Image of a Watershed
By Patricia Lowe, Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority
What do healthy horses and healthy watersheds have in common? More than you think, when you look at the natural environment that hosts equine businesses in rural communities across Ontario. One way to better understand that environment, which is made up of land and water resources, is to divide it into geographical units called watersheds. A watershed is simply an area of land upon which melting snow and rainwater drain into a common body of water like a creek, lake, pond or river. Homes, businesses, farms, forests, hamlets, towns and cities are all an integral part of any given watershed. What happens on the land associated with those types of activities, can have a negative or positive effect on the health of the environment and its associated watershed.
The equine industry relies on local land and water resources within a watershed to operate their hobby or business. Those resources are well protected by landowners who take action through positive stewardship activities. While the benefit of these activities ensures livestock health, it also creates a healthy network of wetlands, creeks, forests and meadows found in our watersheds.
Just what are these positive stewardship activities you ask? These are simple steps taken by landowners like you, to improve land management practices. A stewardship project, depending on the location and existing natural features of a property or farm, could involve fencing off a local water course, providing alternative drinking water sources for livestock, employing good pasture management practices, storing manure properly at a safe distance from wells and creeks and finally, planting native trees and shrubs along waterways and pastures to filter, recycle and trap nutrients before they enter the water. The benefits to your horse from these actions, as well as you, your family and your neighbours “down watershed” of your land, are significant.
Stewardship projects typically require a small financial investment on the part of the landowner. Additional or matching funding and free technical expertise are available from a variety of local stewardship programs including Conservation Authorities. Conservation Authorities (CA’s) are in the business of managing watersheds and may offer financial incentives to equine owners to encourage and support the implementation of stewardship projects on private land. Not sure which of the 36 Conservation Authorities you should contact to begin a stewardship project on your property? Check out the provincial map and contact listing on the Conservation Ontario website at www.Conservation-Ontario.on.ca.
This article has been prepared by the Healthy Lands for Healthy Horses Steering Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Ontario Equestrian Federation’s Horse Facilities Council, Uxbridge Horseman’s Association, Ontario Trail Riders Association, Equine Guelph, University of Guelph, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and various Conservation Authorities. Funding for events organized by this committee has been provided by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association from the Nutrient Management BMP Demonstration Grant funding project.
For more information please visit: www.equineguelph.ca/healthylands.php