NWSCA

Northwest Security Coordinators Online Newsletter
Volume 10 Issue 1 - February 1999


 
Mounted Patrol
According to Ray Nichols, a fourteen year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, the Mounted Patrol was started under Sheriff Buster Kern in 1949.  Today, there are 48 members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department Mounted Patrol who volunteer their time to search for missing persons, escaped prisoners, search and rescue missions whenever adverse weather conditions exists,  riot control, traffic, crowd control, present the colors at parades or additional security at large group functions.
The Mounted Patrol is under the leadership of Lieutenant Gary Look and each member must attend In-Service Training a minimum of 20 hours a year.The Sheriff’s Department supplies uniform tack for the horses; however, each Deputy must supply their own horse, saddle, and trailer and may be called for duty at any time.   According to Deputy Nichols, each horse can cost $250 - $500 a month for the feeding, stabling, and vet care. 

Once a horse becomes a Certified Police Horse, should anyone cause injury to the horse, they can be filed on for assault.  The horse carries the same rights and protections as a police officer.  The horses most frequently selected for the Mounted Patrol are usually Quarter Horses chosen for their quick learning and gentle nature. 

When a horse is chosen to receive the training to go into the Mounted Patrol, they must work many hours with the Deputy.  Horses fear the unknown, according to Deputy Nichols who has been riding since he was two, and the deputy must gain the horse’s confidence in order to work together as a team.  The horse must be conditioned to wailing sirens, loud or sudden noises, strange people coming up to them, and many other unusual events.   Additional training, between deputy, and horse takes place on a regular basis to maintain peek performance at all times.

“The Harris County Sheriff’s Department’s Mounted Patrol has evolved from a strictly ceremonial unit to a vital part of our  law enforcement operations.  We have come to depend on them for assistance in search, rescue, and crowd control situations,” according to 
Sheriff Tommy Thomas

Peoples’ lives are often at stake, requiring the rider and horse to work as one in any rescue effort.  It is not a natural instinct for a horse to work with other unfamiliar horses.   However, with the right combination of training, between deputy and horse, these natural instincts are put aside when a job is waiting to be done.  Due to the ever presence of danger in police work, the Mounted Patrol Team becomes very specific on their requirements from both officers and horses.   Each participant must have a bond of trust from the other.  Lives do depend upon this trust, which results from long hours of training. 

The next time you see a Mounted Patrol Deputy, take a few minutes to observe.  It is fascinating to watch a well trained horse and his rider work a crowd of people, perform a search, or direct traffic.  They work as one, each trusting the other.   The Sheriff’s Department Mounted Patrol is another example where “our quality of life” in Harris County has improved due to the dedication of the Sheriff Deputies and their well-trained horses. 

 

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