Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Horse Mounted Patrol Unit
Several members of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Mounted Patrol Unit were on hand at the Iroquois Steeplechase, second Saturday in May at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN. Riding all Tennessee Walking Horses (TWH), Unit Sgt. Mike Eby explained that their main mission was crowd control. “One of our trained horses is equal to about ten police officers” when it comes to crowd control, he said. “We can clear a crowd easier with the horses if there’s a problem. We have a good viewpoint from horseback and we can be seen, too. The horses give us a high visibility factor.”
Eby said the horses are good for community relations. “People can come up to them, pet them, talk to us about the horses. We allow people to pet the horses. The kids especially like to pet the horses, and there are lots of kids in Nashville who have never seen a horse. We do not let them ride, though.”
The Horse Mounted Patrol is used by the police department for all types of special events including Tennessee Titans games, parades, CMA Fest, and many other major events in downtown Nashville. The Mounted Unit is a fixture every year at the Iroquois. “We were at the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, TN,” Eby said, “and we’ll be at the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration” in the fall in Shelbyville.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Horse Mounted Patrol Unit was established in 1998. It is a full time unit comprised of seven officers, one sergeant, Eby, and one reserve officer. All ride Tennessee Walking Horses who are donated to the program. “When the Unit was started, the Sergeant who started it was into Tennessee Walking Horses. They are very good, gaited horses. They are smoother riding than other breeds for long periods of time in the saddle, and their temperament is desirable,” Eby explained.
The Unit stables the horses at the Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville. The full time fully staffed Mounted Patrol takes care of the horses on a daily basis. They also have Sheriff’s Department trustees who assist in taking care of the feeding and the stalls. The Unit has all registered TWH geldings, no mares, “To keep the barn calm,” Eby explained.
The horses are usually worked on a daily basis. They are called upon to patrol at many different events throughout the year and they patrol downtown Nashville, as well as other heavily populated areas such as mall parking lots during the holidays, green ways, and other places that a patrol car may be unable to travel.
Unit members all ride in English-type saddles made by Steele Saddle Co. in Ashland City, TN. Each officer has an assigned horse he/she rides for each event. However, officers and horses are trained the same way so that any officer can ride any horse available if their primary horse is unavailable for some reason.
The officers do all the training of their horses, Eby said. They have set up an obstacle barn to teach the horses about all the kinds of things they might encounter in their job. “The horses have to be comfortable with and rely on the rider,” Eby explained. “It’s not in their nature to break up a fight or to plow through a crowd, pushing people back without hurting them. So we work a lot on the horse-rider bond. The training is continuous. They have to stand for periods of time,” so teaching them to stand quietly is part of their training. “They have to get used to loud music,” Eby continued. “We have devised ways to train the horses and our latest addition is one of those sock guys,” that air is blown through, resulting in jerky, unpredictable movements. If the horse can handle those, they can handle most anything!
Because the horses may have to walk a lot on pavement, they wear special horse shoes for better traction. The shoes contain two carbide bb’s at the front of the shoe and two tungsten bites at the back of the shoe to prevent the horse from slipping on the pavement.
Currently the Unit is in need of more Tennessee Walking Horse donations. To qualify, horses must be between the ages of 4-8; must be between 15.2 and 17 hands tall, have good temperaments and no vices, and be saddle broke. The Unit does not have a color restriction; however, lighter colored horses are harder to keep clean and harder hit by flies, factors which could affect a decision to adopt. More information about adoption procedures is available at their website under FAQ.
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