PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County Commissioners voted Tuesday to ban horseback riding in aquatic preserves. The ordinance also bans damage to sea grass that isn't permitted. 

  • Commissioners pass ordinance to ban horseback riding in Pinellas County aquatic preserves
  • Environmental concerns raised ahead of vote
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Five commissioners voted for the ordinance, and one voted against it. Commissioner Kathleen Peters, the only commissioner to vote no, says she feels more options should have been explored before the vote.

“In my opinion when you have cities and the county dumping raw sewage into the Bay, we have way bigger problems than 12 horses," said Peters.

CPonies, a horse rescue that offers rides in the water, has been operating near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Following this vote, that's prohibited. They will continue operation in Bradenton.

“Our people, they’ll follow us because they love these horses," said Carmen Hanson, the owner of CPonies.

This ordinance comes after environmental concerns were raised regarding the horses defecating in the water and walking through the sea grass. Hanson argues the horses are not damaging the sea grass, and they clean up as much feces as they can.

Under the ordinance, any damage done to sea grass that isn't permitted is banned.

“Anything that would damage sea grass on the sea bottom could now be held accountable with this ordinance," said Peters. 

Hanson says they will have to change their business model now to include trail rides. 

"We're going to open up a couple of trail ride businesses. We're going to try to keep our horses employed and of course my staff employed. So we have some plans. It's going to take a while to build that up," said Hanson. 

Commissioners discussed exploring alternative locations around Pinellas County for horseback riding, but those likely would be for rides on land, not in water.