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The Basics of Best Management Practices for Horsemen

The Basics of Best Management Practices for Horsemen

Best management practices (BMPs) are methods and techniques designed to mitigate damage to the environment while simultaneously utilizing resources in the most efficient way possible. The term was established during the development of legislation for water quality control, but can also apply to other areas of conservation such as air quality control and soil conservation.

Horse properties can potentially be hefty contributors to pollution and damage in these areas. Consequently, BMPs can be appropriately applied to horse properties and are implemented on these lands to control and prevent pollution from entering waterways and the air. They also serve to protect the soil on the property, another important resource for an equine facility. This article provides the background of the pollution control acts that shaped the foundation for BMPs.

BMPs originated with the development of the Clean Water Act in 1948. The Water Pollution Control Act established programs to reduce or eliminate water pollution. This legislation specifically addressed pollution from point sources -- pollution emitted from a single, identifiable location, such as a discharge outlet from a factory, pipe or drainage ditch. The Water Pollution Control Act required states to set a Total Maximum Daily Load for all water bodies, setting a standard for the maximum amount of pollution that could enter water bodies on a daily basis.

The Clean Water Act continued to evolve and experienced several amendments, including amendments that authorized the study of the effects of pollution (1966 Clean Water Restoration Act), a reorganization plan that created the Environmental Protection Agency (1970s Reorganization Plan No. 3), and additional control acts that implemented further water control regulations and allowed the EPA to issue discharge permits (Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972).

The 1977 amended statute of the Clean Water Act included the development of regional Best Management Practices. The latest amendment, the Water Quality Act of 1987, established a program to grant resources to states for nonpoint-source pollution management and control programs. Nonpoint-source pollution cannot be directly tied back to a single location and includes pollutants that catch a ride in runoff or seepage into groundwater.

As aforementioned, BMPs also apply to air pollution control. The Clean Air Act of 1970 established programs to establish air quality standards and reduce/eliminate substances that contribute to air pollution. At this time, smog was a problem in many cities, and manmade chemicals were beginning to deplete our ozone layer. Horse properties can contribute to air pollution significantly through dust from riding arenas and overgrazed pastures, and therefore must also comply with these air quality control standards just as they must comply with water quality standards.

Violation of these acts can mean trouble for communities that have consent decrees, or legal and enforceable agreements between potentially responsible parties (such as municipal governments, utility companies or other large entities that could contribute to a pollution problem) and the federal government (through the EPA and the Department of Justice). Significant fines may be involved, as well as significant investments to resolve the problem contributing to the pollution. Some of these costs can be reduced by implementing BMPs that will protect and restore the areas being polluted, such as protecting a stream from animals with a fence or preventing manure runoff by carefully managing pastures and manure stockpiles.

Comprehensive nutrient management planning was a concept developed to specifically address the compliance of entities that produce animal manure. All states require that these entities file a nutrient management plan, and horse operations have been recently included in this requirement. Each state is different, and local Department of Environmental Protection offices, Conservation Districts and university extension offices can help with this process, as well as any concerns regarding compliance with water and air quality standards.

More information on BMPs, including a list of extension offices by state, can be found in Best Management Practices Can Help Your Bottom Line -- A Guide to Best Management Practices for Horse Properties, an online resource available from Equine Land Conservation Resource at

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