The Mounted Unit was formed in 1978 with funding from the provincial government. The mandate at the time was for the horses to be used for patrolling Fish Creek Provincial Park as there are many remote areas that are inaccessible by traditional aspects of policing.
It soon became obvious that the mounted unit had a larger role to play in policing Calgary. Its mandate was expanded to include community events, search and rescue, crowd control, patrolling high crime areas and enforcement.
Four police officers are attached to the Mounted Unit and are responsible for the selection, training and care of the police service horses.
What types of horses are used?
All of the horses are geldings and are chosen for their disposition, size and colour. Police horses face many dangers and unnatural situations on a daily basis. Because of this, they require a calm disposition allowing them to tolerate things most horses wouldn’t. Solid colors are chosen for uniformity and the horses must be a minimum of 16 hands high at the withers, with one hand equaling four inches.
How many horses does the Mounted Unit use?
The mounted unit presently has six horses being used for patrol duties. Although the Unit is not breed specific, at the present time four of the horses are Canadians. The Canadian horse was developed in Quebec in the 1700s and has proven to be a very good selection for the Calgary Police Service (CPS). In 2001 the Canadian Parliament designated the Canadian as Canada’s national horse.
How are the police service horses trained?
Prior to being accepted as a police service horse, a six week trial period is completed to test the horse’s potential. If the horse successfully completes the six weeks, he is purchased and the formal training starts.
Since horses have their own unique personalities, the training is tailored based on their past experience and the ability to learn and accept new things. During this training period the horse is assigned to a member of the Unit based on the knowledge and experience of both the member and the horse.
A bond develops between horse and rider and on occasion these partnerships can last for years. However due to personal changes and retirement of horses or members, partnerships can change. It is common for senior experienced horses to be partnered with the newest members, allowing the member to learn their job while relying on the calm demeanour of the experienced horse.
Is it safe to approach one of the horses?
The horses really enjoy interacting with people so feel free to approach the horses to say hi or report a crime, but it is best to check with the officer first.
What happens when a horse retires?
Because of the bond that develops between the horse and rider, retired horses are often purchased by the members of the Unit and continue on as light duty trail riding horses. Some retired horses are active in handicapped riding programs.
What’s a typical day like for an officer?
A mounted officer’s day always starts by feeding the horses. Depending on the duties for the day this feeding can happen as early as 4 a.m. and no later than 7 a.m.
The horses used for patrol that day are then groomed and trailered to that days patrol area. At the patrol area or event the horses are tacked up with saddle and bridle. On occasion the horses may also be equipped with GPS units and large packs for transporting emergency equipment if they are being used for a lost person search.
The horses also attend numerous community events and parades throughout the year, as well as large crowd gatherings such as Grey Cup or the Red Mile. At the completion of the day the horses are returned home and fed their second meal of the day. A third and final meal is given at 9 p.m.
How can I become a member of the Mounted Unit?
To qualify for the Mounted Unit, members require a minimum of three years policing experience, are in good physical shape and willing to commit to the unit for three years. Upon acceptance to the Mounted Unit, members are given 400 hours of equitation training.