Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. And each of us has to find our own way to get there. As an equestrian, you have a special connection to the natural world. Here are six steps you can take to make your riding more sustainable.
Throughout the year, this four-part series has highlighted some of the key aspects of unsustainability in our society. From the harmful substances used in products we find in the yard and the effects, specific chemicals can have on the soil to the wasteful materials used in the items we choose to buy.
Conservation of nature and the world's wildlife has always been a strong passion of mine, and whilst we may think at times ourselves separate from nature, and strangely that of our horses, we are all an integral part of the web of life.
When I first began writing part one in this series, 'A Greener Start', back in October 2021, it was the beginning of COP26 in Glasgow. A 12-day conference where world leaders come together annually to discuss collective goals against climate change and how we are meeting them. As November dawns we fast forward 12 months, COP27 is currently being held in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheihk.
So, in the past 12 months, what have we seen in our climate?
- The Living Planet report global wildlife populations have plummeted to a 69% average.
- Unusually heavy monsoon rains have caused devastating floods in Bangladesh, India, China, and most recently, throughout Pakistan, affecting more than 33 million people in Pakistan alone.
- East Africa is experiencing a prolonged drought due to seasonal rains not reaching the continent as a result of a warming Indian Ocean
- This Summer saw prolonged heatwaves and wildfires across Europe and the Northern Hemispheres, with the hottest UK temperature recorded at 40.3c after strong Winter storms.
- The Arctic sea ice shrunk to its 10th lowest extent on record, with a lack of ice on the sea making survival tough for animals that call this home, such as Crabb Seals and Polar Bears.
- Each household is affected by the energy price rise due to the unsustainable fossil fuels we currently use.
What we have here is a theme, a theme that is centred around extreme and unpredictable weather conditions that are affecting every corner of the globe, humans and animals alike. Unseasonably warm and wet weather is causing the highest cases of metabolic issues I have ever seen in horses here in the UK.
Alongside soaring Summer temperatures which caused numerous incidents of drought and colic, the extremity of the weather we face as equestrians is no longer a question of whether to rug or not; it now heads towards the realms of sustainable welfare.
It is a theme we could all too easily switch off the radio and turn a blind eye to when the television comes on, but a changing climate is affecting everyone everywhere. When it comes to making changes to live more sustainably, making a difference will always start with you, and now, your yard!
Six Steps to A Sustainable Yard
Land Management - Managing the land is one of the most effective ways to contribute to an environmentally friendly yard. Using the land's natural layout when allocating areas, such as a natural decline that allows drainage, is great forethought to where you may position buildings around the yard. Using porous materials aside from concrete will allow water to drain, and leaving natural 'unkept’ areas is excellent for enriching the horse's environment and local wildlife.
Energy Conservation - Save what you can when you are not using it! Use water collected in butts and tankards that collect rainwater, fix any leaks to taps and hose pipes and turn lights off when they are not in use. Even install solar panels to power kitchen appliances and electrical fencing.
Up-cycle - Instead of spending top dollar on something new, consider up-cycling second-hand goods, be this reclaimed wood for fencing and stables or equestrian car boots for clothing, tack and tools.
Recycle! - Create a recycling pile in the yard, materials to take or items to be used by someone else. Make an effort to only purchase items in no packaging (what is it with fruit in the stores?!) or are recyclable.
Feed Naturally - If you do not have the facilities to grow your own hay, look to outsource from local providers to reduce your carbon footprint. Ensure they are organic and preferably mixed grass to provide a gut mixture for the gut; you are entitled to ask what is in your hay and what is used on it!
Sustainable Products - Purchase sustainably made and natural products, whether this is clothing you buy or for grooming and cleansing. Replacing chemical-based grooming sprays and detergents that can be harmful to your horse and the environment is an excellent contribution you can make.
Each person is a consumer. A seller provides the product, which we then buy and consume. The seller will meet the demand for a product; once the demand stops, so does the chain of production. This is a very empowering way to view consumerism because we ultimately decide what products are placed on our shelves, where they come from, and how they are packaged and transported.
Each of you reading this holds more power to make positive changes for our future than you may realise. As COP27 continues at the time of writing, there is much papering over cracks, offering money to the areas more affected by climate change rather than solving the root cause of the problems.
Making a conscious decision to choose what we buy, what materials it contains, and how the product is produced, packaged and transported is one of the most significant sustainable steps we can take for our horses, ourselves, and our planet.
We make a choice. We make a difference. I can only hope the rest will follow.