Horses on the beach must wear manure containment bags in Scarborough, but they are still allowed to ride without them in Old Orchard Beach, as long as horse owners clean up after their animals.
As the town beaches in Old Orchard Beach and Scarborough are connected, the two towns have, in the past, coordinated their rules in regard to horses on the beach.
Horses are allowed on the beach from Oct. 1 through March 31. Riders who take their horses out on the beach must get a permit from the Old Orchard Beach or Scarborough town hall and display the permit while riding. Permits are $20 and are good for one season in both towns.
The Old Orchard Beach ordinance requires riders to pick up after their horses and clean manure off the beach, but it does not require horses to wear manure containment bags.
Those who violate the ordinance could face a fine of $50 or more.
Scarborough changed its town ordinance Sept. 6 to require horses wear manure containment bags while on the beach. Following Scarborough’s lead, Old Orchard Beach was poised to vote Tuesday night, to change its ordinance to require manure containment bags.
After listening to complaints from an area horseback rider, the Old Orchard Beach Town Council voted to remove the agenda item without prejudice, allowing the town to continue as it has been with not requiring the manure bags.
The Town Council can revisit this item at a later date if it wishes.
Stephanie Keene, director of Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center in Buxton, representing about six horse owners, said she and her friends who were horseback riders were “kind of blindsided” by Scarborough changing its ordinance.
Keene said most people she runs into on the beach love seeing horses on the beach and often want to take pictures of them.
She said though she doesn’t put manure bags on her horses, she cleans up after them in the parking lot and on their way to and from the beach. She said while riding on the beach, she travels along the water’s edge so the manure “goes out to sea to feed the fish.”
“I think we do a really good job of cleaning up,” she said.
Keene said she really enjoyed riding on the beach and she wanted to work with the town. She said if the decision was going to be made to require horses to wear manure bags, she wanted a year before the ordinance change was enforced so she and others would have time to train horses to use the bags and incur the expense of the equipment.
She said having a manure bag hanging behind them goes against a horse’s natural instincts.
“It would take some to train a regular saddle horse to adapt to that and accept that,” Keene said.
Keene said she and other horse owners intended to go to the Scarborough Town Council Wednesday night with a lawyer to ask the town of Scarborough to delay the enactment of the new ordinance change.
Keen said she surveyed different farms and horse owners and it seemed to be consensus it would not be a safe undertaking to take horses on beach without prior training.
“I think a lot of people think of horse manure as something that’s toxic, and it’s not. It’s biodegradable,” Keene said, and people come to her farm every week to pick up manure for their garden. “It’s different from dog waste, or human diaper waste.”
Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Larry Mead said there have been occasional complaints, but there wasn’t a “clamoring” from people. Yet, the town had decided to follow suit with Scarborough.
Councilor Shawn O’Neill said he was in full support of removing the item from council vote as long as horse owners cleaned up after themselves, and the council voted unanimously to remove the item from the agenda.
“I hate to say this, but we put it in our gardens,” Councilor Michael Tousignant said.
Council Chairman Joseph Thornton, though he went along with the council vote, said he would have preferred to table the item to see if Scarborough would make any further decisions regarding the ordinance, as it made him nervous to have a different ordinance in Old Orchard Beach.
Oceanwood Camp and Conference Center in Ocean Park brings horses regularly on the beach. In a phone interview Wednesday, Oceanwood Horse Director Jen Hayes said as a horse enthusiast she enjoys the opportunity to ride on the beach.
Hayes said the organization has used manure bags with much success over the last few years.
“Our bags are utilized while trail riding, in parades, and on the beach. While the training process varies from horse to horse, and at times, attaching the bags can be considered cumbersome; the benefits of their use out way the negative,” she said. “Manure happens and although it is one of the most environmentally friendly material, compared to human or dog feces, we understand and appreciate the need for our beaches to remain clean for all to enjoy.”