“Just as did many police officers during their early days on the force, modern day cop Stephanie Braxton has a partner when she patrols Mill Avenue on weekend nights. But her backup in this case is a four-legged one, and his name isn’t Fido … Officer Braxton’s steadfast, not-to-be-messed-with partner is a 2,000-pound gelding named Ranger, who she says is the perfect companion for what she calls her dream job.” (By Joyce Coronel; published Dec. 7th, 2016, in “Tempe & West Chandler Wrangler News”, quoted by permission of the author.)
That tells you one very good reason why we still have mounted police: when dealing with bad guys, who wouldn’t want a partner that weighs 2,000 pounds?! :E
Mounted Patrol is a dimension of law enforcement that may be with us forever: Wikipedia lists 165 law enforcement and parks service mounted patrols, and acknowledges that the list is incomplete. Even the Air Force has its own (very tiny) cavalry, at Vandenburg AFB.
Some of the reasons are pretty obvious, but others don’t occur to the average citizen who has no horseback experience.
“Most horses can typically run up to speeds of 30 to 40 mph, at the max.” That’s plenty fast enough: “Reference” says “Faster humans can sprint at 15.9 miles per hour…”
The University of Massachusetts lists many advantages of mounted patrols:
“… Police officers on horseback are highly visible to the public, which results in increased crime deterrence and enhanced public safety … the presence of the horses makes the individual officer more approachable by the campus public and less isolated than they would be in patrol cars … They are able to handle complaints and medical emergencies, work traffic details and traffic enforcement, provide crowd control, patrol the less accessible areas of campus, act as a crime deterrent, and enforce laws … ”
“Horses by their size are intimidating and are effective in moving people out of the way without anyone getting injured … An officer on a horse can be seen above a crowd so they serve as a crime deterrent and the officer also can look over the heads of the crowd and see what is going on, Cook said … The horses also are good for public relations and attracting attention of people … “Everyone likes horses, like firemen, everyone likes firemen,” Cook said. “I don’t really know anybody who doesn’t like horses.”
“When moving a crowd or breaking up a large fight, one horse / rider team can do the work of numerous officers on the ground, and a mounted officer has much better visibility in a large crowd than an officer on foot. The Mounted Patrol is also an important public relations tool for the police department and is often requested to attend block parties and scouting events, give demonstrations and lectures about our horses, police work in general, and child safety, and lead parades.”
The National Park Service agrees:
“Horse mounted patrols are assigned to Federal Parks in Washington, DC, New York City, and San Francisco. These nationally acclaimed officers and mounts are highly respected for crowd management techniques. They also function to maintain order during major demonstrations and special events and have been transported to other sites in the National Park system to control demonstrations … The United States Park Police Horse Mounted Unit offers the 400-hour Remount training ‘free of charge’ to outside law enforcement agencies.”
When it’s done right, forming and maintaining a Mounted patrol Division requires these elements:
1) Selection: as with Seeing Eye dogs or any kind of service animal, military or police dogs, results are improved dramatically if animals are tested for desirable traits for their job:
“All are geldings ranging in age from 5 to 14 years old. The Tempe Police Department purchases or accepts donations of quality horses with excellent dispositions and sound conformation. … The mounts undergo a rigorous pre-purchase vet exam; and sensory, temperament, and riding evaluations … Mounts have excellent train-ability, willing dispositions and enough heart to chase down an offender, move through a crowd of people, and do the job without distraction from fireworks, traffic, music or carnival rides or other commotion … The unit obtains most of its mounts locally and spends a considerable amount of time searching for just the right horse before a purchase is made or donation accepted.”
“Only about 20 percent of the horses reviewed for use on the Mounted Patrol are able to complete the training.”
2) Training of both horses and officers:
“After the acceptance, the horse will go through a ninety (90) day evaluation and training phase. During the initial training/evaluation phase each horse will be assessed at the Mounted Facility and put through such obstacles as tarps, fireworks, and smoke. Also, the horse will be farther assessed while working alone and in groups with other mounted horses. Harassment and crowd control situations will be introduced at this point. Next, the horse and trainer will move outside the Mounted Facility to the major parks and Houston Intercontinental Airport. After successful completion of these initial training phases the horse will then be exposed to the central business district. This downtown geographical area is very dynamic for training as there is major construction projects ongoing, continuous vehicular and pedestrian traffic, water obstacles, curbs, and ever changing terrain.”
“Basic police horsemanship for our mounted unit includes an initial 120 hours of academic and practical basic training. The subject matter is applicable whether the student police officer is an experienced cowboy, hunter/jumper or novice rider and instruction is individualized to the student’s strengths and needs. Topics include stable and horse management; safety; the police horse; illnesses and injuries; basic and intermediate equitation; tack and equipment; trailer operation; crowd control; equine anatomy; and conformation, drills, ceremonies and a lot of saddle time. Student police officers must pass a written and practical skills test to complete the course.”
3) Care of horses:
Not to be indelicate, but: “A 1,000 pound horse will defecate approximately four to thirteen times each day and produce approximately nine tons of manure per year.” Also about an additional 3 tons of bedding per year.”
Flies, flies, flies … Personally, I’d rather pollute the earth with gasoline.
“The mounted training program consists of basic and advanced horsemanship skills such as riding, leading, tying, tack, grooming, bathing, feeding, trailering and hauling, as well as equine health care issues.” (The University of Massachusetts makes its Mounted officers responsible for the daily care of their horses.)
“New officers must successfully complete 10-12 weeks of basic training that includes, grooming, first aid, ground work, riding and other necessary equestrian skills.”
Personally, I’d rather just refuel my car, run it through the car wash, and take it to a mechanic for the rest.
4) Legal protection of police horses: of the sites I visited, only one mentioned legal protection for the horses, although I’m sure other organizations have something similar:
“Tempe Police Department Mounts are protected by State Statute … Arizona Revised Statute 13-2910.A.6 makes it a Class 1 Misdemeanor to recklessly interfere with, strike or harm a service animal such as a police mount, police dog, or service dog, such as a seeing eye dog … Arizona Revised Statute 13-2910 A.9 makes the same acts a Class 6 Felony if done intentionally. Anyone convicted of Interference with a Working Animal is liable to the department for the cost of care or replacement of an injured mount, training costs, and the salary of the equine officer while out of service, in addition to imprisonment for up to a year and a half and or a fine of up to $150,000.”
GOOD JOB, ARIZONA! These creatures deserve the best protection we can give them.
And of course, the time comes for all of us, horse or human: Retirement! The Houston Mounted Patrol page was the only one of the few I visited that mentioned it. This is good for the hearts of animal lovers:
“Should a horse, upon a negative evaluation, not be accepted into the Mounted unit then it shall be returned to the donor. If a horse is to be retired the original owner is given first opportunity to have the horse returned to its original home. If the original owner chooses not to accept the horse or is unavailable, then a suitable home is located for the retired horse. We have a long list of horse lovers who are interested in accepting one of our retired police mounts.”
Houston was also the only site that mentioned breeds of horses on patrol:
“At present, there are thirty-eight (38) horses in our herd. These horses represent many different breeds, some of which are: Percheron; Belgium; Quarter Horse; Hanoverian; Tennessee Walker; Dutch Warmblood; Thoroughbred; and Spotted Saddle Horse.”
I thought I, yes even I, remembered the Percheron name:
“Percheron horses stand 16.2 to 17.3 HH and weigh from 1,800 to 2,600 pounds, depending on the bloodlines. In France, they can range from 15.1 to 18.1 HH … Originally bred as war horses …” What a coincidence. There’s a lot more interesting information about that breed where that quote came from.
God gave us many animal companions for many reasons. I used to wonder why He cursed them by putting them on the same planet with us, but some time ago I figured it out: we need them. For work, for sport, for amusement, for laughter … and for friendship. For love.
“In the horse capital of the world we pride ourselves on our horses and our training programs for horse and officer. The curriculum is based on Natural Horsemanship where officers work together with their assigned horse partners to overcome the obstacles they are faced with everyday on the street.”
I regret, regret, that I have lost the link to the 2nd quote. The exact words escape me, but this law enforcement source said that a successful mounted patrol involves a relationship of love and trust between horse and officer. How about that. In this increasingly electronic, artificial world, just as with any other animal or human partnership, love is the key. 🙂
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three things endure: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1st Corinthians 13:12-13)
And that certainly includes our animal companions on this planet.
All quotes taken from one of the sources listed below: