The Equicentral System of keeping horses has gained momentum in the few years since I attended my first workshop and started experimenting with it myself.
In case you haven’t heard, it’s a method of sustainable horse & land management, developed by Jane and Stuart Myers – UK residents who have also lived in Australia. They teach people better ways to manage both horses and land, via their workshops and the Equiculture website.
My own experiments with an Equicentral system have been successful in certain circumstances.
I have found it easy to implement for horses who can cope with unlimited access to grass, like my ‘oldies’. They have benefitted from coming into a central gravel-surfaced yard for shelter, rest, water, and twice-daily bucket feeds.
Their hooves rarely need trimming as they’re walking back and forth on a 20m stretch of gravel 3-6 times a day.
Currently, my other herds do best on a hybrid Equicentral and track system which I’m converting to a more central set-up so stay tuned for progress reports.
Equicentral in action
I’ve seen amazing changes in properties converted entirely and with great success. My friend Laurel has implemented an Equicentral system for her 5 acre (2ha) property on which she keeps 2 horses.
Laurel says: “After attending an Equicentral seminar we decided to make 5 wallaby/rabbit proof paddocks all accessible off a permanent laneway. We’ve graded and put down gravel on the laneways so we don’t end up with a muddy mess in winter.
The horses graze in whichever paddock is ready to use within the rotation and then return to the loafing yard for water, hay, and the open-fronted shelter.
The fenced paddocks are open in daylight hours only because of the extreme level of nighttime wallaby and rabbit grazing here.
The two horses have hay to eat at night and at times when they would badly damage the pastures through either their feet pugging in soggy conditions or overgrazing during drought.
We use temporary electric fencing within the larger feral wire fenced paddocks for better rotation or when strip grazing.
Rotating pastures and not overgrazing is the main thing, it is not always easy as it involves a big mindset change to keep the horses off the pasture when that is necessary but well worthwhile.
Never graze shorter than 5cm (about the height of a stubby lying on the side.)
In winter I “sacrifice” part of a paddock and feed round bales of hay there, any waste is then spread along with the manure as mulch, then sprinkled with some extra pasture seed, and shut down until mid-summer. This adds organic matter and helps improve water retention and fertility.
Since we did all this the land has improved, there has been very little erosion, and we haven’t had winter mud at all, it is a fantastic system.
The Equicentral System in brief:
This system brings together good horse management AND good land management.
It works by utilising the natural and domesticated behaviour of horses; and combines this with good land management practices such as rotational grazing.
It benefits you (by saving time and money); and your horses (by taking care of their behavioural and welfare needs); and the land they live on (by taking care of the soil/pasture/water etc.).
It’s also about creating ‘lifestyle’ changes for your horse/s, and labor-saving ones for yourself. The aim is a system that is functional and sustainable, so you can keep on doing what you love.
It’s about continually improving what you do so that everyone and everything benefits – THE EQUICENTRAL SYSTEM has many layers and lots to learn!
Why do we need to change the way we keep and manage horses?
Horse keeping practices have progressed in a very human-focused fashion ever since horse domestication began several thousand years ago.
Throughout history, horses have been kept as a resource or as a tool, be it for war, agriculture, general transport, and as a leisure activity for the wealthy.
Horse management has not really changed in about 400 years but the role of the modern horse and its owner has, so we need to bring horse management up to date. The workload of the horse has reduced dramatically but horses are now being confined in ever-decreasing areas as pressure for space grows.
They are often fed on manufactured products, nutritionally excessive for their workload. The obesity epidemic afflicts modern equines, too!
Increasing awareness of issues such as health & welfare and a growing concern for the environment has raised questions about why we keep equines the way we do. There are now many new challenges facing contemporary horse owners.
We need to rethink how we keep horses today, rather than carry on doing things traditionally simply because that’s ‘how it’s always been done’.
Something has to change
Increases in equine obesity & its related conditions; lack of pasture & degraded land; community pressure; time & financial constraints… these are just some of the many issues faced by 21st-century horses and their owners.
This means acknowledging that there might be a better way, a way that takes care of their needs, takes care of the environment and saves us time, money, and energy – all at the same time – a true win-win situation all-round.
The Equicentral System offers solutions and a way to address the above issues.
Jane and Stuart Myers have been educating horse owners around the world for many years, to great effect. Their system integrates natural horse behaviour and good land/environmental management and also helps humans through reduced workloads and costs.
Just recently they have put together all they have published into the Equiculture Responsible Horse Owners Resource which is a series of PDF books, videos, and articles/information representing all their experience and research as horse keepers and teachers.
With horse-ownership comes great responsibility to manage our horses to the best of our ability, and to do this sustainably and ethically. Do yourself, your horses, and your land a favor – learn how to be a good grass farmer.
There are several options for accessing the Equiculture Responsible Horse Owners Resource material to suit all budgets so I encourage you to have a look and learn more.
Healthy Land = Healthy Pasture = Healthy Horse = Happy Owner.