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Police Horses: Breeds and Why They’re Still Used Today

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The horse has been a trusty companion of humans for centuries, and today they still play an essential role in many aspects of our lives. One such role is in law enforcement, where horses are used to help patrol and control crowds. But what kind of horse is best suited for this job?

Various horse breeds are used for police work, but the most common are draft horses, such as Clydesdale, Percheron, and the Shire. Draft horses are large, intelligent, and have a calm temperament, which makes them ideal for patrol work and crowd control. Other kinds of horses used by police include Thoroughbreds and Quarterhorses.

Police horses are still used today because they are very mobile and can easily maneuver in tight spaces. They a very good at crowd control, as they can move through a crowd without harming anyone.

In this post, we’ll look at the types of horses used by law enforcement, why police departments might choose certain types, and how they are still practical crime-fighting tools.

Picture of police on horseback.

Police horses have a long history in law enforcement.

Police horses have a long and vital history in law enforcement. Police forces worldwide have used horses for centuries, and they continue to play an essential role in modern policing.

Police horses are specially trained to help officers in various ways, including crowd control, search and rescue, and mounted patrols. Horses are also valuable assets in times of riots or civil unrest, as their size and stature can help to intimidate crowds and keep them under control.

In addition to their law enforcement duties, police horses also play an important role in community outreach programs, providing a positive interaction between officers and the public.

Horse-mounted units often participate in parades and other public events, helping to build goodwill between the police force and the community. The unique partnership between horse and rider is built on trust, mutual respect, and years of training, making police horses an essential part of law enforcement.

Picture of a gooseneck horse trailer.

Several breeds excel as police horses.

There are several horse breeds that excel at police work. The most common horse breeds used by police forces are large draft breeds, including Clydesdales, Percherons, and the Shire.

These breeds are all known for their size and strength, which can be helpful when carrying out law enforcement activities. During Mardi Gras, in New Orleans, the police officer uses big draft horses to move large crowds; it is a sight to see.

Not only are the horses expertly trained, but the officers riding them are incredible. Other horse breeds often used for police work include the Quarterhorses, Thoroughbreds, and American Paint horses.

These horses are known for their agility, speed, and strength, and police forces have used them for decades. All police horses are trained to be calm and level-headed to avoid getting spooked or agitated during a crisis. As a result, these horse breeds make ideal partners for law enforcement officers.

Clydesdales

If you’ve ever seen a Clydesdale horse in person, you know how impressive they are. These massive animals are strong and graceful and have a gentle demeanor that makes them ideal for working with people.

Clydesdales have been used as draft animals for centuries, but more recently, they’ve also been trained for law enforcement work. Police horses need to be calm under pressure, and they need to be able to handle large crowds of people.

Clydesdales excel in these areas, which is why they make such good police horses. In addition to their size and strength, Clydesdales are also very intelligent and easy to train. When it comes to law enforcement work, few horse breeds can match the Clydesdale’s ability to get the job done.

Picture of a quarter horse.

Quarter horses

Quarter horses have been used as police horses for many years. They are a popular choice because they are intelligent and easily trained. Quarter horses are also known for their sure-footedness and ability to cover ground quickly.

In addition, Quarter horses have a calm demeanor, which is essential for a horse working in a busy urban environment. Overall, Quarter horses make ideal police horses because they are intelligent, trainable, and level-headed.

The New Orleans Police department has an arena at their equine facility, and each year they host a barrel racing competition. I’ve been to a few of these and saw competitors riding police quarter horses.

Picture of a girl during her horse riding lessons, she is riding a Percheron.
Retired Police Horse

Percherons

One of the most popular horse breeds for police work is the Percheron. These powerful draft horses are known for their intelligence, strength, and agility. Percherons are also very calm and level-headed, making them ideal partners for officers who need a horse that can remain calm in chaotic situations.

Originally from France, they were used in war to carry knights and their armor into battle. Today, they are still used for heavy work, such as pulling carriages or plowing fields. However, their gentle nature also makes them ideal for police work.

Recently, I went to a horse riding camp and noticed a Percheron in the showjumping class. Seeing it perform got me curious, so I asked the instructor about the horse and learned it was a retired police horse. You can see the horse in the above picture.

In addition to their physical abilities, Percherons are exceptionally agile for a large horse. Overall, there are many reasons why Percherons make great police horses, and they continue to play an important role in law enforcement around the world.

Picture of a thoroughbred, they typically make good police horses.

Thoroughbreds

People often ask why thoroughbreds make such good police horses. The answer is simple – they are intelligent, athletic, and have a great work ethic. Here are just a few of the qualities that make thoroughbreds ideal for law enforcement:

Intelligence: Thoroughbreds are incredibly intelligent horse breeds. This means they are easy to train and can quickly learn new commands. In addition, their intelligence makes them less likely to be spooked by unexpected noises or situations.

Athleticism: Thoroughbreds are extremely athletic horse breeds. They are known for their speed and stamina, which makes them ideal for patrol duty. In addition, their agility allows them to navigate crowded streets and tight spaces.

Work Ethic: Thoroughbreds want to please. They will put in long hours and go the extra mile to learn and please their owner. This makes them ideal partners for law enforcement officers who often work long shifts, especially during special events.

Picture of a police officer riding a horse.

Police horses offer advantages over police cars.

Police horses offer some advantages over police cars. First of all, horses are much more mobile than cars. They can maneuver in tight spaces and are not limited by roads or sidewalks. They are often used in search and rescue operations, as they can cover a lot of ground and easily navigate rugged terrain.

In addition, horses are much faster than humans, which is useful when the police are trying to chase down a suspect. The police horse is ideal for crowd control and patrolling large areas such as parks.

The high vantage point provided by sitting on its back ensures that officers can see further than they would when sitting in vehicles. Another important reason horses are more useful than police cars in certain situations is that they offer a level of visibility and authority that cannot be achieved on foot or by vehicle.

An officer on horseback can easily be seen and heard from a distance, making them an effective deterrent against crime. In addition, the horse is a symbol of power and authority, which can help quell potential unrest.

In high-stress situations, a horse’s presence can help diffuse tension and prevent violence from erupting. And to top off the reasons: police horses build goodwill between the police and the community and are much more environmentally friendly than cars or motorcycles.

Picture of a young thoroughbred horse in training.

How are police horses trained?

Believe it or not, most police horses undergo years of training before they hit the streets. The process begins with horse selection. Prospective candidates must be healthy and physically fit, with a calm disposition and an ability to follow commands.

Once a horse has been selected, the horse is paired with a trainer who will work with the horse for several months to establish a bond of trust. The horse is then introduced to basic obedience commands and learns how to respond to various stimuli, such as the sound of a siren or the sight of large crowds.

Only when the horse is comfortable and confident in its training will it be ready to become a full-fledged member of the force.

How long does it take to train a police horse?

Police horses typically undergo 12 months of initial training and continue to receive training throughout their career. The perfect police horse is not born but trained. Horses are taught to be comfortable around crowds, loud noises, and other aspects of police work.

During training, they may face anything from firing off firecrackers in front of them to having a crowd rush at them as if they were about to attack. A police horse must learn how to respond to the rider’s commands under pressure, which takes time to learn.

For some horses, it could take years, and others never make graduate and become police horses. Police horses play an important role in law enforcement, and their training is essential for them to perform their duties effectively.

Below is a YouTube video of a day in the life of Mounted Patrol.

FAQs

What happens to police horses when they retire?

Retired police horses are typically given to the officer who rode them, a sanctuary, or equestrian adoption service. Either way, former police horses typically enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle than they did while working.

Can I pet a police horse?

No, it would be best if you didn’t pet a police horse; they are on duty and are not pets. However, some departments have meet and greet periods and allow civilians to pet their horses.