OPELOUSAS — St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz told the Parish Council on Wednesday he is willing to provide roadside assistance to trail ride events on horseback despite the logistical difficulties.
Enforcement procedures and the number of riders are the important elements being incorporated into an amended trail ride ordinance that will be introduced at the council’s August meeting.
The council has created and amended several trail ride ordinances over the past three years but problems with unruly behavior and large numbers of participants — upward of 1,000 or more — has kept the matter burning.
Guidroz told the council Wednesday night that surrounding parishes have banned trail rides because of enforcement issues.
Trail rides are a big industry in the parish and social events that are part of parish tradition, Guidroz said.
Inappropriate actions by riders caused the council to cancel a 2011 event planned by Step N’ Strut trail riders, an action that was rescinded at Wednesday’s meeting.
Guidroz said it requires 20 to 25 deputies to handle vehicle traffic and about 1,000 riders who compete for space on parish and state roadways.
“With events like these, you’ve got to have standards, rules set down. I do not want to cripple the trail rides or the rides during Mardi Gras.
Rides involving numbers like those at Step N’ Strut events are nearly impossible for deputies to control, he said.
He proposed having the large rides hire private security for the areas where riders saddle and dismount their horses, with the deputies handling the roadways.
A recent trail ride held in St. Landry resulted in a lawsuit filed against Guidroz and the sheriff’s department alleging lack of sufficient law enforcement protection, he told the council.
Gudroz said deputies shut down the ride, which included 500 more riders more than the event application indicated, after numerous fighting incidents.
He said the department is also having problems recruiting off-duty deputies to work the rides because of riders’ demeanor.
The proposed ordinance limits the number of riders to 500 with a $500 application fee that can be refunded if there are no property or personal damages during the event.
Organizers are required to meet with the Sheriff’s Department at least 45 days before the event to discuss the route and security, according to the ordinance proposal.
Near the end of Wednesday’s three-and-a-half hour meeting, the council debated whether the ordinance should be introduced or delayed further.
Administrative assistant Jessie Bellard urged the council to conduct a public hearing at the August meeting and then make a decision.
“You want to table this again and again. If we do that, we will never get something in place and we will never get to see if what we do is going to work.
“If some things don’t work, we can come back and say let’s fix this or that,” Bellard said.