New police horse joins ranks of VPD mounted unit

A new horse is joining the ranks of the Vancouver Police Department's mounted unit — but he still has no name.

Four-year-old horse has been through rigorous assessment process - but still has no name

Trainer explains what it takes for a horse to join the mounted police 1:28

A new horse is joining the ranks of the Vancouver Police Department's mounted unit — although he still has no name.

The four-year-old horse has just finished a 60-day assessment period, says Const. Darcy Henkel, who is responsible for training new police horses at the VPD's Stanley Park police stables.

"We're trying really hard to see if he has a temperament that's suited for what we do," said Henkel. "Very calm, very curious.

Usually horses run away from situations when they are fearful, but curiosity can help overcome that, says Henkel.

"Curiosity is a great trait with a horse, because, when they're afraid, that curiosity can override their fear and they will want to go forward," she said.

"If they have a strong curiosity and they trust their rider, they're more apt to go into the situations we require for policing."

Unusual for young horse

Henkel says the assessment period allows the rider to gain enough control of the horse in the arena to be able to introduce him to the general public — and then, Stanley Park.

"We go to the quiet trails, see what he does with cyclists, with pedestrians with umbrellas, with families with baby strollers, coming head-on or out from the side, or even birds flying up out of the bushes."

Henkel says the new horse passed his assessment with flying colours and will now begin proper training.

"He showed that he's pretty capable. He may be afraid of things, but he'll come back and look at them. He might not even be afraid, and he'll walk by like it's no big deal."

"The longer he's been here, the better he's gotten, which is unusual for a young horse."

First new horse since 2012

The new horse is the first to be acquired by the VPD since 2012, when two horses were purchased in the aftermath of the Stanley Cup riot.

The riot saw downtown Vancouver torn apart in summer 2011, after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup.

Henkel was part of the mounted unit tasked with dispersing the rioting crowds; according to West Coast Veterinarian, the horses made quite an impact on rioters and the public.

"Blocks away from the advancing horses, people were starting to melt into the side streets," wrote Michael Perron, a vet with the VPD.

"Six riders and horses, in full riot gear, moving abreast towards them as the officers vocally encouraged people to disperse must have been a very impressive sight, even to that unruly crowd."

Afterwards, a group of London Drugs employees, who were rescued by the mounted police unit during the riot, raised enough money to allow the VPD to buy two more horses for the mounted unit.

The pair were named London and Turbo.

Already making arrests

Meanwhile, the new horse has already made his first arrest, after a report of a theft at the Vancouver Aquarium. 

With the help of the new horse and fellow police horse Billy, police quickly tracked the alleged thief down to a bus in the Stanley Park loop.

Henkel says the new horse will get a name soon — and she has high hopes for him.

"Nothing bugs him. He should have a long, great career. He's already made his first arrest, and he wasn't even on the job. He's got high expectations and high standards to keep!"


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