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How Green Is My Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   28th Sep 2015   •   1,958 views   •   0 comments
How Green Is My Horse

I’ve been thinking a lot about all things green lately. If you’re like me, you hope to do your part in taking care of this earth, and not leave it worse off, and perhaps even a little better. There are a few sports that are obviously not environmentally friendly. Car, boat and mud bog racing, sky diving, and anything else that uses up a lot of fossil fuels are obviously not ‘green’ activities that leave the earth, air and water unsullied. So where do horses and horseback riding stack up in terms of being a ‘green’ activity?

Well, if you keep a few horses in the back forty and they eat grass all year round and never leave your property, you’re probably on the right side of environmentally friendly activities. There are few carbon emissions and little ground or water pollution. Your horses are probably fertilizing the grass they graze from, and other than soil compaction where they walk frequently, they’re not really destroying the earth in any way. Regular vet and farrier visits will contribute to fossil fuel emissions, but that’s about it.

If you trail ride, as long as you’re conscientious about packing out everything you pack in by not leaving snack wrappers and other debris along the trail, you ride in a way that isn’t likely to cause erosions to hillsides, and don’t trample endangered species, you’re still being pretty ‘green’ and earth friendly.

Related: Horse Trails Destroyed by ATVs
Related: Finland Proposes Horse Manure to Heat Homes

Things slide down hill quickly though if you start heading out to horse shows and trail rides off of your property. Those of us who pull horse trailers will have an appropriate vehicle. Chances are you don’t just use that large, fossil fuel guzzling vehicle for hauling. It probably also makes runs to the grocery store and for take-out pizza. Alternatively, we might own two vehicles, one more fuel efficient than the other. So while we’re saving on fuel, we still have another ‘thing’ that needs to be manufactured, shipped and maintained in addition to the truck we use for hauling.

Those of us who don’t live in areas where year ‘round pasture is available are even less environmentally friendly. Hay is a pretty ‘green’ crop until it comes to harvesting. Then, it gets several operations involving fossil fuel dependent equipment. First it’s cut, using a tractor, then it may get raked or turned depending on how quickly it dries, then it’s baled with plastic string and may be left in the field to be picked up later by whoever buys it, or it’s put in storage by the farmer. From there, we pick it up and feed it to our horses. All this adds up to a lot of driving around, burning gas and diesel as we go.

Grains and concentrates also undergo a lot of harvesting and processing using fossil fuel dependent equipment, right down to grain grinders and baggers. Even something as simple as salt is extracted or mined, all at a cost to our environment. Thankfully, most bedding is a byproduct of grain production or wood milling. But even bedding can undergo some processing that requires the expenditure of non-renewable and polluting energy.

Then there’s the manufacturing, shipping and maintenance of all that other stuff - saddles, buggies, and all the other goodies our tack rooms are stuffed with. So while my horse isn’t quite as earth destructive as say, NASCAR I better not be too smug about my tiny carbon footprint, because the hoofprint makes it substantially larger.

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