An NE-1441 Project: Proposed Methodologies for Administering a Multi-State Environmental Best Management Practices Survey of Equine Properties


Several states have reported that equine are the fastest growing segment of the livestock industry. Nationwide, equine has increased by 77% since 1997; and it is reported there are approximately 9.5 million horses in the United States (AHC, 2005). Proper management of equine operations requires the adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to balance nutrient production and prevent erosion. Government agencies are concerned about non-point sources of water pollution and have focused on agriculture, including equine operations, as a major contributor to water quality issues. Many states’ laws have regulated equine farms, requiring farm managers to incorporate BMPs. The objectives of this proposed national (multi-state) survey are to quantify and assess the use of the equine industry’s BMPs in pasture management, erosion control and to examine potential environmental impacts. Few state studies have investigated horse BMPs in the U.S, and more research is needed to assess the effect of horse farm management on U.S. water quality. Knowledge of the current scope and nature of equine industry management practices are important when developing regulations, laws, and educational programs to enhance the stewardship and govern land management on equine operations.

What did we do? 

The methodology to assess horse property manager/owner practices consists of gathering a minimum of 150-2,000 names and email addresses of horse owners/farm managers from the 15 states involved in the NE-1441 project. Some of the N. E. states have fewer equine operations. An email containing survey information and a link to the 40 question online survey will be sent to horse farm managers in 2016. Three follow-up reminders will be sent to non-responding addresses. It is hoped to have a 40% response rate. Data will analyzed using SPSS 16.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL) for descriptive statistics, determining response frequencies and percentages.

The Questionnaire Instrument will include the following areas:

Part I General: Involved in the horse industry? Are you the owner or manager of a horse operation? If No, then you are finished taking the survey. Business or Hobby?

Part II Demographics: Location, State, County, Survey participants gender, age, Size of farm total acreage, Confinement areas, Pasture areas, primary and 2nd use of operation, Highest average number of horses on property? On average, how many hours per day do your horses spend grazing pastures by seasons?

Part III Horse Pasture Management Rotational Grazing, unlimited access,Pasture Management Plan, Agricultural Erosion and Sedimentation Plan weed control and type, mowing, resting pastures,Sacrifice lots, pasture topography, surface water, Sheds and barns,divert runoff, roof gutters.

Part IV: Horse Pasture Applications and/or Evaluation: Line, Fertilizer, Herbicide use, Seeding practices, Lime, Soil testing.

Part V: Horse Manure Management: Nutrient Management Plan, primary manure management, collection, storage, uses, removal.

Part VI: Conclusion: What are your limitations in altering the management of your horse operation? What information resources do you use for your equine farm operations?

What have we learned? 

The questions for an equine related APHIS/USDA animal agriculture survey need to be more specific to the activities and needs of the horse industry. Whereas most animal agriculture operations do not deal directly with the general public as a necessary component of their business plan, the horse industry depends on active and engaged clientele. If we are able to gather national data through a single effort survey, the resulting information could be compared and sorted in a consistent and statistically reliable manner, allowing educational materials and opportunities to be tailored to area or regional needs.

Future Plans 

A survey will be conducted by the NE-1441 (a northeast regional Hatch research group focusing on environmental impacts of equine operations) participating states to determine the use of the following best management practices: managed storage area, composted manure storage, stream crossings, buffers and vegetative filter strips, heavy use pads and sacrifice areas, soil testing, and fertility management on fields receiving manure. Develop means of determining the impact of equine outreach programs, more specifically determination of BMP adoption rate.This will allow us to chart progress among producers who use extension services and/or implement BMPs with the assistance of extension or other service providers such as NRCS, state departments of agriculture, and etc. We will work with social scientists to determine adoption rates, what the reasons for resistance to adoption are, and how to develop programs to overcome this resistance.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation 

Betsy Greene, Professor/Equine Extension Specialist, University of Vermont

Corresponding author email

Other authors

Ann Swinker, Extension, Pennsylvania State University Amy Burk, Extension, University of Maryland Rebecca Bott, Extension, South Dakota State University Carey Williams, Extension, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey

Additional information 

Westendorf, M. L., T. Joshua, S. J. Komar, C. Williams, and R. Govindasamy. 2010. Manure Management Practices on New Jersey Equine Farms. Prof. Anim. Sci. 26:123-129.

Swinker, A., S. Worobey, H. McKernan, R. Meinen, D. Kniffen, D. Foulk, M. Hall, J. Weld, F. Schneider, A. Burk, M. Brubaker, 2013, Profile of the Equine Industry’s Environmental, Best Management Practices and Variations in Pennsylvania, J. of NACAA. 6:1, 2158-9429.

Fiorellino, N.M., K.M. Wilson, and A.O. Burk. 2013. Characterizing the use of environmentally friendly pasture management practices by horse farm operators in Maryland. J. Soil Water Conserv. 68:34-40.


The State University Extension Equine Specialists that make up the NE-1441: Environmental Impacts of Equine Operations, Multi-State Program. USDA.

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