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Horse Manure

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Horse Manure

An Isochronous Subject

That is Worth Stepping In Again


Joe Andrews

    It has been said, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar, but if you want to catch a lot of flies use horse manure.” Along with attracting flies, horse manure at trailheads attracts a lot of negative attention from non-horse trail users. Although the subject seems to emerge periodically, the problem is actually interminable. I have been dealing with this mess a long time.

    As horse owners we realize that horse manure is basically used grass and water. We understand that horses eat a very low energy food source and their digestive system does much less processing of their food than the digestive system of a carnivore. We know that horse manure dries quickly, is easy to clean off your shoe, and actually smells good. Consequently, we don’t see horse manure in the same light as dog poothat highly processed, concentrated, sticky, stinky stuff you can’t get off your shoe. Unfortunately, non-horsy people don’t make that distinction; it’s all the same to them.
There have been complaints about horse manure on trails in every Technical Advisory Committee or public meeting I have attended where horse use on trails was discussed. On one occasion, I heard the horrifying details of an incident where a mountain biker spun out in a pile of horse manure. The resulting splatter caused his riding partner to actually get some horse manure in his mouth. (I have gotten horse manure in my mouth before. It was unpleasant, but not much worse than brussels sprouts, peas, or spinach.) I remember thinking how lucky he was that it wasn’t dog poo!

    A number of years ago, the Larimer County Parks and Open Lands Department hit a snag during their normal five-year update of the Horsetooth Mountain Park Management Plan. During the process of creating the old management plan, someone had complained about horse manure on the trails at Horsetooth Mountain Park. This complaint made it into the management plan as a line item to solve the problem. The management plan process required this line item to be completed before the old plan could be retired and the new plan adopted. With the deadline fast approaching this issue became more than horse manure, it became real bureaucratic feculence. Fortunately, the problem was solved by the Larimer County Horseman's Association (LCHA) agreeing to clean up horse manure from the trails near the trailhead three times a year. With that agreement in place, the old management plan was retired and the issue, just like the manure, dried up and blew away.

    Understanding that complaints about horse manure are listened to by land managers and could potentially cause trails to be closed to horses, I tried to take a proactive approach. In 1999, on behalf of LCHA, I submitted an application to the Larimer County Small Grants Program for the funding of signs at trailheads instructing horse riders to clean up after their horses. Since the City Of Fort Collins Department of Natural Resources managed several of the trailheads I included in my proposal, Larimer County Parks and Open Lands required a letter of consent from the City of Fort Collins before they would approve the grant. The City of Fort Collins Department of Natural Resources would not consent to having the signs posted at their trailheads. They felt that the signs would be a target for graffiti, which they would have to remove, increasing their maintenance costs.

    I also submitted a grant application to fund the construction of a prototype manure digester based on current composting toilet technology. The idea was to provide a place at trailheads to dispose of horse manure so people would be more inclined to pick up after themselves. This application was not approved either. The reason given was the minimal maintenance requirement would increase the workload of county employees and therefore the county would incur a cost.

    A recent phone conversation with Mark Sears of the City of Fort Collins Department of Natural Resources confirmed their position on signs and manure collection facilities has not changed. So what can we do?
  1. Continue to clean up after ourselves.

  2. Do more than our share.

  3. Leave every trailhead we use cleaner than it was when we arrived.

  4. Encourage others to do the same.

    It is easy to keep a manure fork and a muck bucket or garbage bag in your truck or trailer and sharing them with others at a trailhead is a good way to meet new horse friends. LCHA’s membership is a small percentage of the regional horse riding population, but if we set a good example and work at spreading the word, we can really clean up. Rememberpick up manure, spread the word.
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Last modified: 20 May 2019