YOLANDE DU PREEZ
The manure hit the fan last week after a comment about horse owners picking up after their horses, especially when making use of public spaces – was posted on community Facebook page, Hout Bay Organised (HBO), sparking a hefty debate.
The post specifically referred to Main Road, which is often used by horse owners during out rides.
Some locals agreed with the complaint, saying horse owners had the same responsibility as dog owners when it came to cleaning up after their animals, and others suggested horses wear a “bun bag” to catch the manure.
Horse owners responded with disgust, saying horse manure is biodegradable and does not smell like dog excrement.
Some residents said they loved having horses around the Bay and the manure on the pavements and around town did not bother them at all.
The comments quickly escalated into a debate on whether horses should be allowed on public roads and horse owners asked motorist to be cautious and reduce speed when horses are in the vicinity.
Road users argued that horses were not supposed to be on the roads as they were easily spooked, making them dangerous. Some residents wondered who would be held liable in the event of an accident caused by a spooked horse. The post was later deleted.
Bacson Farm owner, Neil Bacon, has owned and run the professional riding yard in Riverside Terrace, Hout Bay for many years.
He started riding at the age of three and said not many horses manure when they are riding.
However, as they are often more relaxed when out for a ride, compared to when they are in the arena, it was possible.
He said it was ridiculous to expect riders to clean up after their horses while riding.
“It is impossible for a rider to ride carrying a shovel and a bucket or a plastic bag. Having a crackling plastic bag can scare the horse and it can take off.
“That is why horses have raincoats of a special material that does not crackle,” he said.
“Horse manure does not smell like dog poo and I would much rather have horse manure on my pavement than dog poo,” he said.
He added that he cannot blame riders for making use of the pavement on Main Road as it is currently the only safe place for riders, especially women.
The greenbelt between Well Way and Riverside Terrace is a great area for horse owners to use but in recent months the area has become increasingly dangerous.
“The other option for riders is to walk along the pavement on Main Road, cross over the Disa river bridge down Valley Road over the weir and then back again but that is still on Main Road,” he said.
He says out rides are good for horses, especially if the horse trains very hard for a five day cycle.
“Professional riders typically train between 40 to 60 minutes a day, five days a week and the general rule is five days of training, one day out and one day rest in the paddocks,” he said.
And with regards to having horses on a public road, Mr Bacon said most horses will gallop away if they are spooked and if not sufficiently controlled by its rider, it can cause problems especially when it is near a public road.
He explaineds that about 80 percent of horse riders in Hout Bay are “happy hackers” – non-professional horse riders who mainly ride for fun. He added that most happy hackers will not necessarily be able to control their horses sufficiently and that is where problems can arise.
He said he used to take one of his stallions out for a ride down Valley Road. “Motorists drive very fast down Valley Road and then slam on breaks when they get to a speed bump, and that can frighten a horse. Personally I don’t take my horses out for rides anymore and I don’t allow my clients to ride on Main Road either,” he said.
He urged motorists to be careful in the vicinity of horses and to practise some patience.
Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said it was legal for horses to use public roads, excluding freeways.
He said in case of an accident, caused by a horse, the City of Cape Town cannot be held liable unless the horse belongs to the City.
He explained that if the horse was privately owned the third party would have to submit a claim against the legal owner of the horse. He also said that the obligation of dog owners relating to picking up dog excrement – as stipulated in the Animal Bylaw of 2010 – does not apply to horse owners.
Thrive founder, Bronwen Lankers-Byrne said horse manure should be seen as a valuable resource. “We believe we are very fortunate to have horses and their manure so freely available in Hout Bay as horse manure is a true blessing and resource to food growers.
“Thrive regularly receives the gift of horse manure from various Hout Bay stables and we add this valuable resource to the compost heaps we make at schools and other urban food gardens in Hout Bay. We then use the compost to grow healthy food in,” she said.
She explained that horse manure accelerates the break down of organic matter in the heaps and is a good fertiliser.
“It is high in macro and micro nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus. When manure is part of compost or mulch it adds the beneficial nutrients to the soil. The manure also adds organic matter to the soil. This improves soil structure, aeration, moisture-holding capacity, and water infiltration and besides being beneficial to our gardens we are recycling a waste product. What a win,” she said.