In addition to being the oldest equine sanctuary in the country, Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines in Chester County is the first equine facility to receive recognition as a “Proud Penn State Partner.”
A sign and certificate that identifies the farm as a Penn State partner was presented to barn manager, Lisa Shotzberger, for her outstanding efforts in working with the Penn State Extension Equine Team.
The Proud Penn State Partner program recognizes farms, organizations, and businesses for their commitment and support for equine stewardship and Extension programs. The award is provided for farm owners and managers that are involved in a continual partnership with the Penn State Extension Equine Team and take part in programs dedicated to adopting and evaluating practices that maintain healthy horses, healthy farms and a healthy environment.
The award was presented to Lisa Shotzberger during the recent Penn State Extension Grazing Field Day held at Ryerss. Participants in the field day learned about grass identification, pasture improvement and evaluation, weed identification and manure management. Representatives from the Natural Resource Conservation Service talked about construction, sizing and regulations effecting sacrifice areas. Optional breakout sessions were held on hay selection and soil health. Lisa concluded the field day describing the farm’s history, discussing the farm’s management practices, and explaining how the farm meets their goal of providing a permanent safe haven for aged, abused, or injured horses.
Lisa has been a continual supporter of Penn State Extension and the equine programs. Offering her time and talent, Lisa has volunteered as a guest speaker at the Aged Equine Seminar, participated in on farm pasture research and trials, and most recently hosted the Grazing Field Day.
Ryerss is managed to maximize horse health and comfort, while also implementing Best Management Practices to promote a healthy environment. A recently installed stream crossing allows horses to move between pastures without breaking down the stream bank. Sediment in streams is one of the biggest water pollution problems in Pennsylvania. Keeping stream banks stable, and covered with thick vegetation significantly reduces soil particles from washing into the stream.
Rotational grazing is a Best Management Practice practiced at Ryerss where animals are rotated through divided pastures. The goal is to provide pastures a break from grazing and allow time for grasses to rest and re-grow.
Ryerss’ pastures are lined with a permanent perimeter fence, and further subdivided with electric fence tape. The taped paddocks are moved weekly and sometimes daily to introduce horses to new, non-grazed areas within the pastures.
As the growing season comes to a close, horses are moved to pastures near the barn for winter turnout. Since winter turnout pastures are heavily used, most forage is eliminated by spring time. When spring returns, horses are moved back to summer pastures. Summer annual weeds and grasses begin to grow in the winter turnout pasture.
Vegetation is sparse, increasing the risk of sediment and nutrient loss. Due to the close proximity to the barn, reseeding the area with more permanent vegetation would be more aesthetically pleasing and reduce the threat of pollution. Lisa is currently working with Extension to evaluate seed varieties and mixes that will establish quickly and remain viable under heavy grazing conditions.