At many events across the state, police officers will be in the saddle rather than being behind the wheel of more traditional police vehicles. Utilizing the power of horses is a more effective way to ensure safety of large crowds.
"Horses are a great way for the public to interact with police in a way that draws them to us," says Officer Sarah McLaughlin of the Madison Mounted Horse Patrol. "Horses can also move more people in a non-confrontational manner, meaning less force is needed."
Working as a police horse puts the animal at a slightly higher health risk due to the environment in which the animals work. To help reduce the potential for injury, officers try to minimize the time spent in traffic and use reflective gear and bright lights to make the horses more visible at night.
Horses must meet a variety of requirements before they can be used for mounted patrol. For the Madison Police Department, horses need to be between six and 12 years old, have a minimum height of 16.3 hands (67 inches) and have no major lameness or health problems. Other favorable characteristics include a curious personality and a quiet disposition.
At large events where the horses interact very closely with large crowds, such as Halloween on State Street and the Mifflin Street Block Party, there is always a veterinarian on-site to provide emergency care if needed.One of the veterinarians providing care for police horses is WVMA member Dr. Howard Ketover of Irongate Equine Clinic in Madison, Wis. Dr. Ketover started working with Madison Mounted Horse Patrol in 2006, but has been working with various Wisconsin mounted police units since 2004.
"The care for police horses is the same as for other horses that travel" says Dr. Ketover. "But there is a need to monitor and maintain soundness for the comfort of the horse and the safety of the officer."
Veterinarians are also responsible for training police officers on the equine health and emergency care they may need while on patrol. By educating police officers and maintaining the health of the horses, veterinarians are key to ensuring the safety of the horse, police officer, and the people they work to protect. To learn more about the Madison Mounted Horse Patrol, visit www.madisonmounted.org.
Mounted patrol horses are not the only horses that require veterinary care. Schedule your horse's regular appointments with their WVMA member veterinarian today! Your horse can avoid future health problems by taking the proper preventive steps. To find a WVMA member veterinarian, go to www.wvma.org.
Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association 2801 Crossroads Drive, Suite 1200 | Madison, WI 53718 | Phone: (608) 257-3665 | Fax: (608) 257-8989
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