HPDMP
Putting Their Best Hooves Forward

By Marilyn Short

 
Officer Dennis Spradlin and his partner, Gray.

Texas can boast about the many fine mounted police units within the Lone Star State, but it’s also the home of the 2nd largest mounted police unit in the United States – the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol.

The HPDMP was formed by Police Chief Lee P. Brown, the current Mayor of Houston. Brown was instrumental in developing a mounted unit in Atlanta prior to his relocation to the Lone Star State. In 1983 Brown rallied together the Downtown Business Association for the unit’s first year of funding placing 14 horses, 12 officers, and 2 sergeants downtown in January of 1984. Since that first year, the city has budgeted money for the unit, which is currently at 34 officers, 6 sergeants, 1 lieutenant, and 41 horses.
Officer Dennis Spradlin and his partner, Gray.



The versatility of the unit is one of the greatest assets to the HPD. One minute the mounted officer is having a picture taken by a tourist and the next chasing a criminal. One day they may be monitoring or moving hundreds of people at a protest site and the next visiting a school being bombarded with questions from eager children.

The requirements for a HPDMP mount are not restricted to breed, the unit currently boasts 36 geldings and 5 mares of which 17 are Quarter Horses, 8 Percheron Crosses, 3 Tennessee Walkers, 2 Appendix, 2 Percheron, 2 Warmbloods, 2 Hanoverians, 2 Belgian Crosses, 1 Paint, 1 Hackney, and 1 Thoroughbred. The physical requirements for a mount are that the horse must be a minimum of 15 hands, a gelding or a mare, between the age of 3 to 15 years, and no grays, paints, or light colored horses. Only bays, chestnuts, or sorrels are accepted into the unit…and that’s only if they pass the training, vet, and farrier evaluations.
If you want the cones set up right, you have to do it yourself! Officer William Hayden with his horse, Woody positioning the cone.



Once the HPDMP supervisors, the vet, and farrier evaluate the horse, the funds are released to purchase the horse. The funding for the horses comes from the City of Houston, corporate donated funds, or the horse may have been donated to the HPDMP. If the horse is purchased by the HPDMP, then it’s already been targeted, as a suitable police mount and the HPDMP would like the horse working in a police capacity at the 30-day mark. On a donated horse, it may take a little longer to get the horse street ready.

Officer David Martinez and his partner, Joey taking a drink from a not so normal drinking fountain.

Officer Gregory Sokoloski’s job is to evaluate the horses for selection into the unit. Sokoloski will typically spend 2-3 hours with the horse going through a process to evaluate the horse’s response and reaction to various stimuli such as spray bottles, ropes, clippers, tarps, fireworks, and smoke. If the horse reacts, then Sokoloski will monitor how long it takes before he can change the horse from reacting to thinking.

 

 

Police horses have got to be gentle, yet bold and courageous, good with children and adults, and have a good temperament. They need to be able to cope with crowds of people, and have strong enough legs to stand for long periods of time with an officer on their back.

Sokoloski will get the horses 90% finished before the horse is assigned to an officer. From that point the horse and
The horses and officers must go through crowd/riot control training.

officer are trained by Officer Randy Myrick. Myrick works the officer training side which includes: how to apprehend a criminal from the back of the horse without dismounting, mounted drill, crowd control, security, street patrol and the horse and rider team regularly go through a confidence course. The horses must be able to cope with sirens, gun shots, balloons, bands, fireworks, flares, emergency vehicles, horns, and various other street noise and distractions.

The HPDMP is located just off the West Loop, next to the Galleria, and is part of the Memorial Park System. If you’d like to visit the HPDMP to watch a training session or just visit and show your appreciation of the fine work they do, bring plenty of apples and carrots for the horses! The HPDMP is located at 300 North Post Oak or you can call for more information, 713-812-5158.

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