The Douglas County Mounted Patrol Unit is highly visible and very well received by the public. It continues the tradition of patrols on horseback by Western Sheriffs. Today the unit has 6 horses which are owned and maintained by the unit members. DCSO’s Mounted Patrol is used for a variety of policing functions including search and rescue and public relations.
Deputies on horseback still have an important place in many law enforcement agencies; frequently, a mounted deputy can access areas where traditional police vehicles cannot due to space limitations or congestion. DCSO continues the tradition of deputies on horseback with its Mounted Patrol.
The unit handles regular patrol assignments throughout the county and supports special initiatives that call for a mounted deputy. Lost children will approach an officer on horseback before one riding a motorized vehicle. In addition, the unit provides a unique presence at community events, in parades and at ceremonial / honor guard occasions. The unit also assists neighboring agencies and municipalities upon request.
Unit personnel must be certified and routinely train and work with other mounted units along the western slope. Along with equine desensitizing drills and obstacle courses, emphasis is placed on crowd control exercises and pedestrian management. The Mounted Patrol can respond to any civil disturbance or major emergency when directed by the Sheriff. With the officer’s high view-point, and the high visibility, the nickname of “ten foot cop” has gained popularity. A horse and rider provide a force multiplier in crowd control. It is estimated that a horse and rider have an impact equal to eight Deputies on foot.
The horses must be trained to do a lot of things horses hate to do. They must be trained to stand still for hours at a time and to move into a crowd of people on command. Horses would naturally flee from a crowd of people but trained properly they will advance as ordered by their rider. Mounted Patrol horses must be able to ignore loud noises, like fireworks and yelling. Streamers blowing in the wind will terrify untrained horses but Mounted Patrol horses will take it in stride. The Mounted Patrol Horses must be able to move shoulder to shoulder or nose to tail with other horses and must be able to walk, trot, and canter as part of a team.
The horse is basically a timid animal whose first instinct is to avoid any perceived danger and to flee. The mounted officer and his mount are required to develop such a strong bond that the horse is able to overcome his natural fear, replacing it with trust in his mounted partner and thereby becomes a manageable member of the horse / rider team. Horses used in police work must be reliable in temperament. They must be strong enough in personality to approach a crowd or negotiate an obstacle but in the next minute patiently stand and allow a child to pet their nose. The horses selected for mounted police service have been carefully conditioned to perform under pressure and not endanger the general public.
The horses used by Douglas County’s Mounted Patrol are each privately owned by the individual members who ride them. When the work is done, the uniforms come off, and the horses return to their respective homes and to their alternate roles as family pets and companion animals. This means that each member is individually responsible for the daily care and maintenance of his horse including feed, hay, bedding, housing, veterinary & farrier expenses.
The average person uses extreme caution around horses, mostly because of their size. The greatest fear that most people have is of a horse’s feet – and rightly so. A horse weighs anywhere between 900-2000 pounds, depending on size and breeding. Yet despite their bulk they are incredibly agile and can move very quickly. Horses can move forwards, backwards, sideways, and diagonally, and in any direction they can cover a distance of a few dozen feet in a matter of seconds. In fact, they can move more quickly in close quarters than a human can.