Stephanie Bulger was handwalking one of her horses around the grounds of a well-known horse show circuit in the Northeast, and was struck by all the litter she saw.
“I couldn’t find any grass that was not littered with cigarette butts, bottle caps, snack wrappers and other plastic detritus,” said Stephanie, a 35-year-old amateur hunter/jumper rider from New York. “I started looking around and realized that there were no recycling bins anywhere, and no options to fill up reusable water bottles or coffee cups.”
Climate change and environmental issues are very much at the forefront of global conversation right now, and Stephanie realized just how little was being done in the world of horse sport to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste.
“Looking deeper in the industry itself, I realized there is so much single-use plastic associated with the care of horses and maintenance and production of horse shows,” she described. “This is a booming industry, which is wonderful. I’m so proud to see the sport I love continue to gain popularity and become more mainstream and accessible to a broader audience. However, it is clear that the sport is generating a tremendous amount of waste and is negatively impacting the environment.”
So Stephanie founded “Green Is The New Blue” with the mission of creating eco-friendly programs at horse shows to reduce waste and promote sustainability. Green Is the New Blue has launched recycling programs at circuits like the Upperville Colt & Horse Show, Brandywine Horse Shows, the Washington International Horse Show and more this year.
Heels Down Mag caught up with Stephanie to learn more.
Why is this so important right now?
I truly believe this is a nonpartisan issue. We have one planet and we, and the horses we love, deserve the best of it.
What made you want to step up and create change like this in the horse world?
I find sometimes – and I say this with love and all due respect – that the horse industry can exist in a bit of a bubble. Equestrians devote their lives to caring for animals. It’s a 24/7 job that requires so much commitment, it’s no wonder the industry can be a world unto itself. I believe that the industry is behind the ball when it comes to these issues, so I felt that it was time to bring the conversation to the horse show and equestrian world.
What has the response been at horse shows?
The response has been overwhelming to say the least. Within the first few months I was fielding calls from show managers around the country asking for our help. After being in existence really only since March, we are already “greening” up Harrisburg and Washington, two of the biggest shows in the country.
So what’s next for GITNB?
Our goal is to affect change in the industry itself by making sustainability practices a requirement for the governing bodies of the sport. Our strategic plan has a two-pronged approach. We are going to start at the top, by bringing these issues to the USEF, USHJA, and maybe someday, the FEI, while also demonstrating best practices and environmental stewardship to local horse shows and farms.
What can equestrians be doing more of to help out, both at home and at horse shows?
Ask questions, and demand better from the shows they patronize. I have had so many people approach me and tell me how frustrated they are with the current state of the shows they participate in. I wish they would take these frustrations to the show managers themselves. Perhaps barns can get together to sign a petition or write emails to the horse shows. There is strength in numbers.
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Photo Credit: The Book LLC