Con­serv­ing Land Be­gins Locally


AAlthough horses don’t play as sig­nif­i­cant a role in our daily lives as they once did, they still re­main a pow­er­ful icon of our rich Amer­i­can her­itage and cul­ture. How­ever, open ar­eas that were once horse lands and rid­ing trails are be­ing taken over by de­vel­op­ment. The great­est threats to eques­tri­ans and horse-property owners to­day are poorly planned, un­con­trolled de­vel­op­ment; pop­u­la­tion growth; and a cit­i­zenry un­fa­mil­iar with live­stock.

Ur­ban­iza­tion and sprawl are in­creas­ingly cre­at­ing pres­sure to de­velop land used for horses and trails, mov­ing the equine ex­pe­ri­ence fur­ther out of reach for many.

In those places where horsepeo­ple are or­ga­nized to pre­serve equine land, they’re grouped by dis­ci­pline — with some cross­over and in­ter­ac­tion — but, for the most part, they’re not or­ga­nized as an equine com­mu­nity with com­mon in­ter­ests. As a re­sult, they’re usu­ally left out or un­der­rep­re­sented when zon­ing, land use, and de­vel­op­ment poli­cies are be­ing for­mu­lated.

A Three-Year Plan

To pro­tect horse lands and trails in our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, we first need to be aware of the threats of land loss, then we need to know what we can do about it. Rec­og­niz­ing this, the Equine Land Con­ser­va­tion Re­source re­cently re­leased a three-year stra- te­gic plan fo­cus­ing on as­sist­ing com­mu­ni­ties with lo­cal land-loss is­sues.

The plan lays out how ELCR will en­hance its ex­ist­ing ca­pac­ity to be more ac­tively en­gaged at the lo­cal level. ELCR will ex­pand its ex­ist­ing net­work of equine and land con­ser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions to in­clude more lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions. Giv­ing these groups the op­por­tu­nity to learn from one an­other, be united by a shared com­mit­ment, and share suc­cesses and fail­ures will strengthen lo­cal equine land con­ser­va­tion ef­forts.

The ex­panded net­work will act as a uni­fied voice on be­half of the horse both in re­sponse to cri­sis and in shap­ing pub­lic sup­port and lo­cal poli­cies. Net­work mem­bers will help in­form ELCR and shape its pro­grams and ser­vices, and dis­sem­i­nate ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als, ex­per­tise, and other resources to sup­port con­ser­va­tion ac­tiv­i­ties at the grass­roots level.

“We are ex­cited to be­gin this new phase of our work,” said ELCR Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Hol­ley Groshek. “Work­ing more closely in part­ner­ship with lo­cal, com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions will help ac­cel­er­ate the con­ser­va­tion of lo­cal horse lands in or­der to pro­tect the fu­ture of the horse in Amer­ica.” The ELCR 2016-2018 Strate­gic Plan is avail­able at­gic-plan/.

ELCR rec­om­mends horsepeo­ple do the fol­low­ing to help en­sure horses re­main in their com­mu­ni­ties. • Stay aware. Watch for emerg­ing lan­drelated is­sues in your com­mu­nity. Don’t wait un­til an is­sue be­comes a cri­sis. • Get or­ga­nized. Ini­ti­ate a trail or rid­ing club with equine ad­vo­cacy and land pro­tec­tion in your mis­sion. One good re­source is Get­ting Or­ga­nized: Cre­at­ing an Eques­trian Trails Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( wp-con­tent/up­loads/2014/08/Get­tingOr­ga­nized.pdf). • Be in­clu­sive. Reach out to other breed and dis­ci­pline groups to have greater im­pact on lo­cal is­sues, as well as the lo­cal con­ser­va­tion com­mu­nity. • Be re­spon­si­ble. Prac­tice good land ste­ward­ship on your own property and the land on which you ride. En­cour­age good ste­ward­ship prac­tices in the next gen­er­a­tion. (To find out more, go to https://elcr. org/con­ser­va­tion-resources/farms-an­dranch-land.) • Be­come ed­u­cated. Un­der­stand lo­cal plan­ning and zon­ing is­sues and what can be done to im­pact them. (For resources, go to­ser­va­tion-resources/ com­mu­nity-land-use-plan­ning/ and­ser­va­tion-resources/ help­ful-pub­li­ca­tions-and-links/.) • Prac­tice ad­vo­cacy. Peo­ple who don’t ride need to know why horses are im­por­tant to our com­mu­ni­ties. Ed­u­cate them on the ben­e­fits of horses. (To learn how, go to­ser­va­tion-resources/ equine-eco­nomic-im­pact/.) • Stay con­nected. Learn what other groups are do­ing by stay­ing con­nected to state, re­gional, and na­tional equine or­ga­ni­za­tions. If your lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion is in­ter­ested in con­nect­ing with the ELCR

na­tional net­work, con­tact us at info@

One good ex­am­ple of a lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion work­ing to keep horses in its com­mu­nity amid de­vel­op­ment pres­sures is the San Juan Capis­trano Eques­trian Coali­tion in Orange County, Cal­i­for­nia.

The SJCEC ed­u­cates the pub­lic on the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits of liv­ing and work­ing in an eques­trian com­mu­nity. It sup­ports eques­tri­ans by pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tional work­shops, fund­ing equine safety mea­sures for the com­mu­nity, and sup­port­ing eques­trian use and ac­cess ar­eas.

ELCR’s mis­sion is to as­sist all types of eques­tri­ans in their en­deav­ors and to pre­serve these tra­di­tions for gen­er­a­tions to come. TTR The Equine Land Con­ser­va­tion Re­source is the only na­tional not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ad­vanc­ing the con­ser­va­tion of land for horse-re­lated ac­tiv­ity. ELCR serves as an in­for­ma­tion re­source and clear­ing­house for land and horse owners on is­sues re­lated to equine land con­ser­va­tion, land-use plan­ning, land- ste­ward­ship, best man­age­ment prac­tices, trails, li­a­bil­ity, and equine eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. For more in­for­ma­tion, call (859) 455-8383, or visit

Open ar­eas that were once horse lands and rid­ing trails are be­ing taken over by de­vel­op­ment. Equine Land Con­ser­va­tion Re­source has launched a three-year plan to help keep horses in lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

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