The horse sector in South Australia is an important part of our community and contributes to its social, economic and environmental fabric.  To ensure that horse owners and organisations thrive and continues to contribute to our community, we need to plan and prepare for changes in our climate and future proof our horses.

These Action Plans have been prepared to guide and support horse owners & organisations so that the health and wellbeing of our horses is not compromised and we can continue the activities we enjoy as owners, riders, volunteers and spectators.

This Action Plan provides information about what you could do to future proof your horse and your event.  It contains an easy to use checklist to help identify what you are doing now as well as opportunities to do more. There are also stories from people who are already acting to future proof their horse, providing tips about changes you can make.

If you are interested in workshops, field days or courses conducted by Horse SA join our weekly e-news on the homepage of this website.

The Action Plans were developed from information collected in a workshop in June 2012. Presentations and workshop report can be found here:


Download the Action Plans here:

Climate Change for Horse Owners Action Plan

Climate Change  for Horse Organisations Action Plan

Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Horse Owners & Organisations (full report)


** Update:  In July 2016, Horse SA was recognised by the National Climate Change Adaption Facility  as a Climate Change Champion – Community Category.  A link to the media release can be found here.



Action Plan for Horse Owners


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Action Plan for Horse Organisations

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Future Proof Your Horse  – Stories

Kings Conservation District ran a Horses & Climate Change conference based on the original Horse SA model. Dr Gary Muscatello also presented at this event.  Click here for video proceedings.

ABC Radio National “Bush Telegraph” Horses & Climate Change  Interview with Julie Fiedler & Jacqueline Raphael 14 Oct 2014. Text and podcast.







Harley’s Story  Harley has made improvements to a low rainfall property on the Adelaide Plains used for a horse agistment business. A photo story put onto PowerPoint and uploaded to Slideshare.







Climate Change and Equine Infectious Disease Dr Gary Muscatello.    This PowerPoint presentation was updated from the 2012 workshop and uploaded to slideshare, where it has been viewed nearly 600 times in 8 weeks.

ABC Bush Telegraph Radio Interview “The Impact of Climate Change on Horses  17 /10/13  with Dr Gary Muscatello & Julie Fiedler.  Link takes you to a sound recording and interview transcript.







Horse Keeping in the Adelaide Hills   These are photos with text pinned onto  the Horse SA Future Proof Your Horse Board on Pintrest.







Capricornia Equine Landcare Association_ Visit to a member’s property near Rockhampton QLD.   This is a photo story board placed onto Flickr.

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Gumnut Lodge

When we bought our 5-acre property, 10 years ago, we intended to set up a property, using sustainable practices that would permanently benefit our Horses, the land and ourselves.  Our property management decisions, have set us up for the future and built a long-term resilience for the environment, thanks to information and courses provided by Horse SA and the Adelaide & Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board. We balance the needs of our Horses, the land use and any impact we may have on the environment.

We constantly evolve through trials and errors. We trial paddock grasses, vegetation for windbreaks, weed and pest control, erosion control, paddock rotation, horse management and waste management. We have achieved more than we thought possible, in a relatively short time.

We recycle and reuse just about everything on our property. Shelterbelts are watered from wash down bays, water troughs, rainwater tanks and natural water channelling. These shelterbelts provide shade and windbreaks for the horses and homes for birds and lizards.  We reuse all hay left from feeding and in hay sheds onto bare patches in the paddocks and slash native grasses after the first seed, to plant a seedbed for the next season. We utilise the manure for composting, mulching the shelterbelts and as a riding track in the paddocks. Sawdust is used in composting, mulching and in the riding arenas.

We will continue to face challenges, but with help and information from Horse SA, will always be mindful of our Footprint on the land.  Jacqueline Rafael








As an agistee in a fairly unique situation, I am happy to say that I have some control over how my horses are kept on the 15 acres leased. I am the only one there, with horses and some other livestock to help maintain the property. My property owner is happy for my input, my work and the way I have organised things. He is able to see that the horses have in no way damaged the land (to his surprise!). To maintain ground cover, my horses are hand fed daily, amounts dependent upon the season. Weeds are managed and the horses rotated through a number of paddocks. Manure is collected in the smaller paddocks daily and worm counts are done with wormers only being given as necessary not as routine. There are trees for natural shelter. In my work space and high traffic areas (water trough, gateways), I had road rubble and gravel laid. Being a responsible horse owner, I make it my business to learn as much as possible about current trends affecting the horses’ wellbeing by attending Horse SA educational events, online seminars and courses, and reading books galore!   Jan Dodds








After battling Salvation Jane with sprays restricted due to a vineyard next door, we drew on permaculture and new Natural Sequence Farming ideas to improve our soil and strengthen pastures. We supported our dung beetles, switching our horses to Australian author Pat Coleby’s natural diet and ceasing harrowing – this transformed our paddocks into self-managing wonders! Stable waste builds compost and has earthworms teeming. Shelterbelts are a mix of exotics and natives giving summer fodder, shade, habitat and soil conditioning leaf mulch. Our main pastures are now chemical-free, strong perennial grasses that hold their own in our climate-change affected summers.

Anthea Starr, Oakwood Park, Oakbank







“I live on the wrong  side of Goyder’s line – therefore the line on the map where the rainfall drops will be moving westward towards Eudunda in years to come and my grasslands (which is perfect for my horses) may end up becoming more like saltbush country.  It hasn’t happened yet but on the cards for the future…so how do I maintain my grasslands for longer?  Can I proliferate the spear grass in any way to maximise my pastures longevity? Can it be mechanically reaped and seeds collected for re-seeding other areas of the property where it is less prolific?  These are all questions I have to prepare for climate change challenges”

Kirsty Dudley








Over the last few years with longer warmer summers I’ve recognised the need to look at an alternative to putting in an annual crop over my 2 x 1/2 acre summer paddocks. Even with careful strip grazing and daily hand feeding the results by the end of summer were areas of bare ground and little stubble to protect the soil from wind or water erosion. I’ve switched to sowing a perennial pasture mix with some success as this crop endures for longer and topped with moving sites of round bale feeding, where wasted hay is left, more areas have been covered to protect the soil over summer for longer periods.

With heavy clay soils on slight sloping land the compaction of soil with 4 horses in small paddocks was great. Along with changing crop type I now annually deep rip the paddocks with some gypsum spread late summer to capture as much rain for the crop to use rather than have  it run off into the neighbours paddock. Monica Seiler (Gawler/Barossa region)









Dung beetles and climate change in Australia

Dr Bernard Doube, Dung Beetle Solutions Australia, Adelaide SA

CSIRO has established 23 species of foreign dung beetles in Australia. Some of these are adapted to summer-rainfall regions, and others are adapted to southern regions with winter rainfall. In the south there are both summer- and winter-active species, but in the north there are no winter-active species, only summer species. The geographic distributions of some of some northern and southern species overlap in even-rainfall regions of northern NSW.

Global warming over the next 50 years or so is likely to have a dramatic effect on the Australian climate, with northern regions becoming wetter, and southern regions becoming dryer, with a shift towards more of the rain falling during summer. Average temperatures are also likely to rise.

The main factors that determine dung beetle distributions are their responses to seasonal rainfall and temperature patterns. So global warming is likely to affect the distribution of species and their abundance.

Changes that may well unfold over the next 50 years include:

  • northern east coast species moving south as the south warms and      summers become wetter
  • northern species becoming more abundant and effective in western Queensland,      the Northern Territory and Western Australia
  • southern species becoming more abundant in the current arid zone,      as summer rainfall increases
  • southern species (both summer- and winter-active) that are      currently relatively rare in the cooler, wetter regions of southern      Australia (e.g. the Victorian high country and Tasmania) becoming      considerably more abundant as these regions dry and warm.

What does this mean for horse owners?

Because the current southern dung beetles have wide climatic tolerances, the changes in beetle activity are unlikely to be dramatic in the short term but, in 50 years’ time, it is likely that the species composition and function of dung beetle communities disposing of horse dung will differ considerably from those present today.

The best thing to do in southern Australia is to introduce the winter-active beetle Bubas bison to your property, check that you have summer-active species (at least three species) and look after your beetle populations by minimising the use of pastes for worm control, and using pastes that do not kill beetles. For more information go to www.dungbeetlesolutions.com.au.

Adelaide 9 October 2013


Eloise & Izzy






Climate Change and Liver Toxicity in Horses

Eloise O’Doherty, “Yadda”, Allendale North, South Australia

Education and property management becomes an important key to keeping our horses safe from short and long term damage from liver toxicity in horses.

Protein/toxin levels in some plants, especially Arctotheca calendula (capeweed) and Pannicum spp (panic grass) often spike when stressed by grazing, sudden changes in weather, frost, fire, spraying; these all cause protein/toxin spikes (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/maria.hrmova). Due to climatic changes these plants are prone to stress more frequently increasing the risk of protein and liver toxicity in horses.

There are anecdotal reports that Veterinarians treating horses diagnosed for liver toxicity consider there is mounting evidence that liver toxicity in horses is caused by eating toxins in plants and this is on the increase.

Protein and liver toxicity can have non-specific symptoms or signs but they may include poor appetite, weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of gums & eyes, fever, mild colic, swollen lymph glands, lethargy, photosensitisation, hypersensitivity. In some horses the symptoms can be subtle; in others it can happen quickly and be very severe.

Any properties where horses are kept or where horses are grazed regularly have the potential risk to be affected by protein and toxins in grasses due to climate change.


Offord, Mellisa. “Plants Poisonous to Horses – An Australian Field Guide”. RIRDC Publication Number 06/048 RIDC Project Number OFF-1A. 2006 Minister for Employment, Training and Further Education– Published by Torrens Valley Institute of TAFE – South Australia 1997

Huntington, P. and Cleland, F. (1992). Horse Sense- The Australian Guide to horse husbandry, Agmedia. Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Vic, Australia.

Kohnke, J. (1998). Feeding and Nutrition of Horses- The making of a champion (3rd Ed). Vetsearch International, North Rocks, NSW, Australia

Kohnke, J., Kelleher, F. and Trevor-Jones, P. (1999) Feeding horses in Australia. RIRDC, Australia.








HELEN WHITTLE: We have horses and sheep on our 25 acre property. We have a garden around the house and grow most of our own fruit & vegetables. Two dams supply all the water we need year round to provide drinking water for stock and watering the garden ound the house. The dams are fenced off from the horses but sheep can access the gully to keep it grazed down. Water is pumped up to a tank at the top of our property to give us pressure to water the garden and fill the troughs (and I even use it at times to sprinkle the arena if we have a long dry spell) The house uses rainwater collected in 2 x 10,000 gallon tanks, and we have a separate tank kept full for fire fighting. With house, stables and sheds, there is ample roof area to collect large amounts of rainwater, and given the longer, hotter summers we are considering putting in an extra tank, just to supply the stable, wash down area and surrounding garden.

Over the years I have planted more than a thousand trees- always using horse manure as a thick mulch and most have manage to survive with no watering. The next part of the plan is to plant a fodder tree belt. Any property is a constant work in progress! Helen Whittle

Horses SA Open House Workshops – Climate Change

Interviews with Horse Owners and Associated Industry Representatives

Gawler & Mount Barker







Sally and Alyshia

  • their biggest concerns are bushfires and hot weather.
  • precautions they take for hot weather:
    • molassify the water to increase horses drinking
    • provide ice
    • hose down horses
    • also concerned about freak storms, due to horses panicking
    • to prevent this they stable some horses, but only those used to being stabled
    • the unusually wet conditions in their area in the Northern Lofty Ranges has led to increases in hoof conditions such as greasy heel, responded by changing shoes
    • the rapid hot-cold changes mean that horses lose condition
    • change in practices not due to climate change

Kylie and Mandy

  • concerned about slippery and wet conditions as they are so dangerous for horses
    • they stable horses in winter but this is personality-driven
    • also concerned about bushfires
      • on catastrophic days they restrict access placing the horses in the home paddock and open all other gates
      • to provide shade for hot spells – lots of native gums supplemented by planting on N and W aspects as woodlots







Horse Vet Michael

  • people have an ‘educated awareness’ of climate change but believes the facts are lost
  • his biggest concern is serious horse leg injuries due to wire and barbed wire fencing from panicking horses in stormy weather.
  • this should be replaced by fencing that is rounded with no sharp edges such as post and rail or at least round plastic on wire fencing








Bianca Bat Carer

  • to manage mosquitoes she believes that landowners need to encourage a balance by encouraging natural predators of insects, such as bats and birds.

Lisa NRM

  • public perception that climate change is all bad news, it is someone else’s problem and the timeframe is too far away to cause much individual concern
  • and the cause isn’t helped by skeptics
  • believes that hygiene procedures on properties and with animals will become more important in a changing climate
  • we need to build resilience as a State.







Penny – CFS (lives at Mt Pleasant)

  • prepared for bushfires
  • has cleared around the main home, has fire pump connected to tank water
  • keeps low fuel through close grazing
  • with all hazards believes that relationships with neighbours is critical to build community resilience e.g. know the older members as they have the history but may also be the most vulnerable
  • CFS is the most visited State Govt website with their Facebook page having 39000 followers – social media connects
  • terminology is ‘know your risk’
  • the information has to be relevant to interests and needs to be packaged together as such.

In general discussion there was a suggestion that horse events should be cancelled with extremes of temperature and weather with the events allowing withdrawal without penalty OR start early or start later in the day OR just not hold exhaustive events in extreme hot weather.








Helen Barnes is an equestrian coach, who travels widely throughout the state.  This provides a great opportunity to impart knowledge about caring for horses in our changing environment through the structure & content of coaching sessions, lectures and individual mentoring.

Helen attended the Climate Change workshop run by Horse SA in June 2012 and found it most informative.

In direct relation to her work is the effect of heat on horses. Helen tries to take a holistic approach which includes working with riders to care for their horses both through heat wave spells and also in relation to working horses in hot weather. This also includes human care (A focus point for Helen who is a nurse by training)

Topics for discussion & practice in education sessions include

–          Feeding horses during heat spells

–          Consider how & when horses travel, and also noting that many modern enclosed horse floats don’t have much opportunity for air circulation

–          Care is taken to make sure horses are properly cooled down after being ridden in hotter weather

–          A hot weather actively policy is enforced (both for human and horse welfare)

Helen keeps an eye out on the workshops available through Horse SA and other organisations to keep her equine knowledge up to date.







Lance works for Biosecurity SA- Animal Health. One of his job role requirements is to help promote the Property Identification Code (PIC) Scheme.

The PIC scheme is where any property with one sheep or one pony or horse or more registers the property with the state government. This then helps with an emergency disease response when it occurs.

The Animal Health unit also plays a key role in providing advice and as a follow up after first responders in a major disaster such as a fire or flood. Knowing that there may be livestock on properties helps a lot with forward logistics to not only the agency in charge of responding to the disaster but also the agencies working to follow up and support recovery.  Feed, water, yarding, veterinary care and more will need to be brought in on short notice and knowing how many livestock, what species and where they should be located significantly assists with addressing the immediate needs for the animals involved in the disaster.








Emma (Handorf)

  • large professional eventing property hand-feeding ~60 horses
  • in the business of maintaining horses in good health, particularly as good eventing horses mature and age
  • concerned about the availability, quality and cost of feed and hay
  • in response looking at ‘fodder solutions’ such as sprouts
  • climate changes are ‘quite frightening’
  • government needs to reduce bushfire risk from overhead powerlines
  • has installed breaks
  • have a water cart for bushfire
  • keep paddocks bare
  • move horses within the property to lower risk areas.
  • have post and rail and post and wire fencing due to value of horses
  • all horses vaccinated against Hendra
  • heat stress – they change their behaviour ie train early and late when it is cool.
  • they breed late to coincide with the end of competition season but they notice the seasons are running later anyway.


  • six acres Bridgewater
  • in terms of bushfire will make the decision to leave early
  • have installed sprinklers and keep lawn near house green


  • Charleston 10 acres plus 30
  • soil is sandy so not too many problems in wet weather – has improved the soild to improve water retention for dry times and get the most out of the land
  • for hot weather and bushfires has installed nine extra water tanks
  • need to change the words used around climate change






Roxanne (Vet)

  • expects more diseases with a changing climate
  • bats for example are moving (7 species in the area)
  • simplest thing is to vaccinate against Hendra
  • there is also the possibility of Kunjen becoming more prevalent and West Nile spread by mozzies
  • decrease risk of mozzies by decreasing standing water in old farm junk lying around, managing stormwater
  • people are more and more aware of heat stress
  • thinks we are more aware of bushfire risk and flooding due to media coverage

Gary, Owner of Bonnetts Mt Barker

  • climate change affects horses and also their ‘gear’
  • e.g. increase in mozzies can be managed by using impregnated products
  • saddlery provides more information on horse health and safety as they can be used to sell features of products
  • changing climate means more hot and humid weather – horses sweat more leading to increased fungal infections – this has led to new products such as bamboo-based rugs etc

Karren – NRM

  • keeps horses further to the SE McGrath’s Flat
  • need to move towards best practice in land capacity utilising tools such as fencing by land class and not having mixed class paddocks
  • believes that South Australians are generally conservative and slow to adapt new practices – this will be a challenge for climate change adaptation.
  • there seems to be two types – climate change believers or skeptics – few people on the fence.
  • suggests that an unclear message results from these two sides.







Interviewer Comments (Karan)

  • It seems obvious that the bushfire message has been taken up very strongly by all interviewed.
  • Still of concern are thoughts expressed by people that they would evacuate once a bushfire had started and float horses out.
  • This suggests that if you saturate the media using a variety of tools that the message will get through and will stick.
  • It did not seem obvious that any other aspects of climate change had been linked to climate change with the same strength of message or that climate change affected their future planning  for property or horses.
  • It was obvious that horse owners were driven primarily by their love of their horses and wanting them to be healthy.


South Australian Jockey Club

The Morphettville Racecourse Wetland was built in 2001/2002.

Covering 3.5 hectares, the catchment area for the wetland includes stormwater flow from two drains in Bray Street, south of the racecourse. Water enters a sediment pond where floating litter is collected in a net and large materials settle out. The water is then piped into the wetland, where it travels through a series of deep and shallow marshes.

The water flowing out of the wetland is ideal for irrigation as it has very low salinity. During winter months, water is captured and pumped into a tertiary limestone aquifer below the racecourse. During the summer months, the water in the aquifer is recovered and used for irrigation. Up to 600 megalitres of water a year is recharged into the aquifer. This exceeds the amount required to irrigate the racecourse.














Rebecca Cassells gave a presentation at Equitana Sydney 2013 about Climate Change and the Horse

Download as a PDF file Rebecca Cassells Climate Change and Horse – EQUITANA