International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning vol:6 issue:2 pages:195-211
This paper investigates the spatial importance of horses in a multifunctional and urbanized area. The growing
spatial importance of horses in the open space was already mentioned by different authors, but never quantifi ed
before. In many countries, including Belgium, statistics on horses are only partly covered by agricultural data.
As a consequence, the amount of space in use for horses, especially hobby horses, is largely unknown but may
encompass a signifi cant area of the open space. Especially within the context of an increasing urbanization and
growing demands on the remaining rural area, this evolution must not be neglected. A reliable quantifi cation
of the space used by horses is therefore essential and is given in this research for the case study Flanders.
According to the results of fi eldwork, about one-third of the pasture land in Flanders is used to keep horses.
A qualitative analysis showed a higher horse density within the more urbanized areas with a fragmented agricultural
area and a quantitative analysis showed negative associations between the presence of horses and (i)
the distance to gardens, (ii) the parcel area and (iii) the distance to forest. Moreover, an internet survey assessed
evolutions and motivations of horse owners to keep horses. The survey resulted in clear data on the fact that
the number of horses is increasing. This is mainly motivated by recreational purposes. The majority of horsekeepers
do not consider themselves to be part of the agricultural sector. These results, showing an intensifi ed
competition for land between stakeholders in the open space of urbanized regions put new challenges for sustainable
land use planning. The major challenges are (i) to avoid increasing functional and spatial fragmentation
of rural landscapes, (ii) to assure enough space for societal necessity urgencies such as food or energy selfeffi
ciency, (iii) to increase positive interactions of horse keeping with other sectors such as agriculture, nature
conservation and others and (iv) to develop a proper visual and cultural landscape strategy, helping in setting
up guidelines for fencing and other infrastructural elements that do not deteriorate the landscape character.