IN County Fermanagh, conservation organisation Magnificent Meadows has been working to conserve deteriorating lowland meadows and their associated species. They also offer advise on developing meadows for grazing horses.

Over the years, combinations of grass and plant species have been developed by the agricultural industry, usually dominated by rye grass species and clovers, to promote meat and milk production and these types of species-poor grassland have replaced many species-rich meadows.

However, grass and plant species that suit productivity in sheep and cattle are generally not well suited to horses.

In the Magnificent Meadows Guide to Good Practice for Horses and Wildlife, reassessing our use of fertiliser is top of the list.

According to their experts, reducing the fertility of the land will: “Encourage a greater diversity of plant species which have adapted to succeed on nutrient-poor soils. This will not only be good for horses due to the lower water-soluble carbohydrate levels and higher fibre content, but also help to reverse the decline in traditional meadows.”

Rye grass species are very competitive, taking up nutrients quickly and can grow vigorously. By cutting out fertiliser these grasses will decrease, and other grasses and wild flowers will be able to compete creating a more diverse grassland.

Magnificent Meadows encourages careful management of land grazed by horses which they say will reap rewards in the form of happy horses and a pasture rich and colourful with a variety of plants, herbs and wildflowers alongside the healthy buzz of insects.