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Houston's Shoeless Mounted Police Patrol
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Houston's Shoeless Mounted Police Patrol

Houston, Texas started a mounted patrol in 1984 with 14 horses. The patrol has grown to 38 horses today and has had a significant impact on crime in the downtown area of Houston. The mounted patrol assisted with evacuation efforts during Hurricane Katrina. The horses work from eight to ten hours each day on concrete and black asphalt.

Some of the horses have been donated, while other horses were purchased by the city. Six of the horses are either in training or waiting to be trained. The other 32 horses are each assigned to a police officer. The officer is entrusted to feed and care for the horse assigned to him/her.

The breeds of the horses include Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, Tennessee Walker, Belgium, Dutch Warm bloods, Hanoverian and others. Only geldings or mares between the ages of two and 15 years are accepted into the program. The horse must pass a health physical by a certified veterinarian and be of gentle nature. There is a minimum height requirement for the program of 15.2 hands.

During an initial three month evaluation and assessment, the horse endures an obstacle course with smoke screens, tarps and loud noises from fireworks. The horse learns how to react during crowd control situations. The horse trains alone and with other patrol horses.

A portion of the training takes place at the Houston Intercontinental Airport and at some of the state parks. The ever changing terrain of the central business district of the city is the location for the final stage of training. In addition, the officers attend a four week horsemanship training class with their mount.

Over the years, additional horses were purchased. The purchased horses were generally drafts, draft crosses and warm bloods, which are larger breeds. It required a greater effort from the farriers to shoe the additional horses and larger breeds.

Natural hoof care was introduced to the police patrol in 2003-2004 by Officer Greg Sokoloski. The office obtained permission to try natural hoof care on his assigned horse after attending a hoof trimming training seminar. A hoof boot is utilized for horses with sensitive hooves during the transitioning phase until the hoof toughens. The natural hoof protocol worked well with his horse.

Joey, a horse from the patrol, had been treated by the veterinarian for chronic ‘navicular’ syndrome unsuccessfully. Officer Sokoloski was asked to care for Joey. The natural trimming process had Joey back to work within two weeks. Currently, there are four policemen that are trained to trim a shoeless hoof. 

*Royalty-free photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. 



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  1. Archippus
    I found the subject of the mounted patrols in Houston very interesting and have always enjoyed visiting the stalls of the mounted horses at the local county fairs in Alabama. The idea of barefoot or shoeless horses is a new idea for me. Feel free to share your knowledge below. I would love to read your thoughts and opinions on the subject of mounted patrols and barefoot or shoeless horses.
  2. TomCat
    I would have never thought about this.
    1. Archippus
      In Reply to TomCat: Thanks! I am curious concerning the thoughts of other horse people concerning the idea of shoeless hoof care.
  3. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Great article! I didn't realize they had a height requirement, I wonder why that is? I think it's wonderful that the police still utilize mounted patrols and I wish more would follow suit and do the same. It sure would bring some relief to rescues and shelters. Voted! :) I also like the fact that they are going shoe-less. While hard ground is rough on any hoof and leg, at least there isn't the vibrating shocks from the shoes on pavement.
    1. Archippus
      In Reply to Rene Wright: Thanks! I imagine the impact of shoes on the pavement and asphalt would be rough on the horses.
  4. Maria Sorgie
    Maria Sorgie
    enjoyed this very much!
    1. Archippus
      In Reply to Maria: Thanks! I enjoyed researching the article. I found the subject very interesting.
  5. HorseRiderSam
    Wonderful post! So glad to hear they have gone barefoot. What a wonderful program.
    1. Archippus
      In Reply to HorseRiderSam: The officers that trim the hooves have gone through a training program. There are some horses that would have been dismissed from the patrol if not for the natural trimming process.
  6. immasweetiepie
    You were right! I love this article! But I love all of your articles, dear! <3
  7. PonyGirl
    I enjoyed your blog. I would be interested to know how much work the horses do on pavement. I was very surprised that the horse's feet didn't wear down to the quick. I pony horses for a living on the racetrack and my horses are barefoot, but the vast majority of their work is on soft dirt surfaces. I still have to get their feet trimmed regularly, so the growth obviously outpaces the wear. I did have one horse I had to keep shod in front during the winter (when hoof growth slows). because his feet got short from the wear and tear. Once spring came and his foot growth increased, I was able to let him go barefoot again.
    1. Archippus
      Thanks PonyGirl! Several of the police officers have undergone training for natural hoof care. I would think that the majority of their beat is on blacktop pavement or concrete. In the beginning, most of the horses were donated. In my research, I read that the officers used a transitioning boot for horses that were not acclimated to barefoot. The officers did prefer a particular boot and had some issues with some of the previous boots they tried. Currently funding has been put aside for the officers to purchase some of the horses. The purchased horses tend to be larger horses in comparison to the donated horses.

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