Here in the UK, police horses are increasingly being used for special duties, such as crowd control, crime prevention and high visibility policing roles. They give the officers an advantage due to their height, adaptability and mobile mass. The height not only allows the officers to observe a wider area than when they are on foot or in a car, but horses are also seen as intimidating, which helps to deter criminals. Generally, police horses are treated well, and their welfare is high, but they may be attacked by criminals, since the police tend to use them as a barrier, and the job may cause them unnecessary stress.
When police horses retire from their public duties, they are usually sent to horse sanctuaries. Last week, Bransby Horses in Lincoln, England, welcomed two former police horses called Gainsborough and Saratoga, who came from the London Metropolitan Police. They are no longer able to continue their former work due to health issues, so are now at Bransby for their well-earned retirement.
Gainsborough is 18 years old, a huge bay gelding of 17.2 hands high. He was acquired by the Police in 2003 at the age of 4, and served with them for a few years but then retired as a result of an injury. He was later brought back to work but then subsequently had stifle issues, and it was decided it was for the best to retire him permanently. One reason for this was that he also had breathing difficulties, especially with fast work, so the role in the Police Force was proving too demanding for him.
The other equine retiree, Saratoga, was bought by the Police on 2015 at 4 years old, like Gainsborough, but soon developed lameness. Investigations showed a torn ligament in his stifle. His recovery and return to work were not a success, so it was thought best to retire him. Slightly smaller than Gainsborough at 16.2 hh, he still has a massive presence and distinctive colouring.
Both of the former “crime-fighters” have settled in well at the sanctuary and are keeping one another good company in the field. They both have calm and sweet natures which mean that they are becoming favourites with the staff. At present, they are serving their quarantine period in the Animal Reception Centre, and after that, it is hoped they can join the rest of the retired police horses at the farm sanctuary, where visitors will be able to meet them.