Many things say "summer" in the horse world--that smell of fresh hay, all the room in the barn with the blankets put away, the shedding has stopped, the crazy busy calendar over there on the wall and the endless to-do list next to it.
But, as some wise person once so succinctly said, a photo can be worth a thousand words. And each of those thousand words could easily be just "summer". Even if you're a city police horse in downtown Toronto, you can get charged up with a little gallop in the shallows of the lake. Go ahead, splash all you want: winter's finally over.
This photo was taken a few years ago. It's an old favorite of mine and is from a series of photos of a very good day spent romping in Lake Ontario by a big Belgian-cross police horse named Brigadier and his rider. Sure beats working, eh, Brigadier?
A few months after this photo was taken, Brigadier was struck by an automobile while on duty and had to be destroyed. The driver didn't stop after hitting the horse.
More than a thousand people came to a city-run memorial service for the horse. You might think that the story would have ended there, but it didn't.
It's been more than two years now since the sadness and then the furor over Brigadier's death hit the horse world. First the shock and sadness of his death, and the dignity of his funeral, then the furor and indignity when the driver who struck him was let off with almost no punishment.
One of the simplest and most moving blogs in the horse world is one about Brigadier. I don't know who created it, but I am glad it has stayed "live" on the web. It is a magnificent tribute to this great horse and I hope you will visit it and learn about how a single police horse can touch a community.
There aren't many police horses left around North America. If they are still in a city where you live, don't take them for granted. Work to support the mounted unit and let the city council and mayor know how much you appreciate the horses and the superior service they provide.
For anyone or any city who doubts the value of police horses, visit Brigadier's blog; it is masterful as it describes just how much a horse can mean to people.
Special thanks to Toronto photographer Anne de Haas for her great photos of the Toronto Mounted Unit. Anne photographed the horses in all seasons for a series of trading cards featuring the city's 30 magnificent police horses. The officers give the trading cards to children they meet while out on patrol so the children can remember the horses and learn about them.