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Best Management Practices are simple management strategies and tools that can help decrease potential negative effects horses' have on the water and land.

In recent years water has become a very serious issue locally, as well as statewide. We are not alone, as most states will or already do face the same problem. Everyone has a part in protecting our potable water resources to ensure clean water today and for future generations.

Due to the concentrated number of horses in our county, the equine industry poses a higher risk for negatively impacting the water.

Quick links:
How do horses and horse farms impact our water negatively?
Why are BMPs essential to proper farm management?
BMPs an overview.
BMP specifics.
Proper farm management: local and state laws.

How do horses and horse farms impact our water negatively?

1. Manure and urine – manure is made up of many different components, nitrogen being one of them. Excess amounts of N+ can:

  • Increase algae growth, which then can harm and kill fish and aquatic life.
  • Make the water undrinkable for humans and animals when excessive levels are found in the water.
  • Leach into our ground water. Florida, in particular, has a ground with little ability to hold this excess, so the rest goes to the water below.

2. Over or improper fertilizer handling – adding too much, or the wrong type of fertilizer and fertilizing soil with an improper pH adds additional N+, as well as other potential harmful nutrients to the soil. This can also waste your money!

3. Overstocking the land – this leads to overgrazing which will potentially destroy good vegetation: 

  • Without grass, the land has no ability to take up the N+, so all of it goes straight to the aquifer.
  • Little or no vegetation increases soil erosion, thereby increasing sediment in the aquifer.
  • It decreases property value and can also decrease usefulness of the land due to erosion, but it will increase the money needed by farm for upkeep.
  • Potentially increases chance of sand colic.

Why are BMPs essential top proper farm management?

 1. They help to decrease or eliminate harm to water:

  • By using these simple techniques properly, you decrease or eliminate your farm's negative impact on the environment 
  • Each impact adds up to big difference.

2. They improve the quality of the farm, thereby improving conditions for horses:

  • More grass in the pastures leads to better grazing conditions, which logically improves nutrients being taken up by horse.
  • It may help decrease worm and insect infestation, thereby reducing medical issues for the animals, reducing the money spent on medical issues.

3. They improve farm business:

  • Helps improve business when a beautiful appearance is given to the farms.
  • A smartly run business helps to sell itself-this counts in the horse industry.

BMPs-an overview

1. No stockpiling of manure in sinkholes/excavated mines or pits.

  • Any dumping in sinkholes only increases excess N+ ability to reach aquifer.

2. Proper fertilization of pastures.

  • 50lbs nitrogen per acre generally recommended rate for pastures.
  • Rates are higher when growing to hay.

3. Soil-test all areas to be fertilized first.

  • Saves the farm money by only using correct item/amount.
  • Ensures proper amounts/rates that can be best taken up by the grass.
  • Should soil test every 2-3 years to find out correct needed nutrients and soil pH.

4. Proper spreading of manure or disposal via hauling away or composting.

  • Use 1 horse-per-spreadable acre as a guide.
  • Spreading manure/shaving will be acceptable; must be careful with application rates.
  • Composting on-site is an excellent way to decrease manure's harmful effects AND increase numerous benefits to soil.
    • It makes an excellent soil amendment.
    • It allows soil to need less water.
    • It is an excellent slow-release fertilizer.

5. No dumping of manure in wetlands, streams or any water feature.


1. Pasture Best Management Practices include:

  • Proper stocking rates of pastures.
    • The University of Florida recommends 1:1- 2 1/ 2 ratio as a minimum\
    • As much as five acres per horse for pastures; horse breed, grass type, soil base, stocking amounts all factors for not allowing pastures to become overgrazed.
  • Maintain grass levels of at least 3 inches.
  • Use proper pasture rotation to allow grass time to rest and regrow.
  • Where applicable, plant additional seed and winter rye to help maintain pasture thickness.
  • Cut larger pastures into smaller ones to allow for more uniform grazing.

2. Develop a plan for manure handling.

  • Make sure that manure spreading on paddocks is within acceptable rates. (One spreadable acre per horse.)
  • Either composting manure on-site or removing to an environmentally-friendly alternative is best.

Proper future farm management: local and state laws

1. Marion County Springs Protection legislation:

  • Adopted in 2009.
  • Excessive manure stockpiling now prohibited; piles must get picked up a maximum of every 3 months.
  • Fertilization maximums will also now be enforced; 50 pounds of Nitrogen per acre is the maximum which may be applied to pastures.

2. Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) legislation regarding CAFO's:

  • Concentrated animal feeding operation.
  • Any facility housing animals 45 days or more must have groundwater permitting.
  • Initially for 500 horses or more; will affect 150-499 horses in future.
  • Any facility seen to be a nitrogen emitter by DEP can have legislation enforced upon it.