Mounted Police History
The oldest recorded mounted police force is the London Bow Street Horse Patrol, which was established in 1758 and patrolled the country roads around London.In the late 1830s, following political unrest and rioting, the mounted patrols were increased in number and moved in to inner London to assist in keeping public order as well as performing street patrols. The idea of mounted police quickly caught on and spread to other large cities in Britain and across Europe.
Around the world, mounted police in Japan perform traffic duty on the congested streets of Tokyo and I found an interesting snippet about the Barcelona Municipal Police in Spain, which was founded in 1856. They ride Andalusian stallions rather than geldings or mares and they have a unique approach to rioting crowds - hind end first!! I would imagine that would be quite an effective deterrant. Many other European countries have mounted police units, such as France, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands. You will also see mounted police in Australia, Africa, Jamaica and the Middle East. In India, mounted police units are used to control the huge crowds that flock to the River Ganges during Pilgrimages.
The Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch
Being English myself, the mounted police with which I am most familiar are the Metropolitan Mounted Police which patrol the streets and parks of London and control the crowds at sporting events. The horses used in the Metropolitan Mounted Police are usually either half or three quarter Thoroughbred, with the other part of their breeding being a draft breed. This gives them the size and strength of the draft horse, along with the agility and courage of the Thoroughbred. It also stands to reason that they are selected for their unflappable nature in the face of heavy traffic, crowds and noise. The modern Metropolitan Mounted Police came in to being in 1918 under the guidance of Lt. Col. Percy Laurie, a retired army officer.
London's Police horses go through rigorous and ongoing training at the training center at Imber Court in East Molesey, Surrey, which I was lucky enough to be able to watch a number of years ago. Imber Court houses facilities for training both officers and horses, with accomodations for both.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Probably the most famous, and easily the most recognizable of all the mounted police are the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, known far and wide as "Mounties". The Mounties ride black horses of mostly Thoroughbred blood, however in 1989 Hanoverian stallions and mares were introduced to enhance the quality, size and color of the horses.
The first ever Musical Ride was performed in 1876, and in 1904 they performed at a number of provincial fairs, marking the start of their popular public performances, which now consist of 36 black horses with riders resplendent in their scarlet coats.
Mounted Police Today
Mounted police are a popular site in many of today's large cities, such as the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol -- I usually pass a pair of mounted officers as I leave my office building after work each evening and they often have people asking questions and petting the horses.
While budget cutbacks are threatening some units, such as the Boston Police, it is to be hoped that they can continue to perform the valuable service which they have provide for many years.