Best Management Practices

for Horse Properties


horse grazing

Photo by will g, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Equestrian properties in southern California differ drastically from the sprawling, expansive properties found in other portions of the United States. Generally, horse properties in southern California are less than five acres and house multiple horses. Multiple large animals on relatively small properties can cause significant resource issues to arise if not managed properly. Muddy areas, flies, stormwater runoff and drainage, and pasture management are common issues that affect equestrian properties in southern California. Management of these issues is imperative to protect the health and safety of horses and the surrounding environment.  

The District offers free conservation plans for equestrian properties in the San Luis Rey watershed. Conservation plans address resource related issues on a property and are tailored to provide solutions on a property specific basis. A Certified Conservation Planner walks the property with the owner and discusses any resource concerns present.  A report is developed that includes Best Management Practices (BMPs) to help control and manage the resource concerns (including mud areas, manure management, and pasture management).

Assessing Equestrian Properties

Owners and managers of equestrian properties can develop a sense of what resource concerns may apply to their operation by completing the Equestrian Property BMP Checklist. This checklist can help identify areas or issues on an equestrian property that can be potentially problematic. Appropriate BMPs to control or minimize the issues are also given.

Horse Property BMP Examples

The following examples are different BMPs that can be implemented on equestrian properties to help control erosion, drainage issues, mud, flies, weeds and other concerns.  Many more examples and educational materials can be found at the bottom of this page.

Access Road - mulched slopesMulching the slopes next to access roads can help control erosion and weeds.

Access Road - graded and mulched

Properly grading and shaping access roads ensures that erosion will not impact the quality (or accessibility) of the road.

Mulching with woodchips

Wood chips can be used on access roads to prevent erosion and protect the roadbed.

Lined WaterwayA properly lined waterway will prevent erosion and divert water away from vulnerable areas.

Roof Runoff StructureInstalling roof runoff structures (gutters and downspouts) can help divert water away from areas prone to muddy conditions.

Lined waterway - correct slope and size and surfaceA lined waterway and properly sloped and protected road will minimize erosion.

Heavy Use Area Protection - ShavingsProtecting heavily used areas with shavings can minimize compaction and erosion.

Heavy Use Area Protection - SandSand can also be used to protect heavily used areas from potential problems.

Open ChannelOpen channels can be vegetated to prevent erosion and stabilize streambanks.

All Horse Property BMP Example Photos by Vic Smothers.

For Technical and Financial Assistance for Equestrian Properties:

Natural Resources Conservation Service

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides free conservation technical assistance to private landowners and organizations. The Conservation Technical Assistance Program (CTA) is available to all groups or individuals interested in conserving natural resources and sustaining equestrian properties. CTA aids landowners in addressing opportunities and concerns related to natural resources on their land. Assistance may be in the form of resource assessment, practice design, resource monitoring, or follow-up of installed practices.

For more information on CTA, visit the Conservation Technical Assistance webpage or contact your local USDA Service Center.

The USDA Service Center serving San Diego County residents is the Escondido Service Center located at:

900 Canterbury Place, Suite 320

Escondido, CA 92025

Phone: (760) 745-2061

Fax: (760) 745-3210

Equestrian Property BMPs Resources