Mounted police are police who patrol on horseback or camelback. They continue to serve in remote areas and in metropolitan areas where their day-to-day function may be picturesque or ceremonial, but they are also employed in crowd control because of their mobile mass and height advantage and increasingly in the UK for crime prevention and high visibility policing roles. The added height and visibility that the horses give their riders allows officers to observe a wider area, but it also allows people in the wider area to see the officers, which helps deter crime and helps people find officers when they need them. Mounted police may be employed for specialized duties ranging from patrol of parks and wilderness areas, where police cars would be impractical or noisy, to riot duty, where the horse serves to intimidate those whom it is desired to disperse through its larger size, or may be sent in to detain trouble makers or offenders from the crowd. For example, in the UK, mounted police are most often seen at football matches, although they are also a common sight on the streets of many towns and cities as a visible police presence and crime deterrent during the day and night. Some mounted police units are trained in search and rescue due to the horse's ability to travel where vehicles cannot.
The French Maréchaussée—direct predecessors of the gendarmerie and the first national police force in a modern sense—were a corps of completely mounted constabulary from their establishment in the early 18th century. Poor roads and extensive rural areas made horse-mounted police a necessity in European states until the early 20th century. The establishment of organized law-enforcement bodies throughout Africa, Asia and the Americas during the colonial and post-colonial eras made the concept of predominantly horse-police accepted almost world-wide. Notable examples included the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Mexican Rurales, the British South African Police, the Turkish/Cypriot Zapiteh and many more.
Tack used by mounted police is similar to standard riding tack, with adaptations for police use. Synthetic saddles are often favored over those made of natural leather to reduce weight, important both because of long riding hours and because police officers must carry numerous articles of personal equipment. High-traction horseshoes made of speciality metals or fitted with rubber soles are typically used in urban areas in place of standard steel horseshoes, which are prone to slip on pavement. Rubber soled shoes also produce less noise than steel shoes and jar the hoof less. Horses working in riot control wear facial armor, made of perspex so that the animals can still see. The officers themselves are often equipped with especially long wooden or polycarbonate batons for use on horseback, as standard patrol batons would have insufficient length to strike individuals at ground level.
New South Wales Mounted Police
The New South Wales Mounted Police is a mounted section of the New South Wales Police Force, and the oldest continuous mounted group in the world. Currently they have a strength of 36 officers and around 38 mounts and their duties include traffic and crowd management, patrols, and ceremonial protocol duties.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is a well-known mounted police force, although horses are no longer in use operationally. However, horses are still used in the Musical Ride as well as by several provincial and municipal police detachments.
Royal Oman Police
The Royal Oman Police have both horse and camel mounted troopers.
US Border Patrol
The United States Border Patrol had 200 horses in 2005. Most of these are employed along the U.S.-Mexico border. In Arizona, these animals are fed special processed feed pellets so that their wastes do not spread non-native plants in the national parks and wildlife areas they patrol.
United States cities
Many cities in the United States have mounted units, with New York having one of the largest with 79 officers and 60 horses, but numerous mounted units in cities around the United States were disbanded or downsized in the 2010s. For example, units in Boston and San Diego were disbanded by 2011, while New York City’s mounted unit was reduced considerably over the last decade with 79 police officers and 60 horses in 2011 – down from the 130 officers and 125 horses it had before the downsizing. Philadelphia's mounted police unit was disbanded in 2004, but reinstated in 2011 with four horses from the disbanding unit of Newark, New Jersey. The Houston, Texas Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit, started in 1983 and now consisting of 1 lieutenant, 4 sergeants and 24 officers, has become increasingly well known due to the decision to, by the middle of 2008, remove the shoes of all its 38 mounted horses and embrace the concept of naturalizing their horses' diet and care in addition to riding them barefoot.
- Cooper, Michael (15 February 2011). "Police Horses Are Diminished in Number, but Not Presence". New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- M. Petard, "Le cavalier de la maréchaussée", pages 22-27 "Uniformes" nr 85 Album 12
- Michael Roth "Mounted Police Forces: a comparative history", pages 707-719 Vol 21 "Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management"
- Ross, David. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police 1873-1987. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-85045-834-X.
- Abbott, Peter. Disorder and Progress: Bandits, Police and Mexican Development. pp. 47–48. ISBN 0-8420-2439-5.
- Ross, David. Modern African Wars (1): Rhodesia. pp. 35–36. ISBN 0-85045-728-9.
- Illustrated London News, June 26, 1897
- Mounted Police at 'Thin Blue Line' unofficial NSW police site.
- "Border Patrol Horses Get Special Feed that Helps Protect Desert Ecosystem". Enn.com. 2005-06-09. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- Cooper, Michael (14 February 2011). "Police Departments Downsize, From 4 Legs to 2". New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- Willis, Jill (November–December 2011). "Barefoot Police Horses". Equine Wellness Magazine. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
- Sokoloski, Greg (2005). "City of Houston Police Horses Go Barefoot". The Horse's Hoof Magazine (18). Retrieved 22 February 2016.
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