Thursday, July 26, 2007

Four legs good, six legs better...

The Police Mounted section provides a strong tactical option during outbreaks of disorder, potential or actual. They are regularly used at football matches and assisting with searches over large areas.

The riders have a 16 week basic course and get regular refreshers on public order training. Surprisingly, the riders don't need to have any previous riding experience. Everyone is allocated a specific horse but will ride and care for all of the horses.

At Carr Gate, there are a number of stables arranged in a U shape around a curious circular structure which appeared to be the horse version of a hamster wheel. In it, a number of horses could be seperated into curved corridors in the quadrants and the innards appeared to be able to rotate. I forgot to ask what it was for but I imagine it is to get the horses used to noisy jeering crowds without anyone getting harmed.
The courtyard also leads off into a large training arena and seeing the soft soil I immediately thought of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris, despite it being outdoors without a roof, seating, lighting or Red Indians.

We were able to watch a training exercise where the horses trotted around the ring and the front one would veer off to join the rear. (The Horses have to overcome the urge to follow the leader when this happens). A more complex arrangement of going down the centre and then alternately turning left and right was also carried out.

The Tack rooms were less shiny than some, being working horses rather than show horses. (No polished brasses, but the horses do wear the West Yorkshire Police emblem below their necks and some pendants were evident on the walls). Each one was named with a white board on the stable door for any special instructions (mostly about damping down the feed). Police Horse boxes are very large, the size of furniture vans. We saw at least three, one you could look in and two others parked in a side street.

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