Lighthoof Tuesday Video: Equine Stream Restoration

Waterway restoration is a critical aspect of watershed health, and in this fragile ecosystem in Yorkshire, the best way to help is to use good old-fashioned horse power.

England contains 85% of the world’s chalk streams: water seeps through chalk in the ground to collect in an aquifer, finally filling to the point that the spring forms a stream flowing with chalk-filtered water. These streams are the perfect habitat for insects, fish and water-dwelling plants, as well as the larger ecosystem supported by these organisms.

Keeping these chalk streams healthy, some of which are found in East Yorkshire, requires plenty of management in the current day. Raking the gravel stream bed is an important step to release trapped silt and allow the stream to flow clear, but heavy equipment can cause more harm than good. Various groups in Yorkshire have come together to find a creative but effective solution: using horse power.

Blue and his handler Chris pull a modified rake through the streambed to open the gravel beds; additionally, Blue and Chris worked with the ecological organizations to move downed trees to more appropriate locations.

Horsepower on a riverbed in East Yorkshire

This cob called Blue is improving breeding habitats for fish and insects by raking up the riverbed on the West Beck at Wansford, near Driffield. The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust says horses do less damage to the river than heavy machinery.

Posted by BBC Look North (East Yorkshire & Lincolnshire) on Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Though the uses for horse power might be few and far between compared to a century ago, there are still plenty of critical places where the use of a horse is more appropriate than the use of machinery.

To learn more about Blue’s work in Yorkshire stream restoration, check out this article.

Go driving!

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