Education: Human and Horse

The amazing versatility of horses can sometimes leave you in awe. A recent trip overseas brought that point home. In some places if the horse doesn’t work, the family doesn’t eat; in others horses cope with Molotov cocktails, terrorists, and riots. Italy was the site of the World Equine Veterinary Association (WEVA) conference, a bi-annual gathering of veterinarians from around the globe. The meeting has several purposes, not the least of which is for people from places with higher technology to share with those from less-developed countries. Reports from WEVA will be in the February issue. The second stop on the trip was London, England, home of the largest mounted police unit in the world. The London Metropolitan Mounted Police have about 160 horses on the streets or in training. Their duties are official -- crowd control, squelching riots, patrolling London, and guarding the royals (fact: by tradition, only gray horses are used to escort the Queen).

Like most of you who share your free time with equine-related groups, I have a couple of favorite charities. And since Christmas is upon us, perhaps we should be thinking about charitable donations.

One favorite is the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (www.trfinc.org), a national group that rescues Thoroughbreds and either gives them permanent homes at prisons where the inmates are schooled in their care, or adopts the horses out to good homes. Another group is the mounted police.

Any rider who has nearly been unseated by a  horse "spooked" by something minor probably stops in wonder seeing police horses on busy streets. Trucks and cars whiz by within inches of their rumps, and they never move. Would your horse stand for a baby carriage being pushed right under his nose while the parent asked for directions? Or not flee in terror at the noise of thousands of people cheering and clapping as a band marches past?

London, England, is known around the world for its outstanding mounted police. There are only 43 police units in all of England, with 15 having mounted units. London has a standard protocol for training people and horses, and units from across Great Britain come to their training facility at Imber Court to learn everything from basic riding to advanced riot training. More on this will be presented in the March issue of The Horse.

On the other hand, here in the United States there are more than 100 mounted police units, with no set criteria for training of horse, or officer. The horses for mounted units come from everywhere. Many are donated, and they come with whatever problems caused their owners to get rid of them. (There are "good" donated horses, but they are rare.)

Last year, a small group gathered to discuss the need for a source of trained police horses. From that discussion was born the National Police Horse Academy (NPHA), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit group designed to place weanlings in colleges with equine programs to be raised under a curriculum that will desensitize them for police work.

The schools will raise the horses and train them. Then, when the horses are sold (to police units or private individuals), the schools will reap the profits (minus the purchase price of the horse and a small percentage to NPHA). With weanlings being added each year, that could be a very good source of income for sometimes-strapped equine programs, and a great learning experience for the students.

A pilot project has begun at a college in Kentucky, with support from a large array of equine companies and individuals. We’ll follow the progress of these three weanlings for the next three years to see if they make it to the NPHA competition in 2004. By next fall, there could be as many as 100 of these weanlings in training at schools across the country. While they all won’t graduate from the program, those which do graduate at age three will have experienced more than most 20-year-old horses!

Any individual, school, or equine business interested in more information about NPHA can go to  www.policehorses.org. Through NPHA, you can support college equine programs and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.

Here’s to a better New Year!

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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