Will Rogers spoke
of how he wished he was alive before the barbed wire, when you
could ride freely across the open range. He thought barbed wire
was bad. Well, it's a good thing Will has not tried to ride
through Newport Beach, California recently. Cheryl Skidmore of
Costa Mesa, CA did ride a trail in Newport Beach this month and
she was given a ticket. Not a speeding ticket, but a citation
because her horse did what horses sometimes do (if you catch my
drift). Cheryl said she cleaned up the manure with a manure
rake, and the code enforcement officer saw her clean it up. But
three days later she received a citation in the mail.
Beach is currently concerned with water conditions and the
impact of water drainage on the ecological system. Although the
code for which Cheryl was sited, 7.20.020, appears to relate
more to dogs, the officer didn't think so. The ordinance states
that owners of pets must clean up after them. Cheryl was also
cited for 7.20.030, which states that if you are guilty of
breaking the other infraction you are guilty of an infraction.
Who ever wrote this law probably worked for the Department of
Wait, it gets
better! So besides riding her horse on a quiet and peaceful
trail, what was Cheryl doing there? While being cited for her
environmentally insensitive infraction, she was educating the
public on environmental awareness. Cheryl Skidmoore works as a
city contractor for several southern California cities, teaching
Ecological and Environmental Awareness.
Newport Beach is
not the only city with similar laws, but few have used them to
cite equestrians. Lucedale, Mississippi (population 2,592) has
an ordinance requiring all livestock, including horses, sheep,
cattle, goats, dogs, etc., to wear a diaper while in town. That
sure would have put a cramp on Lassie's style. Crab Orchard,
Kentucky recently passed an ordinance requiring diapers on all
horses, much to the chagrin of the large local Amish population.
Will Rogers would
roll over in his grave if he knew horse diaper companies are
starting to pop up everywhere. But none have yet to go public or
sell stock. I would love to drop a little money in them as most
major cities now require carriage companies to provide a diaper
for their horses. Soon they will be available in trendy colors
with matching blankets and leg wraps.
have recently gone up on the trail in Newport Beach, quoting
fines as high as $500. Local residents have also put out trash
cans to assist with the poop patrol, but with code enforcers
wearing white gloves, as Cheryl learned that may not be enough.
David Kiff, an
Assistant City Manager, was quoted saying, "I just can't
look the other way with horses."
The silver lining
to this story is the Orange County Equestrian Coalition paid
Cheryl's citation, which now entitles her to a hearing. Cheryl
said she was also contacted by a member of the Backcountry
Horsemen of California, offering assistance and support. At her
hearing on January 20, the Arbitrator declined to deliver his
verdict for 10 working days, so no one knows how the lumps will
fall for Cheryl. This will raise a real stink in other
equestrian communities, who fear other cities will follow the
Cheryl seems unbridled. When I asked President Tom Anderson of
the Equestrian Coalition how far he was willing to take this, he
refused to speculate until he received the actual results of the
hearing. But I get the idea it is going to hit the fan.
Mr. Anderson told
me that last November his organization spent a day cleaning up
the local trail and creek bed and what do you think was the most
commonly found visible pollutant? You guessed it, those little
plastic bags provided by the city for dog owners to pick up
their poop. Not only that, the plastic bags are
non-biodegradable. Thus taking the most biodegradable substance
on earth and preserving it for thousands of years.
There is a lesson
to be learned for all equestrians and it is found in the words
of the Bob Dylan song, "Times they are a-changin."
Either we sit back and ignore the change as if it is not
happening, and awake from our stupor to find more ordinances. Or
we take action and join organizations like the Orange County
Equestrian Coalition and the Backcountry Horsemen of California,
who get involved to preserve our equestrian trail access and
For some reason
the poem "Suppose" by the English poet Walter De La
Mare comes to mind.
suppose that a wild little Horse of Magic
Came cantering out of the sky,
With bridle of silver and into the saddle I mounted
To Fly-and to fly.
Forgive me for
doing it such an injustice of adding my own conclusion
Suppose what would
Happen says I,
If something occurred while my
Horse and I did fly,
The lights and sirens
Ended my Flight.
When the Pooper Scooper
Patrol mailed my cite.
All silliness put
aside this has become a serious matter for equestrians.
The phone number
for the Orange County Coalition is (714) 998-6865.
The website for joining the Backcountry Horsemen of
California is http://www.bchc.com/.