On the trail: Horse hockey or trail etiquette? | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Horse hockey or trail etiquette?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesShould equestrians clean up the trail when their horses make a deposit? That was the debate recently before the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board.

ASPEN – The Urban Dictionary defines horse hockey as 1. horse excrement, or, 2. nonsense.

Some equestrians may consider the suggestion that they kick their mount’s horse hockey off a trail as a lot of, well, horse hockey, but the subject came up during last week’s meeting of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board of trustees.

Open Space and Trails rangers spend considerable time dealing with dog waste – and dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets – but equestrians have free rein when it comes to what comes out of the back end of their animals.

“The horse users seem to ignore what their horses leave,” noted board member Howie Mallory. “It’s just an observation.”

Because horses are herbivores, their waste is considered organic, said John Armstrong, Open Space and Trails ranger. The county has no policy regarding it.

“We do get a handful of complaints each year,” he added. “It has been raised to me that it seems to be a double standard out there.”

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Unless a rider is on an exceptionally large horse, dismounting and kicking the offending matter to the side of a trail is not an unreasonable expectation, offered Fran Soroka, Open Space and Trails administrator and an equestrian. Some riders do just that, particularly if they can hand their reins to a companion, she said.

Tim McFlynn, an Open Space and Trails board member and horse owner, suggested that such action is appropriate on places such as the Rio Grande Trail, where equestrians ride on a soft surface next to a paved trail. He didn’t advocate punting poop off trails in the national forest, though.

“It’s something that should be considered by equestrians on these low-elevation, county open space trails,” he said.

The newest addition to the county trail system – the popular ridge on the former Droste property – is a route used by mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers. Horse hockey is in evidence there, though not in overwhelming quantities.

A camera mounted on the ridge during the summer and early fall indicated far more use of the trail by hikers and mountain bikers than by equestrians, according to Gary Tennenbaum, Open Space and Trails land steward.

On Droste and other county trails, limited horse use has probably kept users from raising a stink, Armstrong speculated.

“If there was a lot more equestrian use, it could become an issue,” he said.

janet@aspentimes.com