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Facts V Myths


There have been many false claims made by representatives of environmental groups, who oppose horse riding in National Parks and other reserve lands, that recreational horse riding causes significant environmental damage. These claims are not supported by the science. 


The most frequent claims are that horses cause erosion and pollution, spread weeds, affect the nutrient balance in the native landscape and create user conflict.


These claims have been made to support their ideology and have been unsupported or unsubstantiated, or based upon misquotes from research or quotes taken out of context, or just flawed and biased research by similar minded people. They have repeated the claims so frequently over decades that they have become accepted by some as fact.  


Over recent years, recreational horse riders, facing a loss of significant areas and trails, have fought back.  Literature reviews alone have exposed the false claims.  


The answers to many of the allegations are common sense. For example:-

Many areas of reserve lands are infested by weeds, yet horses have no access to those areas.

Where are the fields of oats, barley, corn and Lucerne in these reserve lands?

Some of the most significant threats to the environment are from weeds not eaten by horses 




That horses should be banned from reserve lands because of their potential to create erosion.



Horses can have an impact on soils, but no more than walkers, bicycles or vehicles on tracks, which are not managed.  Impact on trails can be more attributed to other factors, such as storm erosion or drought than the recreational use of those tracks.



This concept has been applied to recreational trails by Kuss (1986), who noted that “almost any rainstorm or level of use impacts new trails, but that extreme storm events, or very heavy use is needed to initiate change on existing tracks”.


"Impacts by horses on trails or roads formed for bushfire management and other vehicle use/access are minimal because of surface conditions and construction"  Beavis 2000).


“On the multi use service trails approved for horse riding, there was no observed serious erosion.  There was little evidence of off site sediment deposition that could cause serious habitat degradation.  There was no observed erosion that would jeopardize the integrity of the eco system associated with the trails” (Sawyer 1999).




That horses should be banned from reserve lands because they spread weed seeds through their manure, on their hair and with dirt in their hooves.



Horses are a possible vector of seeds, but no more than by humans carrying seeds on their clothing, foot wear, socks and clothing, camping gear and vehicles with mud on tyre treads and body parts.  

Native animals and birds and the natural elements of wind and water are greater vectors.  

The seeds likely to be ingested by horses are grass seeds and not seeds of weeds, which pose the greatest threat to our reserve lands. Horses do not consume the principle weed species.



 “Review of the available literature suggests that there is no causal link between horses and dispersal/establishment of weeds on national park trails.” (Beavis, 2001).


“The limited field evidence then suggests that horse manure is not a major contributor to the spread of exotic plants in conservation areas”. (Horses for Courses, 1997, NSW NPWS – Conroy and Hart).


Extensive research was undertaken in the Duffys Forest Endangered Ecological Community when listing the area under the New South Wales Threatened Species Legislation.  It concluded:-

 “There were no areas of weed that could be directly contributed to horse activity.  The diffuse nature of the manure appears to be incompatible with seed germination or simply, there are no weed propagules in the manure that are capable of establishing and persisting on these trails” (Sawyer 1999).



Reference:  Graham Crossley and Richard Smallwood.



Manage * Preserve * Enjoy.

 There is a common belief that horses should be banned from reserve lands because of their potential to create erosion.

Horses can have an impact on the reserves but it is no more than native wildlife, pest animals, birds, walkers & bicycles which are not managed. 

An appreciation of the environment and horse riding/ownership are not mutually exclusive. As residents, horse riders and people with an interest and love of our neighborhood bush lands, riders appreciate that the reserves are important for their outstanding natural features and the native plant and animal communities they contain. 

It has always been the intention of the horse riding community to demonstrate that a constructive solution is possible to balance the priorities of environmental protection and conservation of the reserves with the recreational pursuits, through sensible co-operation and collaboration and good management.




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