For several years, I worked as a riding instructor at a Girl Scout riding facility in Michigan. Most of the girls that visited our barn--generally ages 6 to 10--rarely left the city of Detroit, so all the sights, sounds, and smells of the farm were a little shocking to them. And the single most shocking sight, and smell, was that of horse poop.

I can't tell you how many times I'd be reviewing the rules of the barn and one of the horses would relieve itself...of course that sent the girls into choruses of, "Ewwwwww!" and fits of giggles. The same was true during riding lessons. If horses have senses of humor, I would be willing to bet they decided to stop and poop several times throughout the lesson just to hear the girls' typically humorous reactions.

Lark’s tail

The mounted police--like these seen here at Keeneland Race Course--are the center of controversy in New York City.

Let's face people are used to poop. Many of us pick it up every day from stalls and paddocks, and the unfortunate truth is that many of us are "immune," if you will, to the distinct odor it produces. We're even pretty used to stepping in it and just giving our boots a good wipe before getting in our cars or going into our homes.

Non-equestrians--like the aforementioned girls from Detroit--prefer to steer clear of the precarious piles, which is why the dung left behind by New York City police horses is causing such a stir in some neighborhoods heavily populated by city slickers.

The story goes like this. The NYC mounted unit has been patrolling the sidewalks on weekends since January to help control the crowds that leave bars and clubs on the city's Lower East Side. Even after they've finished duty, however, their presence is still felt ... mainly from the piles of, well, doodie, that the horses leave behind. Residents have begun complaining to city authorities about the obstacles they face when attempting to walk down city sidewalks.

One bouncer at a Lower East Side bar described the scene outside his establishment as a "big buffet of droppings," adding that he understands that the "mounties" are just doing their job and keeping the neighborhoods safe.

Another report indicates that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg--whose daughter, Georgina, is one of America's top show jumpers, by the way--understands the residents' plight. He's currently working with the sanitation department (who already have their hands full keeping the rest of the city as clean as possible) to evaluate the situation and see if there's anything they can do about the manure.

One Lower East Side resident was quoted as saying, "It's the same as dog poop--it's smelly. I asked the cops (about it), and they said it was biodegradable. It's unfair that people have to pick up after their dogs, but the cops don't have to pick (the manure) up."

So there you have it. I understand both sides of the argument. On one hand, it would be really unfortunate to step in a pile of dung wearing sandals or expensive stilettos, and as we've discussed, urbanites typically find the smell that equestrians have grown immune to rather repulsive. However, the cops and horses are needed to keep the city safe. Budget crunches are already cutting the number of city workers down, so is it really feasible to handle all the waste from the horses? Boy I'm sure glad I don't have to make the decisions here!

What are your thoughts on the situation? Do you have any ideas on how NYC and its residents should handle it?