Horse Production Environmental and Rural Impact

From the registered number of horses in Europe to estimations from different states of the real number of horses, EHN estimates that there are around 6 million horses in Europe.


The number of hectares dedicated for horses (grazing, production of horse food and other activities) is not clearly known. As the uses of horses are very different, from extensive breeding to urban equestrian centers, and from grassy lands to southern regions, the ratio surface needed per horse is very variable:1 horse uses from 0,75 ha to more than 2 ha. But considering the estimations from different states, EHN considers that at least 6 000 000 hectares are used forhorses in Europe, from which an important part is made up of permanent pastureland. In addition, horse paddocks do not require extensive use of pesticides orfertilisers, and support a wider variety of grasses and flora.


Considering the importance maintaining permanent pastures for biodiversity (also for the protection of water quality), and the interest in developing activitiesin rural areas of Europe which are positive from an environmental perspective, the horse sector is also an interesting issue for EU rural development and environmental protection.

  • In a number of regions in Europe native ponies are being used to graze important areas of scientific interest as they selectively graze while protecting endangered flowers and plants. The Gait Barrows Exmoor pony herd in Lancashire, UK are employed to support and help regenerate the park which includes the high brown fritillary butterfly, Britain's rarest. Exmoor ponies in other parts of the country are similarly employed on behalf of fritillary butterflies and other rare species of flowers, plants and invertebrates. In addition, initiatives like these help protect the pony which is itself a rare species.


  • Draft horses are increasingly being used in the forestry logging business throughout Europe, as, unlike large logging machines, they are able to preserve fragile ecosystems and cause minimal damage. Logging horses in Sweden, for example, are used to transport more than 1 million metres cubed of logs a year.
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