Monday, March 03, 2008

Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water Maple Valley Washington

Horses for Clean Water, now in its 8th year, offers people across our country ways to care for horses that improves the farm they live on and reduces non-point pollution. Techniques such as mud management and composting manure offer a way to care for animals that benefit the animals, the farm, the owner, the community and the environment.

If horses have a fairy Godmother– she would be Alayne Blickle.

Tucked away on a back road in Maple Valley Washington on 20 acres of pasture and forest you will find the headquarters for Blickle (pronounced Blick LEE) — and her husband Matt.

Blickle is horse lover, teacher, and a passionate advocate for healthy equine practices.

Blickle is also a force for change in the way small farmers work with their land, their horses and neighbors.

She is the go to expert in Seattle, and western US for educating horse owners about sustainable ways to care for horses through her business Horses for Clean Water. And you can see that with her husband Matt that the horses are her family.

She has a straight forward routine that promotes a healthy ecosystem and benefits people who own horses, too.

Why go to all the trouble? What's a little horse manure on a big 20 acre place in rural Maple Valley?

“I found out it is more convenient for me - and keeps my horses healthy when I made a simple mud and manure management plan,” says Blickle.

Acts of love get expressed on Blickle’s 20+ acres simply: clean up horse manure, carry water runoff away from where horses live.

What got her started working with horses? “I’ve loved horses since I was a kid. I feel like it is genetic — I just have horses in my bones. “ She says she has run into other horse people who say the same thing.

To look at her dressed in jeans and her horse riding gear, a well worn Carhartt jacket you'd think Alayne comes from third generation Washington cowgirls and boys. Say hello Chicago!

"When I was a kid I knew I wanted to ride horses. My folks basically said -- sure-- if you earn the money. So this city girl would go to work after school to raise money for my riding lessons. It was the best investment I ever made. I learned to ride horses- better yet -- it confirmed my passion for horses, and has led to years of happiness.”

What are the practical steps to help keep her horses healthy and happy?

Mud and manure management is as different as the land you have your horse living on. But there are get down to a few basic steps. Rain gutters, gravel, French drain and slope.

Recipe for Healthy Horses:

1. Manure composting, and keeping water clean.

2. Add about six inches of gravel and rake twice daily.

3. Add exercise, and good food.

There you have it. A recipe for clean healthy horse life in King County.

Horses happy. Streams and runoff from Blickle's place cleaner. Streams cleaner, salmon have a better chance of surviving.

It is a beautiful world.

Alayne and Matt decided rural Seattle was going to be home so they could have animals and some peace and quiet.

Alayne has a special relationship with her horses

"My family had no interest in horses to do with horses-- I grew up in suburban Chicago IL. I had to do some serious lobbying to even get riding lessons." I had to pay for it all, too.

I rode at riding horses-- I rode from 5th grade to college. I had wonderful lesson horses.

I rode at riding academies, rode wonderful riding horses that were already broke and educated horses.”

She and Matt do lots of riding together. “ Matt helps with chores and riding -- Matt and I do everything together-- we compete in reigning-- at national levels. He is a a national judge at the NRHA Nat'l Reigning Horse Assoc -- he is a judge which is hard to get to-- highly skilled.

Alayne and Matt have integrated lots of wild areas into their land. " We have wild area-- 5 acres logged at turn of century, replanted, planted some more natives and trees every year. When we bought this property we went to WSU and took a Forest Stewardship Plan. Public Benefit Rating System-- King Co program-- reduces taxes in exchange for not developing it.

We really enjoy the wildlife-- 12-15 elk, coyotes, deer once in a while-- we can recongnize the difference. Horses don't care-- the elk really devastate everything-- we have to take horses off pasture a few months early because the elk live in the pasture-- the elk run it down below three--

We have a pair of eagles or ospreys all summer, a lot of hawks and birds of all kinds. We have barn swallows, violet green swallows-- great for insect control. We also have a female bear in the woods since we've lived in our other house.

"She is a good bear-- she's very afraid of people and taiught all of her cubs that-- I have seen her in our pasture, in the woods-- she sends the cubs up the tree and then -- I haven't seen her. That is the great part of this land: we have 164 acres of state land right next door."

Once I was working on part of the pasture and feeding horses. A bull elk and a couple other elk showed up not 50 yards away. The bull elk has 8 point antlers-- he was in back out there with one of his young ones-- usually they leave when the sun is up. He was trying to lose his antlers-- I went out to be within 25 yards of him -- he basically gave them to me-- flipped the antler off right in front of me.”

What has been the biggest surprise on the Blickle ranch? "It is really neat seeing the horses watch the elk-- they seem to be calmed by the elk-- they enjoy and are curious about the elk-- when they are in the front yard-- no one is afraid.

Coyote --We call him Limpy-- I've seen him several times-- and he was in the front pasture once and then in early summer-- I was going to ride in the arena and my dogs staret barking at my rose bushes -- Limpy is in the bushes -- he is in the bushes just yipping. I don't want them to get used to humans-- so I thought I shout and flush him out-- push him out -- we have back pasture gates open so elk can get out.

I felt like someone was watching me and I turned around and he was right there staring at me. They are quite curious about it all-- they're hunting mice."

In addition to great wildlife habitat, Blickle has greened up her farm pasture and horse care. “For the horses --we've stopped using bedding, and that substantially reduced stall waste-- so we use rubber matts. Wood shavings have gone way up-- high cost of horse bedding-- we try to teach people to not use shavings, they don't compost or absorb things. Pellets are really absorbent."

Blickle dreams include keeping Horses For Clean Water-- want to get a PhD and work on water conservation , irrigated pastures, thinking of moving to a dryer area — inland Washington.

We are really serious about competing and reigning so we want to go to a dryer area which is still in the Northwest.

What has been the biggest surprise on the Blickle ranch? "It is relaly neat seeing the horseswwatch the elk-- they seem to be calmed by the elk-- they enjoy and are curious about the elk-- when they are in the front yard-- no one is afraid.

I felt like someone was watching me and I turned around and he was right there staring at me. They are quite curious about it all-- they're hunting mice."

If she could click her heels and get three wishes Alayne would like:

“I'd like a covered arena, more sunshine. That's not being very accepting of the environment and where we are-- I am pretty happy with our place and what we've done. We've accomplished what we have hoped to-- bringing it from a place of point source pollution-- mud and manure and no pasture. Used to be mud and rocks and tansy wragwort-- it was like a tansy ragwort farm. Makes it really to take care of all of it now that we have practices in place.”

“ As an environmental educator, it is exciting time-- there is no shortage of work-- it is interesting the -- people who aren't even aware of horses and clean water-- water is finite and precious. Things have changed so much in the past 15 years.”

It isn't going to be there unless we all change. Stop non point, organic production, reduce pesticides--

The work is there but it is hard to get funding for it.

The work is getting to it.”

And the Blickle’s home for horses, wildlife, and teaching make all the work worthwhile.

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