Whether you’re building a new horse farm, or renovating an existing one, one of the most important questions you must ask yourself is: “What is my budget?”
If your desire is to create an eco-friendly farm that is not only chore-efficient and safe and healthy for your horses, but also environmentally friendly, you’re probably wondering how best to use your available funds to achieve that goal. Having designed eco-friendly horse farms of various sizes and budgets throughout North America, I have developed what I consider to be three essential tips to help you with your budget.
1. De-prioritize the barn – For most of us, money is a limited resource. All too often I see people spend too much of their budget on a barn, leaving little to no money to do other things that are key to creating an eco-friendly horse farm. In my experience, the most important component of an eco-friendly farm is not a fancy barn, but a well-designed, properly surfaced dry lot (also commonly referred to as a paddock or sacrifice area). Start your budgeting here. Next, consider the costs for establishing or renovating pastures. Land clearing, seeding and fertilizing, and implementing a rotational grazing strategy, while not the most expensive considerations, are extremely important. Then and only then, move on to considering what type of barn or shelter(s) you can afford.
2. Carefully consider green improvements – Adding solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, or “eco-friendly” building materials are great considerations, but they often have high upfront costs. If your budget allows for them, they offer wonderful solutions to help “green” your farm. However, far more important to the environment is that your pastures are not overgrazed and that you keep your horses and their manure out of any creeks, streams, or other waterways that run through or adjacent to your property (the one exception being man-made farm ponds that are not hydrologically connected to other waterways).
3. When it comes to land renovation, Mother Nature knows best – I once met with one of the leading land conservationists in my home state of North Carolina at a newly purchased horse property. We were discussing a previously cleared area that was very steep, and how we might be able to prevent soil erosion there. I proposed a variety of fancy practices, including planting specially selected deep-rooted plants to anchor the soil. His alternative solution? Do nothing (other than fence the horses out of the area). He pointed to the forest’s edge, which was close by, and said that the trees there would be more than capable of seeding this area naturally over a reasonably short time. The take-home message: while we often think of fancy human engineered solutions, which all come at a price, sometimes Mother Nature knows best and we just need to step back and let her work. It certainly doesn’t hurt our budget either, considering she works for free!
Clay Nelson is an expert on the planning, design and management of sustainable, eco-friendly equestrian facilities through his organization Sustainable Stables, LLC – SustainableStables.com.