They’re often called gentle giants but, when need be, the horses part of the Albuquerque Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit know exactly how to use their size to protect the public.
“They can be very, very intimidating but are also very kind,” said Lt. Jeremy Bassett, with APD’s Mounted Patrol Unit.
Bassett is part of the team of officers who continuously train their 10 horses to be ready for everything, from daily patrols to riot control.
“It could be anywhere from six months to a year. The learning curve is just like a child,” said Sgt. Charles Breeden.
That’s just initial training. Breeden says they work in the ring for about an hour every day making sure all the horses are ready to obey subtle commands at a moment’s notice.
“They are on average 2,000 pounds, so we want to make sure they are listening to us so we’re not out there just stepping on people or hurting ourselves or hurting the horse,” said Breeden.
Some of the horses’ training is focused on the relationship between them and the officers. However, more of their training focuses on controlling horses during intense situations.
Though they haven’t been needed in a riot situation since President Trump spoke in downtown Albuquerque, that is the main reason for the mounted patrol.
“They were on the front line,” said Bassett.
During training, the horses are trained to push back crowds of people and to not be phased by smoke bombs or objects being thrown at them.
Bassett says they are planning to have the horses patrol high crime areas more often because of the effect they seem to have on people there.
“It’s amazing that some of the roughest, toughest guys out there, gang bangers, when we come upon a horse all that steps aside,” said Bassett.
Between their community outreach, regular patrol and training, the horses are allowed to be horses.
“We let them out to run and play,” said Bassett.
APD will likely retire one of it’s older horses this year, which they will replace with a younger horse. The retired horse will live with an officer part of the mounted patrol.