing up to 25 kg of manure daily? – That’s a lot! And if it is not properly managed, it can have some negative impacts on the environment.

There are many stables that feature environmental-friendly practices like transforming this waste into a nutrient-rich resource for crops or pasture. However, this process should be carefully managed since they need regular turning to maintain the right moisture and oxygen levels, otherwise, the manure won’t break down properly and will become a pollutant.

Moreover, manure leaching into groundwater raises alarms about nitrate levels.

Equestrian Operations and Their Impact on the Environment

The Carbon Footprint of Horse Racing

We all love horse racing. It is an exciting sport with billions of fans worldwide. However, its impact on the environment is quite big. Why?

According to TwinSpires.com, horse racing is an international sport and usually a popular event like the Kentucky Derby attracts participants from all around the world. These participants need to take their horse and travel to a certain location which increases the overall carbon footprint of the sport.

Land Use and Conservation

Horse operations, whether we are talking about a racetrack, horse stables or training facilities take a considerable area. This also has a negative impact on the environment, especially if the production of such facilities disrupts the land a lot and doesn’t feature green and tree-covered areas.

However, horse race facilities usually don’t damage the environment as much as other sporting venues just because they don’t require a lot of man-made buildings.

Water Conservation

Equine operations require a lot of water! Taking care of these horses, and managing a racetrack or a stable requires tons of clean water.

This may be a problem and can have negative effects on the environment if the stable or equine organization doesn’t have water-efficient practices, which leads to increased water waste. That’s why these organizations should start thinking about more eco-friendly solutions such as recycled water usage or rainwater harvesting.

Final Words

Horses don’t have a huge impact on the environment. In fact, they can also positively impact the world we live in.

The problem arises only with the uncontrolled wild horse population. In such areas, horses can have a huge impact on plants and wildlife, which is why their population needs to be monitored and controlled.

On the other hand, equine operations are advancing by implementing eco-friendly practices that will lead to better waste management, water conservation, and reducing the overall carbon footprint of their actions.

So, even though there are some environmental concerns around horses, the truth is they don’t have a significant impact on the environment, and usually, their negative sides are balanced with all the goodness that comes from these incredible animals.

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