The day was spectacular after a rainy weekend. About 20 of us gathered for the Maryland Horse Council Farm Stewardship meeting at Waredaca Farm with a focus on well-managed pastures and the health benefits to horses of access to grazing and roaming space.
Waredaca Farm owner Robert Butts described how he mows and fertilizes his field to keep them healthy for his school horses and boarders. The school horses live outside all year round and have plenty of winter coat, run ins and tree line to protect them from the elements. They stay happier and healthier with this outdoor living.
Jane Seigler, President of the Maryland Horse Council, encouraged participants to come to the Maryland Horse Council annual meeting in Annapolis that will address issues such as support for the Maryland Horse Industry Board, recognition of the importance of horses to the Maryland economy and Sunday hunting.
Gerald Talbert, Project Manager for the Farm Stewardship Certification and Assessment Program (FSCAP) described the program and the success in signing up horse farms. The group suggested that one way to bring more thoroughbred breeding farms into the program is to include the program flyer in the VIP packets for the Maryland Million horse racing event at Laurel Racetrack. We also discussed how to bring the Maryland Horse Industry Board on as a partner, given their scarce resources. The Maryland Horse Industry Board could promote the program via their regular contacts with the 600 licensed stables. A key partner in this program are the Soil Conservation District Equine Specialists. There are four Equine Specialists in Maryland. The group discussed ways to show support for keeping these positions filled and their offices financed to provide technical assistance to our horse farms.
Amy Burk, Coordinator for the Equine Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park, described her on-going research on turfgrasses and their carbohydrate and sugar levels. She and her students are collaborating with Rutgers to study the effects of continuous compared to rotational grazing on the health of the horse. They are collecting grass, manure and blood samples of grazing horses over several 24 hour periods to identify fluctuations in gut pH and blood glucose and insulin levels. They put glow sticks on the horses' halters to find them in the dark! She also discussed research findings on the use of best management practices by Maryland horse farm owners. The results are that most horse farms have good vegetation in their pastures, but heavy erosion in areas where horses are congregating. Some shortfalls are lack of gutters and downspouts to manage roof water run off, improper manure storage and lack of buffers between pastures and surface water. Education about the benefits of heavy use pads and cost-share programs through the government agencies is needed.
The group received a special tour of the Waredaca Brewing Company's beer production facilities. The micro-brew operation is set to open in November, using hops grown on the farm. The beer garden overlooks the horse pastures.
Special thanks to Robert and Gretchen Butts for hosting us, including fine refreshment, and for their commitment to our Maryland land and horse community.
Founder and Chair
Maryland Horse Council Farm Stewardship Committee