Horses are arguably one of the most prominent animals to revolutionize human existence. Until the 1900s, travel options were very limited and most people used horses or trains as part of their daily commute. As the number of cars rose, horses were relieved of their position as fixtures of transportation and were kept primarily as part of a rural lifestyle. Today, they are used for sport and sparingly for transportation but have maintained their importance as farm animals. They are considered huge assets to the agricultural community for their role in cultivating sustainably grown foods.
Healthy Pastures, Healthy Horses
Horses help produce healthy soil on small farms where they have room to graze and can assist with crop rotation. Horse manure is a renewable resource that, after about 3 months, can be used to increase the nitrogen levels in soil, as it is used year in and year out to grow a variety of crops. If you’re considering using manure to revitalize your soil, it’s important to ensure that your horses have healthy grass to graze from and are healthy and unconfined themselves, as manure from unhealthy horses is more likely to contaminate your crops and garden bed.
Having enough space for horses and other animals to graze is important for many reasons. Rotational grazing is the best way to keep your pastures healthy and prevent soil erosion. While most resources suggest you need at least two acres to provide enough pasture for a horse, this depends entirely on the side of the horse as well as the type of land they are grazing. According to Extension, “With non-irrigated dryland pastures, you may need up to 30-38 acres per horse to meet its total foraging needs.”
Healthy Horses, Healthy Food
Rotational grazing and using manure derived from healthy horses is a good way to keep your crops and pastures healthy. If you have grazing animals aside from horses, such as cattle or goats, coordinating their grazing pattern can help maintain weeds and bushes that horses choose not to graze. Done properly, rotational grazing and the use of manure on pastures can even eliminate the need for herbicides that can be toxic to soil and farm animals.
Ensuring your horses have not only enough space to live but enough space to be happy and healthy animals will ensure that they fulfill you and your community’s need to make sure you are happy and healthy. Avoiding chemicals altogether and growing produce organically and locally is the origin of community supported agriculture, which is a grassroots demand for local produce that is funded by community members. This stemmed from community concern about lack of regional options in local food stores and has expanded into a community organized movement across the world to conveniently attain and support sustainably grown produce from family-run farms.
Humans have used horses as a crucial part of civilization as far back as time goes. They have helped grow our food and nurture our pastures and it’s important to care for them as we use them. Naturally grown foods are a luxury but very important to living healthy lives. There’s a lot to be grateful for as we keep these gentle creatures close.
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