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Manure and pasture management for recreational horse owners

Horses are a common sight along Minnesota’s roads. No one knows how many horses there are in the state, but most enthusiasts would agree that the popularity of horses continues to rise. At the same time, new residents keep arriving, especially in the Twin Cities metro area, where forecasters estimate 600,000 more people will live by 2020. A young horse

As a result of these trends, Twin Cities recreational horse owners increasingly find themselves in the middle of urban or rapidly growing suburban areas, where they often receive more scrutiny from their local government and neighbors than do their counterparts in rural areas. To maintain good relationships and minimize the need for regulation, it is critical they know and practice proper manure and pasture management.

Hennepin County is home to more than 500 recreational horse owners and 2,800 horses, as well as more than 1 million people in 46 cities. Most horse owners in Hennepin County live in the western half of the county and care for 5 to 10 horses. Many own fewer than 20 acres of land, including buildings, exercise areas, pastures, and other crop fields. As a result, some lack the pasture, cropland, and/or equipment needed to benefit from the plant nutrients contained in their horses’ manure. They also may lack the knowledge needed to prevent soil erosion from overgrazed pastures or denuded exercise lots and to prevent nutrient runoff as a result of overapplication, improper incorporation, or application of manure at the wrong time or in the wrong place.

This publication is intended to help recreational horse owners better manage manure and pastures. It describes two options for manure management: land spreading and composting. It also offers guidelines for improving pasture productivity, and it provides practical management suggestions for owners in urban or rapidly growing suburban areas.

TIP: A typical horse, which weighs about 1,000 pounds, produces between 45 and 55 pounds of manure per day, or around nine tons per year. Hennepin County’s 2,800 horses have the potential to produce 50 million pounds of manure annually.

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