Agricultural Guidelines for Horse Operations Published

Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the Rutgers Equine Science Center have published the eagerly awaited "Agricultural Management Practices for Commercial Equine Operations."

Considered to be the first comprehensive set of guidelines in the U.S. for horse operations, the document is posted at and The public is invited to download it and print it from either of these websites.

Topics covered in the bulletin include farm stocking rates, pasture management, fencing, shelter, manure management, riding and training arenas, and equine activities and special events. Within these headings is important information concerning rotational grazing, soil-testing, manure storage and disposal, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), dust control and other operational issues.

The bulletin is the work of more than a dozen faculty and staff of Cook College, the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, all units of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Also participating in the project were individuals from the horse industry, the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resource Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rutgers Equine Science Center collaborated in the project and is actively promoting public awareness of the guidelines.

According to the project's lead author, Donna L. Foulk, program associate with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Warren County, "The AMPs, as they are known, are the result of hundreds of hours of research and review to determine the most reasonable practices of good horse-keeping. They consider the economics of horse operations, the wide range of facilities and practices that are considered acceptable, and the horse operator's responsibility to be a good neighbor. They contain a healthy dose of common sense.

"With New Jersey being the most densely populated state in the country, and horses being a very important and predominant part of its agriculture and open space preservation, it was important to create guidelines that will assist municipalities in rule-making, and horse operations in their goal of good farming practices," Foulk added.

In doing their research, the Rutgers writing team discovered scores of articles, fact sheets and bulletins from all over the country that addressed particular aspects of horse-keeping. In fact, "Agricultural Management Practices for Commercial Equine Operations" lists some 50 reference documents. Dozens more were considered and set aside, primarily because they were redundant or, in some cases, just bad advice. Even so, this new compendium bulletin acknowledges in several places that best practices can vary from farm to farm.

"Our goal was not to write 'rules,'" says Foulk. "Rather, our advice should be looked upon as a solid starting point for good equine management practices. The document is an important resource for horse farm owners and managers since it describes activities that are important components of commercial equine operations." Foulk and her team expect that, because this bulletin appears to be a "first," other states and areas of the country will use it as the basis for their own horse operation guidelines.

The bulletin was funded by, and written with, the cooperation, advice and consent of the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), an agency within the Department of Agriculture. The SADC will be proposing a rule that will incorporate the guidelines by reference. After the rule proposal is published in the New Jersey Register, the public will have 60 days to submit comments to the SADC. If the rule is adopted, farmers who are in compliance with the guidelines may be eligible to receive the protections of the Right to Farm Act. Such protections include the preemption of municipal regulations that conflict with the guidelines and protection against nuisance lawsuits. Individual counties and municipalities may also use the document as a resource, rather than going through the time-consuming and costly process of creating their own guidelines.

Co-authors and collaborators in the project included horse owners, waste management experts, pasture and forage specialists, environmentalists and agricultural generalists. Primary co-authors were Robert C. Mickel, agricultural agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Hunterdon County; Everett A. Chamberlain, agricultural agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Warren County; Marjorie Margentino, program associate, Rutgers Cooperative Extension; and Michael Westendorf, specialist in livestock and dairy, Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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