New Perspective for Officers Policing on Horseback
Seven new Mounted officers celebrated their success in completing three months of comprehensive training allowing them the unique view of policing the city on horseback.
The graduation ceremony took place on April 14 at the Horse Palace where the new riders had a chance to show off their skills riding in unison in a musical ride as well as demonstrating crowd management techniques.
“That was a great way to share your talents and celebrate today, an important day in each of your respective careers,” Chief Myron Demkiw told the graduates. “This graduation day is important for many reasons. It is certainly a chance for us to celebrate your success. It is also an opportunity for you to pay tribute to the rich 137-year history of the Service’s Mounted Unit. And, each of you are now an important part of that history.”
Demkiw reminded the graduates that Mounted officers play a critical role in several important policing operations and day-to-day work.
“They are invaluable during demonstrations, searches for missing people and they do an incredible job managing large crowds,” he said, of the unit with a stable 27 horses. “Sometimes their presence alone is more than enough to help ensure that large crowds remain peaceful. Additionally, our Mounted Unit does a spectacular job at so many police and community events where they perform ceremonial duties.”
Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) Interim Chair Lisa Kostakis was also on hand to congratulate the graduates who completed 15 weeks of training as part of the Basic Equitation Course that required them to ride five hours a day.
Training Sergeant Kristopher McCarthy said the Unit’s new recruits were totally committed to the training.
“They came in with a willingness to learn and gave 100 per cent during their time here,” he said.
To get into the Mounted Unit, officers must have at least three to five years on the road doing regular policing duties before applying.
“We are taking officers that are generally in their late 30s all the way up to their 50s and introducing them to a new life skill and activity that is very trying on the body. They are asked to push themselves to that uncomfortable state, but it pays off in the end with the reward of riding one of our horses,” said the Mounted Unit veteran.
“The average person taking horseback riding lessons will do an hour weekly. The officers we train do about three to five years of riding experience by the time the course concludes,” said McCarthy. “We push the envelope in that they are trotting quite early into their training. From there, they learn how to control their animals all the way through the different gaits of riding while having that perfect seat in order to maintain that control all the way through.”
McCarthy said the role of the Mounted Unit, established in 1886, has evolved from providing mostly crowd management to now supporting Divisions as a high visibility form of policing that allows officers to make connections in the community.
Constable Emma Morley comes from a family with a love of horses.
Her great grandfather was a member of the British Cavalry Mounted Unit and her mother was also an accomplished rider with such a love of horses that she once took a one-way 90-minute bus ride to a stable to muck it out, hoping to get a free ride on a mount.
It’s no surprise that Morley, who migrated from England with her family at age five, kept her sights on the Mounted Unit as a career goal when she joined the Toronto Police Service 14 years ago.
She got a sense of the Mounted Unit’s role while doing a lot of work managing large crowds as a police officer.
“While I was on bike or on foot trying to control crowds after people were leaving bars late at night, the horses came in and covered us,” said Morley. “They were a barrier that prevented people from swarming us while we were dealing with issues.”
She also noticed the other side of Mounted policing as a way to connect with the community.
“The other thing I enjoy about the unit is that people love taking pictures with officers on their mounts,” said Morley, of all the positive connections.
Prior to enrolling in the training, Constable Kenneth Fung had never ridden a horse.
“Though I am fascinated with horses, I didn’t know what was involved,” he said. “Looking at these massive horses the first day, the first thought was how I am going to get on top of one of them. I was really apprehensive not knowing what to expect. I was excited.”
Fung said the exhausting training prepared them for the work.
“This is the longest course I have been on, and I was doing something that is completely out of my comfort zone,” he said. “The dedicated trainers have equipped us with the skills needed to do the job.”
Fung joined the Service in 2009 and assigned to 33 Division and most recently the Public Safety Response Team (PSRT).
“While with PSRT, I recognized the strength of the Mounted Unit through various protests in the city and other events,” he pointed out. “They have come to my rescue on a few scary occasions, which heightened my respect for the horses and the officers that ride them.”
The other 2023 graduates were Sergeants Joslyn Watson and Rick Arsenault and Constables Sandy Hazel, Grant Pritchard and James McCabe.
Constables Matt Scarlino, Steve Schlender, John Sham and Laura Foulds, who joined in 2020, also had the opportunity to take part in the graduation as theirs was cancelled because of the pandemic.