The heat is on as horse owners adapt to climate change

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Helping horse owners prepare for the impacts of climate change has been one of the key focuses of a South Australian equine group, and its efforts have won a national award.

The Horse Federation of SA Inc (Horse SA) has worked to develop an action plan to help horse owners address the impacts of intense rainfall, hotter temperatures, increased heat waves and extreme fire risk days.

Horse SA Executive Officer Julie Fiedler said building a resilient community that is prepared for the impacts of a changing climate is important not just for humans but for animals too.

The group has won the ‘Champion – Community’ category of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility’s national climate awards, announced at last month’s NCARF conference.

drought-sun“Changes in climate can bring the increased risk of diseases on riding and training, land management challenges from increased drought and floods, and a further limited food supply, so preparing so that our animals and pets are taken care of becomes increasingly important,” Fiedler said.

“For example, people are noticing a change in seasons when it comes to harvesting of crops, including hay, and this has an impact on our horses,” she said.

When developing the action plan, supported by a Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources grant, Horse SA used an online survey to find out horse owners’ concerns about climate change, then delved deeper in a full-day workshop. The feedback was brought together in the Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Horse Owners and Organisations.

Fiedler said horse owners found the language around climate change was a barrier.

“We developed our ‘Future Proofing your Horse’ action plan because one thing we heard was that we needed to change the way we were speaking to horse owners about climate change,” Fiedler said.

“We also received strong feedback from our horse owners and related organisations about a need to find out more about how to sustainably manage land, how to prepare and recover from natural disasters and how to better meet challenges associated with heat.”

More educational programs and activities for sustainability and managing horses in extreme events, including a ‘Future Proof Your Horse’ checklist providing owners with everything from vaccinations to disease, were delivered with the support of several local, state and Australian government agencies.

The Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) leads the South Australian Government’s Climate Change strategy, supporting South Australia’s Climate Change Adaptation Program, Prospering in a Changing Climate. DEWNR’s Executive Director, Climate Change, Julia Grant said it was wonderful to see a local South Australian organisation being acknowledged nationally for its work on climate adaptation.

“We are already beginning to see the impacts on climate change and it is the proactive risk management approach of Horse SA that demonstrates how simple cost effective and common sense strategies will prepare their community for the future,” Grant said.

“Everyone will have a role to play to prepare for the climate impacts ahead, whether it is government, business or local communities and our challenge will be to incorporate risk management strategies into normal business practice – Horse SA is a great example of this.”

South Australia’s agricultural sector will be impacted by warming and drying conditions, increased risks around drought and bushfire, as well as changing pest and disease risks.

Regional adaptation plans consider the risks to specific industries in each part of the state. Agricultural industries are already working together with DEWNR, Natural Resource Management Boards and Primary Industries and Regional SA (PIRSA) to plan for and address these risks, through research and development into increased water use efficiency, incorporating updated or new farming practices, looking at alternate crop types and improving business management and diversification to manage risk.

Horse SA is a community based non-profit organisation working with and for horse owners on a range of topics and issues of common interest, including climate change. Their programs include the ‘Changing up the way we keep horses’ land management series of workshops, supported by the Natural Resources Management Adelaide & Mount Lofty Ranges, emergency preparedness sessions with the South Australian State Emergency Service and Country Fire Service, and a new website ‘My Horse Disaster Plan’.

HorseSA

www.climatechange.sa.gov.au

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