A recent Gazette article once again raised the topic of horse, erm, biological waste on trails. It followed a discussion about the topic raised by a member of the TOPS working committee at their last meeting. While this is assuredly not the most urgent issue facing our trails, and the situation surely isn’t as critical as it was in 1894, the topic is worth discussing.
Because of their physiology and diet, equestrian waste does not contain the same harmful bacteria found in human or other pet waste, and indeed most gardeners place a high value on it in a decomposed state, as a safe and environmentally friendly fertilizer. But when it’s fresh it is less desirable – it’s often a smelly, slippery, sticky mess. And, just like banana & orange peels, before it breaks down it is an unsightly nuisance, especially for other users of shared trails.
The City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services has embarked on a new commitment to the Leave No Trace program, which is designed to protect heavily used public lands. One of LNT’s 7 principles is to Dispose of waste properly, and includes the guidance that organic waste should not be discarded in public places. This includes pet waste, including horse feces.
MWTA suggests that commercial equestrian operations on public lands in our region should be required to make use of some type of bag to catch this waste before it impacts the land and other users’ experiences. Here’s one manufacturer’s solution – for a fun way to kill some time, look for others online. Such a bag might not be a perfect situation for some horses, but we suggest that it is a reasonable compromise considering the value of the access to public trails for commercial operations.
MWTA also encourages recreational equestrian users to use such a catch bag, as a best practice on our crowded front country trails. In addition to reducing the impact on trails and users, it is a visible demonstration of your commitment to on-trail collaboration with other users.
As a reminder in closing – trail sharing etiquette and LNT principles are the responsibility of all trail users. Please do your part to care for trails and other users.