EQUINE FOCUSED WORKSHOPS IMPROVE HORSE FARM MANAGEMENT PRACTICES IN CENTRAL FLORIDA Bainum,* C.1, Justesen, B.2, Mann,* M.N.B.3, Wilson, T.4, Bennett, L.5, Yarborough, J.K.6
1. Extension Agent, Florida Cooperative Extension, Marion County, Ocala, FL 34470
2. Extension Agent, Florida Cooperative Extension, Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL 34744
3. Extension Agent, Florida Cooperative Extension, Lake County, Tavares, FL 32757
4. Extension Agent, Florida Cooperative Extension, St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL 32092
5. Extension Agent, Florida Cooperative Extension, Pasco County, Dade City, FL 32525
6. Extension Agent, Florida Cooperative Extension, Orange County, Orlando, FL 32812
A recent study of horse owners uncovered a fundamental lack of knowledge regarding good animal husbandry practices (Williams et al., 2018). This ignorance may cause unintentional mistreatment of animals and leads to higher costs associated with feed and health care. Additionally, mismanagement of horse manure and poor grazing management can contribute to non-point source pollution of fresh water systems, a major area of concern in Florida. The large number of equine enthusiasts in Central Florida presented a prime opportunity for positive intervention by Extension. In 2018, livestock Extension Agents with personal and educational backgrounds in equine management piloted a day-long workshop aimed at increasing the adoption of recommended equine management practices amongst hobby and commercial horse owners in Central Florida. The Agents used a combination of lecture and hand-on teaching to address topics ranging from manure composting and vaccinations to grazing management and equine nutrition. The workshop has been repeated in four counties, with plans to include an additional three counties in 2019, and a total of 139 horse owners have attended workshops to date. Post program surveys found that 100% of respondents indicated intent to adopt one or more recommended practice change as a result of their participation. These practice changes included soil testing prior to applying fertilizer (47%), implementing recommended grazing management practices (66%), and composting manure (48%). Additionally, participants also indicated intent to feed more forage-based diets (65%) and to discuss vaccine protocols (74%) with their veterinarian, two practice changes linked to better health outcomes and lower vet bills. Extension workshops that target horse owners can play a role in increasing horse owner knowledge of recommended management practices. This knowledge gain then leads to the adoption of practices that can result in improved economic and environmental sustainability of horse farms.