Study to be Conducted on the Impact of Horses on the Environment

By: Katherine Huddleston, Staff Member

The United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") has begun a five-year educational project entitled, "Environmental Impact of Equine Operations." Natalie Voss, Environmental Impact Study to Include UK Faculty Member, THEHORSE.COM, Jan. 13, 2010, While the equine industry has a long and rich history, very little is known about the potential its environmental impact. Id. This project was initiated by Michael Westendorf, PhD, of Rutgers University and proposes to combine the efforts of "Cooperative Extension agents and university faculty" from 12 states. Currently the states being studied include: Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Vermont. Id. Kentucky joined this list just last week when the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky announced that assistant director, Jill Stowe, PhD, would take part in the project. Id.

Participants will soon begin research; the results of which they hope to circulate widely at the close of the five-year term. Id. Potential research topics include "the effects of manure and fertilizer runoff on soil and groundwater," which has been shown to affect water environments, as well as how horses' diets and medications can affect "life in the soil and water." Id. With the "Go Green" movement taking hold across the country, these researchers are hoping to find the best balance between "the safety of the horse and … the well-being of the environment," says Stowe. Id.

The results of the studies will likely affect the industry both here in Kentucky and nationwide. While the overall impact of the equine industry on the environment is likely very slight in comparison to the cattle and other large livestock industries, the project will hopefully find concrete and manageable ways in which the industry can join in the fight for a more environmentally friendly society. Id.