The first time I saw the before-and-after photos from Alayne Blickle's "green" farm in Washington state, I was aghast with the realization that not every stable area had to turn into a miry pit of boot-sucking mud during rainy months. I just figured this was an unavoidable reality, and that the house's mud room would be exactly that until the ground dried out again. Other things I'd never really thought about were the initial reasons for these improvements: Horses and their keeping can impact nearby water sources (via waste and soil/sediment runoff) and non-horsey communities (with wafting odors or airborne pests). I also learned that a side effect of preventing/solving these issues is a more chore-efficient barn area with healthier, happier horses.
Green farm

Alayne Blickle's "green farm" in Washington.

Suffice it to say, I became such a fan of Alayne (who wrote our cover story this month, on page 20), her practices, and her little plot of horse-keeping utopia that when I heard she was moving to another state, I was disappointed! But I was also hopeful that the new owners would be as responsible stewards of the land as Alayne and her husband, Matt, were.

But the Blickles' progress toward a better barn area has continued. When Alayne began blogging for us last year on "Smart Horse Keeping," she and her husband had just moved shop to Nampa, Idaho, where they have been transforming Sweet Pepper Ranch into an eco-sensitive horse facility. We’ve been fortunate to follow along as they've been making improvements including everything from prepping pastures for winter to inviting violet-green swallows into the barn area. (These avian helpers will each eat up to 1,000 flying pests per day!)

Their ranch is an incredible example of responsible horse keeping; I urge you to read/comment on Alayne's weekly posts.

I've found that many people I know who take great care of their horses are also mindful of the environment, as each impacts the other. A college friend in Oregon, who is running an organic and sustainable farm (chickens and various crops), has a phenomenal pasture rotation system going for her pleasure and dressage horses, preserving and maximizing valuable grazing areas. My friend Gin, owner of the horse in my photo, has a tidy gravel dust "food jail" sacrifice area that drains well and provides a great space to feed hay in winter or when the grass is too lush for 24-hour turnout. Her family's barn, a converted tobacco barn, is one of the most well-ventilated, chore-friendly structures I've encountered. And my mom picks paddocks daily, reducing parasite load and adding to a killer compost pile to which any avid gardener would covet access.

Perhaps you, too, are figuring out ways to be greener. Back in the May issue we gathered a collection of articles to help you manage your barn, pastures, and horses in ways that benefit the environment … and, in so doing, you, your horses, and your neighbors.

How are you trying to be green?

(Reprinted from the May 2011 issue)