Houlton experiences issue with horse manure downtown

9 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Shoppers struggling to find one of the few available parking spots downtown have sometimes encountered other obstacles on their outings — horse manure.

Earlier this month, a resident posted a picture on Facebook showing several piles of horse droppings in the crosswalk in front of the Temple Theatre.

While southern Aroostook has a large community of Amish who reside in towns on the outskirts of Houlton and who come into town to shop, several people said it was not an Amish-owned horse that left the manure.

Jessica White, who was shopping in Market Square that day with friends, said in a separate post on Facebook that she saw three people on horseback who were not Amish leave the mess.

“It was pretty gross because they didn’t get off their animals and clean up after them or anything,” White said this week. “And it wasn’t like there was a lot of traffic that day. But they just continued on, and the horses went again a short time later on Main Street.”

Her friend Erin Henderson said she saw the same thing.

“They left all of the piles right there,” she said.

Under state motor vehicle statute, a horse being driven or led on a roadway has the same rights and responsibilities as a vehicle operator. Horses are allowed to be ridden on all roads, unless there is a sign indicating otherwise. Vehicles moving slower are directed to move to the “right hand boundary” of a public way and allow faster vehicles “free passage to the left.”

There is no mention in the statute about riders having to pick up after their animals.

Houlton Town Manager Butch Asselin said that while the community has an ordinance mandating that citizens pick up after their pet dogs, there is nothing related to horses.

The town does mandate that horse owners who ride them in parades in the town pick up after them during such events.

Though he had not received any recent complaints, the issue has been brought to the Town Council’s attention before.

“I would not be surprised if something is brought back to the council,” Asselin said Thursday. “We do have something related to dogs because people use the sidewalks and our local parks, and we have to keep them clean. But you can’t stop riding a horse in the middle of a public roadway just because of safety concerns.”

It is not uncommon to see horses being ridden in the community. In a 2004 case, charges of obstructing public ways and disorderly conduct were dropped against a Houlton man after he was arrested after an incident in which he and a co-worker were riding horses through town. Police alleged that he and the co-worker refused to pull right to allow faster-moving traffic to pass. Both men were part of a unit that provides mounted security and spent much of the spring training the horses on the roads to acclimate the animals to noise.