Sustainable horse feeding management

Sustainable horse feeding management in the Netherlands: how to minimize environmental impacts

Sustainable horse feeding management in the Netherlands: how to minimize environmental impacts is a research project of the professorship Regional transitions towards circular agriculture.

The issue

Circular agriculture is a sustainable answer to the challenges putting pressure on all stakeholders in the agricultural sector, including the equine sector. There are currently 450,000 horses in the Netherlands, and 6 million horses in Europe and, as the sector grows, the equestrian community’s responsibility to contribute to sustainable development is increasing given that their impact on the environment is greater than often thought.

The feeding management of horses has a significant impact on circular agriculture. The diet of most horses includes forage, various concentrate feeds and supplements. Horse grazing can have a range of impacts on land and plant biodiversity.

Additionally, In the Netherlands, there are 450,000 horses, each producing around 7 tons of phosphate and nitrogen-rich manure per year, or approximately 3,150,000 tons annually. An excess of minerals from supplements in horse diets can have a potentially negative impact on the agricultural cycle.

Minor changes in daily horse feeding management practices can have positive effects on the environment, circular agriculture and the horses themselves. However, a lack of knowledge of sustainable feeding management prohibits the effective incorporation of horses into circular agricultural practice and European policies.

The project

The postdoctoral research aims to deepen the subject of ‘sustainable horse feeding management in the Netherlands to minimize environmental impacts.’ This post-doc will identify appropriate metrics and develop a footprint calculator for feeding management in order to keep everything in one place and in sync, and help horse and facility owners to make easy, effective and sustainable decisions to benefit the environment through maintaining soil quality, reducing erosion and preserving clean water and air. 

The project’s primary research question is ‘What horse feeding practices and measurements are needed to reduce and prevent environmental pollution in the Netherlands?’. Focus is placed on current horse feeding practices from the viewpoint of sustainability, the impact of mineral use by horse owners on the environment and the attitudes of horse owners towards sustainable horse feeding?


The postdoctoral research provides multiple deliverables:

  • A footprint calculator for sustainable horse feeding for the equine sector. 
  • Integration of research findings in the ESB curriculum and further development of students’ sustainability competences. 
  • Application of the footprint calculator by students during workshops and assignments.
  • Announcements in both printed and digital forms for release in national and international sources, including business fairs. 
  • Publications of findings in relevant peer-reviewed open-access scientific journals to be published in 2023.

Name professor/ researcher: Rik Eweg / Gülsah Kaya Karasu 
Project duration: 2022 - 2024
Project partners: Pavo Horse Feeds, KNHS, Saxion University of Applied Sciences

SDG's 4, 6 and 15