Horses: Majestic Animals Helping Our Environment
How many people know that horses running free in our world help the environment they live in? Probably not many. Most people probably see these beautiful creatures as companions, workers or athletes, but not as important guardians of our planet.
The majority of the UK's wild horses are semi-feral, which means they have owners but roam free as if they were wild. The only non-owned wild horses are ponies that live in very remote areas of Scotland and the mountains in Wales. The ponies represent a number of the UK's best-known native breeds, such as the Welsh Mountain, Exmoor, and the Dartmoor. All of the wild horses living in the UK play an important role in maintaining their habitat and helping biodiversity flourish.
When horses graze for food they don't just eat everything in their path, they pick and choose. Also, different breeds have different eating habits. The uneven eating habits of the horses mean that vegetation of different heights is created. Wild horses are continually on the move, stepping on unwanted growths of vegetation that would otherwise overtake other plants so they can't thrive. Horses aren’t fond of eating flowers either, giving rare wild flowers a chance flourish. As a result, the wild horses keep the land from unwanted overgrowth and provide ideal habitats for birds and other small animals to live.
Loch of Strathbeg, a nature reserve in Scotland, has recently released a herd of konik horses onto its wetland. Koniks are descendants of a European wild horse that became extinct in the late 1800s. The koniks were chosen because they are extremely hardy and eat the vegetation that the reserve previously had to maintain using machinery. The reserve now feels that with the land under better control a variety of birds will have the habitats they need to thrive. The horses came from the Wildwood Trust, which is working on a number or horse grazing projects for nature reserves in Britain. Check the Loch of Strathbeg website to learn more about the wildlife that can thrive there because of the horses.
Konik horses have also been released to help biodiversity in the South Foreland Valley nature reserve on the southeast coast of England near Dover. The horses graze the land, which keeps local species of plants and animals protected. Take a look at these cute little guys here: Wild Horses Released Near Kent Coast
In Italy, the Foce Isonzo Natural Reserve has used French Camargue horses since 1991 to keep the park's environmental balance. Since the horses arrived the variety and health of the reserve's plants and animals, in particular its birds, has flourished.
In North America, wild horses help the environment too. When a horse eats, it does not breakdown any seeds that enter its system, so when it comes back out again the seeds germinate. Because wild horses roam over quite large areas, seeds get spread over a greater distance, keeping the plants thriving, which helps ensure that the other animals sharing the habitat have enough to eat. If animals that eat plants are plentiful, then animals that eat meat will also have enough to eat. The wild horses also play a very important role in the winter when water sources freeze. Horses have strong hooves that can break through ice to make the water available. Animals that can't break the ice can then drink. Without the horses to help them they would not survive.
Horses provide one of the most valuable contributions to the biodiversity and health of the land where they live. They have an interconnection with man that goes back thousands of years. Congress states in the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 "that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people."
Wild horses, wherever they roam, are nature's healers. They are vital to the environment. If they were to no longer roam free, conservation efforts would be seriously impacted with the possible loss of threatened animals and plants.
Here are some more cool videos about horses helping the environment: