‘A legend’: unflappable police horse to enjoy retirement after 12 years’ service

  • An unflappable police horse who was “one of the family” – and met David Beckham at the Olympics – will enjoy a quieter life in retirement.

    South Yorkshire Police (SYP) said farewell to 20-year-old Burnsgreave, known as Bernie, on 25 March following 12 years of service. The 18hh Shire/thoroughbred cross joined the force on 3 December 2009 and was mainly partnered with Sergeant Dave Driver, who has also recently retired from the mounted section.

    Sgt Driver said he knew he and the force had a great horse after his and Bernie’s first deployment together in Warwickshire.

    “Bernie hit the ground running when he joined SYP; our first big event was an English Defence League protest,” he said.

    “A lit firework was thrown underneath Bernie and exploded with a loud bang and sparks flew everywhere. Bernie did not move a hoof, he stood his ground like a pro and from that day forward I had the utmost trust in him, which we built a strong relationship on.”

    Bernie and Sgt Driver travelled all over the country on mutual aid deployments in addition to their policing duties in South Yorkshire.

    “The highlights of both our careers include working for three weeks in London for the Olympics, patrolling the Olympic Park each day with up to 500,000 people there each time. We even got to meet David Beckham,” he said.

    Credit: South Yorkshire Police

    “Bernie was also a favourite at our local football matches and developed a bit of a reputation with supporters as a legend.”

    In December 2020, following a lameness investigation, Bernie was diagnosed with a serious tear to a ligament, and X-rays found arthritic changes. It was recommended that although he would still be able to enjoy ridden work in future, he should be taken out of police work.

    “Bernie has been a fantastic horse and I am pleased I got to be partnered with him for the majority of my mounted career. He was faithful and hard-working and deserves a happy retirement where he will be loved and spoilt,” said Sgt Driver.

    Bernie has retired to a private home in West Yorkshire, but will be under the care of the Horse Trust for the rest of his life.

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    “We owe it to our horses to provide them with the best homes. We are also lucky enough to be able to visit him,” said Sgt Driver.

    A spokesman for the force added that goodbyes are never easy.

    “Animals become part of your family and for our policing family it is no different; officers build strong bonds and relationships with our horses and dogs, they’re all part of a team in protecting the communities of South Yorkshire,” he said. “We thank Bernie for his service and his dedication, we wish him the happiest of retirements.”

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