British Columbia·Photos

Meet the Js — the newest members of the VPD's mounted squad

On Tuesday, the VPD mounted squad's three newest members were officially introduced at the police stables in Stanley Park.

'They couldn’t be better ambassadors to the police department,' says VPD Const. Joanne Hardman

Jarvis is a three-year-old Percheron thoroughbred living at the police stables in Stanley Park currently in training to become one of Vancouver’s finest. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

On Tuesday, the VPD mounted squad's three newest members were officially introduced at the police stables in Stanley Park.

Jedi, Jarvis, and Josiah, affectionately called the J's, arrived in early June from a breeding facility in the southern United States where they started their police training at a young age. 

Jedi, Jarvis, and Josiah, the J's, in the paddock at the police stables. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Thanks to their 'nuisance training,' the horses are overall more curious than afraid of their surroundings. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Susan Sharp, a sergeant with the VPD mounted unit, says they will be given new names soon. She says the names will be a bit tougher sounding as befits their job, such as Turbo, the name of one of the more experienced patrol horses. 

There are a total of seven police horses at the stables in Stanley Park. Turbo, posing here with Sharp, is one of the more experienced on the team. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Sharp posing with Turbo in the police stables in Stanley Park on Tuesday, June 25. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The new horses were purchased as part of succession planning, so that older horses can retire while they are still young and healthy enough to enjoy the rest of their life. The three-year-olds have already allowed the most senior horse, Clyde, to retire at around 19 years of age. 

"We couldn't be happier," said VPD mounted unit Const. Joanne Hardman of the new arrivals.

Joanne Hardman, a constable with the VPD mounted unit, spent most of her career on the Downtown Eastside. Although they are very different environments, she says both placements have been very fulfilling. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Duties

Once their schooling is complete, the horses will each be paired with an officer and begin their official patrol work. 

The core duties for the police horses involve patrolling Stanley Park, the beaches on the West Side and the downtown core. They also support the VPD by attending large crowd community events such as festivals and parades.

Sharp holding her hand out to Josiah in the police stables paddock. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Training

The ideal police horse, as Sharp explains, has a good temperament and isn't overly reactive. It's very important they remain calm and collected in any situation. 

Sharp says the three-year-olds have already shown they possess those qualities by remaining relaxed as a new fence is constructed just behind the paddock where they play and train.

She says they have been more curious than afraid of the sounds from Bobcat machines, saws and hammers and attributes it to the training they received in their breeding facility.

Kristen May, a stable attendant, demonstrates some of the objects that the horses are trained to become familiar with. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

A team of VPD mounted officers and civilian trainers are continuing their training for another couple of months. 

The training has included walking around and exposing them to different environments.

"Basically, we sort of look at our training as whatever our imagination can come up with, whether that's umbrellas or big balls or noises, frisbees, fireworks; whatever we can do to gradually expose them to that so that they are comfortable with whatever they may face or see on the street," explained Sharp. 

The three-year-old Percheron thoroughbred horses play in the paddock every day at Stanley Park to 'let their oats out,' followed by about two hours of training before riding around the park to become familiar with the sights, sounds and smells. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Hardman signals Jarvis to give her space as she works with Josiah. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Horses eyes see individually. Therefore a horse may see an object with its right eye 10 times and still be surprised by seeing the same object with its left eye. Part of their training includes familiarizing both eyes with objects of various colours, shapes and sizes. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Hardman says her favorite horse right now is Josiah because they have spent the most time together. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Hardman says she loves seeing the positive effect the horses have on the Vancouver community and visiting tourists. "They couldn't be a better ambassador for the police department," said Hardman. "Everyone loves horses." 

Once training is complete, the horses will be able to join the rest of the team on the streets. 

Sharp predicts the three J's will be seen patrolling the park, beaches and downtown core by the fall of 2019.

Josiah getting up close and personal. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
VPD media relations officer Sgt. Jason Robillard sits on Turbo, one of the existing patrol horses at the VPD’s stables in Stanley Park. Sharp and Robillard shook on an agreement to swap roles on Tuesday morning; Sharp spoke to the media (typically Robillard's role) and then helped Robillard onto Turbo for a ride around the stables. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)
Look out for Josiah, Jedi and Jarvis patrolling Stanley Park, the beaches and the downtown core this fall. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

 

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