Tennis shoes keep Richard Knoth racing from pony puddle to pony puddle 

Speedy Sneakers

Richard Knoth keepsCcharleston's streets clean from horse excrement

Jonathan Boncek

Richard Knoth keepsCcharleston's streets clean from horse excrement

When you're cleaning up horse crap, your days are busy. Richard Knoth, owner of Green Horse Equine Sanitation (GHES), downtown's horse rubbish removal business, says his team responds to a couple hundred calls a day. That's why the former international polo player rolls in sneakers and not gaiters as one might expect. "It's not like we're standing in the urine," Knoth explains. "You'd think we'd wear rubber boots, but when a call comes in, we have to respond within 20 minutes." Jumping into a truck decked out with a 200 gallon tank of sanitizer takes speed, so, clad in his Zumi sneakers, Knoth is always at the ready.

"Sometimes the horses miss the diapers," he explains. "Then a carriage driver is supposed to drop a marker and we come clean it up." You might be familiar with the markers — half rubber balls with orange flags sticking out ­— that notify GHES' team of a pony deposit.

"You wouldn't believe how many tourists pick them up," Knoth says. "I've seen parents carrying babies holding them."

But those desecrated souvenirs are in fact one of the main indicators Knoth has for beginning the purification process. You see his job is to make sure that not only does horse waste quickly vanish from the nation's No. 1 travel destination, but that there's no residual odor. And that's his secret: GHES' funk removal formula.

"I met an Australian chemist," Knoth explains. "He was working on ways to handle chicken and hog waste, and he'd just come up with a clay-based product." Knoth tested the product in his family's Carolina Polo and Carriage Company barn and was amazed. "It lowers the pH in the ammonia in urine and that reduces the smell," Knoth explains. Pleased, the two came up with a liquid form and began testing it on Charleston's streets. Not only does it diminish the fragrance, but the chemist is convinced the product soaks into Charleston's concrete, minimizing future smells. "I always think it's funny when people say, 'I wish I lived in Charleston in the 1800s,'" Knoth says. "No you don't." One can only imagine the fumes the Holy City oozed mid-August during the 19th century, but if it's half as bad as this excrepert says, we believe him. And it's all the more reason to appreciate what GHES does.

"The great thing about our spray is it's totally green," Knoth says. "I have three kids and we swim in the ocean. I don't want anything I'm putting down the drain to be toxic."

The green-clean approach doesn't just go for the waste removal however. Knoth recently had Clemson University study the horse manure he collects, and it turns out it makes excellent fertilizer. "We hope to start giving that away to gardeners so that nothing goes to waste," Knoth says.

But even with his eco-friendly approach, Knoth still isn't allowed to wear his shoes in the house. He says, "My wife makes me leave them at the barn."


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