The 2012 Agricultural Census counted 66,384 horses in Minnesota, down from 90,140 in 2009, with 2,243 horses in Washington County, 1075 in Chisago, 1007 in Anoka, and 445 horse farms between the three counties. In Washington County, there are twice as many horses as cows and the horses even outnumber sheep and chickens. In fact, there is approximately one horse for every 100 people. Stables and boarding facilities dot the countryside and horse riders make good use of the Gateway, Hardwood Creek and Sunrise Prairie Trails, as well as trails at Pine Point and Lake Elmo Regional Parks and Afton and Wild River State Parks.
For several years, the Washington Conservation District has offered an annual workshop for area horse owners to meet one another and learn about horse care and farm management. This year’s workshop is scheduled for Monday, March 21, 5:30-8:30pm at the Washington Conservation Center in Oakdale and will include a light dinner, as well as information about vaccinations, blankets, boarding, and pasture management. In addition to presentations by Conservation District staff, there will be speakers from the Stillwater Vet Clinic and Minnesota Extension as well.
Owning a horse is a big responsibility, regardless of whether you board your horse or own a farm. How can you help your horse to stay healthy? What do you plant in the pasture and how do you make sure the area outside the barn doesn’t turn into a mud hole each spring? How do you know if your pasture mix is providing the right nutritional value and do you plant the same acreage year after year or rotate from one year to the next? Is it safe to let your horses wade in wetlands and cross streams, or should you fence off water features to protect their hooves from thrush and keep the water clean?
Minnesota Extension offers many resources for horse owners on-line at www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/horse, including information about common health problems, nutrition, and farm and pasture management. In addition, the Washington Conservation District offers free site visits for all Washington County landowners and can provide advice and sometimes financial assistance to control noxious weeds, prepare pasture management and whole-farm plans, and complete projects to reduce mud, repair gullies, and reestablish vegetation along streamside and wetland areas, or install fencing to keep horses and other livestock out of wetlands, lakes and streams. At the Washington County fairgrounds in Lake Elmo, you can see four demonstration raingardens built by Conservation District staff and Master Gardeners in 2006 to collect runoff from one of the large pole barns – Building D. Simple projects can also help to reduce mud and erosion around farm buildings. For example, one local farm fixed a mud hole near the door of their barn by laying down a beehive-like plastic frame and filling it with gravel.
To RSVP for the WCD Horse Workshop on March 21, contact Wendy Griffin at 651-990-8220 x24 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration and light supper will begin at 5:30pm with presentations starting at 6pm. Washington Conservation Center is located at 455 Hayward Ave. N in Oakdale. The event is free and open to residents from outside Washington County as well.