How to reduce your horse’s carbon footprint

How to reduce your horse’s carbon footprint

Want to do your bit to help reduce the impact of climate change? We look at 10 ways to reduce our carbon hoofprint at the yard, and make keeping horses more sustainable.

From new riding gear, feed and the bedding we buy to help keep our horses happy and healthy to the fuel used to transport horses to lessons and shows, the equestrian industry does run on a rather high carbon footprint. As horse owners, we all strive to keep our beloved equines in the conditions they are used to, but there are ways to consider the environment, too, and help reduce the impact of climate change. Here, we offer 10 tips for being more sustainable horse owners.

1. Buy in bulk

Consider buying your feed, bedding and hay or haylage in bulk, which will not only save you money (most companies offer a multi-buy discount), but also reduces the number of delivery trips required and therefore lowers your carbon footprint. You could even buddy up with a fellow livery to share the cost and delivery charges.

2. Research your feed and bedding companies

The carbon footprint associated with manufacturing and delivering feed and bedding can be high, but you can make sustainable choices with a little research. Check out who your most local bedding and hay provider is, to reduce the distance they need to travel, and research the company that manufactures your horse’s feed – are their manufacturing processes sustainable and do they use recyclable packaging? If not, it might be time to consider swapping to a more eco-conscious company.

3. Share journeys

Whether you’re planning to load up and attend a clinic or are competing at a show, consider sharing transport with a friend to save on the fuel costs and carbon footprint. Sharing the drive with someone else is also much more fun! You could also look at splitting the daily visits to the yard with a friend to save you both making two journeys a day – one could do the morning shift and the other the evening shift, which will save time and fuel.

4. Repair and reuse

We all love buying new horse-related stuff for ourselves and our horses, but does that rug really need replacing or could it be brought back to life with a needle and thread and wash-in waterproofing? Could that tear in your favourite breeches be sewn up? Instead of throwing things away and replacing them with new items, consider repairing and reusing to reduce your carbon footprint.

Before you head to the tack shop, why not ask your fellow liveries if they have any unwanted gear that they could sell you or swap for some of your own unused kit, and vice versa? Or visit your local tack sale to grab a second-hand bargain and sell some of your unwanted items.

5. Recycle

Our tack rooms are full to bursting with used plastic in the form of supplement tubs, spray bottles and feed bags, many of which can be recycled or reused. Plastic feed bags make great storage bags for clean rugs as well as hay bags for carrying hay out to the field. Spray bottles can be reused for watering indoor houseplants or your own eco-friendly homemade fly spray, while supplement tubs with lids can store carrots and apples to keep them fresh for longer and stop mice getting to them. Many companies now offer refillable items, so you can reuse plastic containers.

6. Adapt your yard

From filling water buckets to washing off sweaty horses and soaking hay, we equestrians use a lot of water. Why not invest in a few water butts dotted around the stable yard to collect rainwater, which can be used for washing out buckets, sponging off dirty horses and soaking hay? You could also look to swap energy-zapping light bulbs for energy-saving ones, and make sure you switch off lights and electrical items at the sockets when they’re not being used.

Consider fitting rubber mats in your stable to save on the amount of bedding you need to use. Less bedding also means less time spent mucking out and more time for riding. When choosing bedding, research materials that are absorbent to reduce the amount you need to use, such as wood pellets and shavings. 

7. Share visits and stay at home

It’s important we keep up with our horse’s routine care, but you can reduce the impact on the environment by sharing visits from the vet, farrier, physio and dentist with fellow liveries. You might also get a discount on the visit or travel fee. Why not consider sharing lessons with other riders at your yard, too? You could even look at having lessons remotely – a trend started during lockdown – to save your trainer having to drive to you. There are even online dressage competitions available now, so you can compete without having to leave the yard! Simply film your test and send it in to be judged.

8. Land management

Poo-picking is important to reduce the worm burden, as is rotating paddocks to prevent them becoming over-grazed in the summer and poached in the winter, which can also be detrimental to the soil health and impact biodiversity. Always get your horse’s droppings worm-egg counted before worming as wormer-resistance is a real danger, and putting unnecessary chemicals in your horse is bad for the environment. Also consider the chemicals and products you are putting on your horse, such as fly sprays and coat shines. Choose products that won’t harm the fauna and flora.

9. Loan, share or rehome

If you’re thinking about buying a new horse, why not consider visiting your local equine charity to see if you could offer a rescue horse or pony a new home? Many centres are full to bursting and desperate for re-homers. There’s usually always someone looking for a sharer or loaner to help ride and care for their horse, too, which could be a more sustainable option than buying a new one.

10. Keep your horse healthy

Lastly, ensure you keep on top of your horse’s health checks and vaccinations to prevent unnecessary illness and disease. Don’t leave it too late to get something checked out as a small problem can quickly turn into a big one. Caught early enough, many things can be dealt with easily and quickly, and prevent numerous expensive vet call-outs that can have a heavy impact on the environment.

How do you keep a check on your horse’s carbon footprint? We’d love to know! Share your tips on our Facebook page.