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Cyclists encountered a sticky situation on the Midtown Greenway this month while commuting on the popular Minneapolis pedestrian-bike thoroughfare.

Car-free Caeley Newhart commutes via the greenway twice a day to get around the city. She said that at first, she wasn't sure what the large piles could be.

"It was so shocking," Newhart said. "We thought at first it was dirt that was dropped from the trucks, and I was like, no, we've been to the zoo. I've seen [poop] before. That's horse."

She said her family rode a bit farther when they saw mounted police coming back up the greenway.

"It was annoying. We bike with a trailer with our kid; I don't want to have to take that into the opposite lane or stop," Newhart said.

By law, the mounted unit is not required to clean up after itself while on patrol, according to the Minneapolis Mounted Police Foundation website. They make "every attempt" to clean up droppings on sidewalks, crosswalks and driveways and in front of businesses.

"If a citizen requests that we clean up droppings, we make every attempt to do so. Horse droppings has no protein in it, and it is primarily made up of hay, grain and water. Droppings decompose very quickly," the website says.

The unit is part of the Special Operations Division and is made up of 22 part-time riders and two full-time riders, Minneapolis police spokesperson Sgt. Garrett Parten said in an email.

The Minneapolis mounted patrol is one of a small handful of remaining units in the state. Similar programs disbanded in St. Paul in 2019 and in Duluth in 2017. Both departments directed that funding to other forms of police work.

During parades and large events, officers follow the horses on the ground and clean up poop along the route, Parten said.

"During our normal rides, officers note where horse poop is and make an effort to return after the ride is completed to clean it up. Manure is often gone before riders can return," he said.

The city of Minneapolis cleans up during or after parades or other large events, and early mornings downtown on the weekends, he said.

Advocates for mounted units say they are one of the best ways to connect with community members. Horses are praised for their calm demeanor when used for crowd control.

"They are pretty," Newhart said of the horses on the greenway. "They're just not pretty there."