Jane Myers is an equestrian and small-acreage horse farm expert in both Australia and the United Kingdom who recently spent seven weeks traveling North America. Myers has authored several books on managing horses and horse practices and teaches classes worldwide. Her books include “Managing Horses on Small Properties” and the nine-set “Sustainable Horsekeeping” series, which includes “Understanding Horses and Pasture” and “Riding Arenas and Training Yards.” Her informative website is www.equiculture.com.au.
Idaho-based environmental educator Alayne Blickle, creator of Horses for Clean Water, recently visited with her Australian counterpart, Jane Myers.
I recently had the good fortune to visit with Jane when she and her husband, Stuart, spent five days at our eco-friendly guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in southwest Idaho. I took some time to interview Jane in order to share that with you:
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your horse background.
Meyers: I was brought up in the United Kingdom and have been around horses since I was quite young. Mainly at that time it was show jumping. When I was in my 20s I realized I needed some qualifications since working with horses, which is what I was doing at the time, was notoriously underpaid and wasn’t really making me a living. I didn’t actually have any qualifications, so I went to college to get a degree and went on to a university to get my masters. I graduated from the University of Wales with a master’s degree in equine science, specializing in equine behavior, and in particular, in equine grazing behavior.
Right after that my husband and I immigrated to Australia where there was more opportunity to own land. Plus there was the draw of better weather and the adventure of going to another country.
Q: Once you got there what did you do?
Meyers: Stuart got a job immediately as a youth worker. Some months later I got a job at Melbourne University teaching in their horse program, teaching everything from riding though anatomy and physiology and equine behavior to nutrition and general horse management. I did all that for eight years.
Q: How did you get into environmental and land management work with horse owners?
Meyers: We decided to leave Melbourne to get to a bit better climate and to have another new adventure so we moved 2000 km (approximately 1,242 miles) to the north to southeastern Queensland. It’s actually classified as a semi-tropical climate with beautiful winters rather than the cold, wet winters of Melbourne.
It happened that Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), a government scientific organization, contacted me via Melbourne University regarding rewriting their book, “Horse Sense.” At the time I was building up a small business teaching riding and could take on a rewrite of the book.
Q: What is the book about?
Meyers: In Australia you could call it the “Bible” of horse keeping. It’s a government publication that’s sold to the general public as well as used for most all equine science courses. It’s general horse management, covering everything from buying and breeding to feeding.
After that they asked me what would be a good subject for another book. I suggested the topic of managing horse property because there was nothing in Australia applicable on that subject. That’s how I came to write “Managing Horses on Small Properties,” published in 2007. That’s when I started searching the Internet about horses and the environment and how I came across Horses for Clean Water and your work, Alayne. That introduced me to concepts like fencing off waterways, mud and manure management techniques, and the whole idea of managing horses so they don’t end up polluting waterways.
That book has led to running workshops on the same subjects which we now do full-time in Australia for about seven months of the year. The remainder of the year we spend in Europe doing research such as looking at interesting projects concerned with horses and grazing management or wildlife conservation.
Q: What brought you now to the United States on this trip?
Meyers: We were fortunate to receive a Winston Churchill Fellowship Grant which allowed us to travel through the States for seven weeks looking at projects happening here that have to do with horses and land management. In particular it was important that we came to visit you, Alayne, and learn more about Horses for Clean Water.
Q: I appreciate that, as well as your help with my travel plans for my upcoming trip to Australia, where we both will be speaking at HorsesLandManagement Conference in November of this year (please visit www.horseslandwater.com for more information). What have been some of the highlights from your trip to the United States?
Meyers: Each area we visited was so unique. We started in California where we saw some really interesting horse properties. Then we flew to Kansas (dodging tornados even as we landed) and drove east visiting the Sir Winston Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo., and William Woods University.
Visiting the Southern Pines Horse Country area of North Carolina was quite brilliant; it’s a totally dedicated equine community and has been for many years. It’s well designed with trails all over and between properties. It’s a real mix of Olympic-level professionals and other horse properties which have been around for a while.
We also were impressed with the University of Maryland’s equine [pasture management] rotational grazing program. It’s great to see those practices in place and I was impressed with their good working relationship with the outlying Conservation Districts, extension and horse owners and how they all work together.
In the Puget Sound area of Washington state we were impressed with the sheer amount of demonstration farms there—so very many horse properties that are environmentally sensitive and are used as role models and teaching tools—as well as with the enthusiasm of the conservation district staff. In each region of the U.S., we did a public presentation on Australian horse keeping, all of which were very well received. But in Puget Sound we had a total of over 180 people attending.
Q: Overall what was your impression of horse owners and horse keeping in the U.S.?
Meyers: The enthusiasm and friendliness of the people is remarkable. People seem to be very open to learning; we noticed right from the first talk we gave that people were very likely to ask questions and interact with us. And I was impressed with the welcome we got and the response that everyone gave us.
All in all, there are more similarities in horse keeping and environmental issues between the two countries than there are differences. Even though the plants and animals may be different, we still have the same issues ahead of us of maintaining habitat for wildlife, increasing biodiversity, creating clean water, reducing chemical use and making the world a better place for horses, people and the environment.