‘There will never be another Parker’: brave, loving – and chip-stealing – former police horse dies aged 22

  • A “steadfast, loving and brave” police horse who enjoyed an “exceptional” career – and was not averse to stealing football fans’ chips – has died after a happy retirement.

    Former Greater Manchester Police (GMP) mounted branch stalwart Parker has had to be put down at The Horse Trust aged 22, “giving him the dignified end that all those equines who have served the community so bravely deserve”.

    A spokesperson for the charity said that Police Horse Parker, “affectionately also known as Piggy due to his high-pitched, squealing whinny”, spent over half of his life serving his community as part of the GMP mounted unit.

    “Initially given to GMP in 2012 on loan for five years from his owner, Parker was an instant hit with the officers and public alike, due to his cheeky nature and eccentric, one-of-a-kind squeal,” the spokesperson said. “After those five years, he was returned to his owner but it was clear ‘civilian’ life was no longer for him, and after a mere two weeks he was gifted to GMP’s mounted unit as a permanent police horse.

    “Despite being the smallest horse at the mounted unit, he made up for it in bravery and character. From the start of his career, it was obvious he was born to be a police horse and loved his job. Parker led an exceptional career, being involved in most, if not all, of the notable events that have occurred within GMP over the past decade.”

    PH Parker was on duty at major football games, tournaments and parades.

    “He has led masses of European football fans in walk-downs from the city centre to Old Trafford and the Etihad, on occasion with industrial fireworks crackling behind him,” the spokesperson said.

    Parker on duty. Picture by Greater Manchester Police

    “Parker was one of the most loved and recognised horses at the GMP mounted unit. Full of character and charm, Parker had been known to steal chips from the forks of many a football fan when they came too close bearing food and regularly liked to check people’s pockets for any forgotten sweets.”

    PH Parker retired to The Horse Trust in September 2022 owing to his arthritis. He settled straight in, the spokesperson said, enjoying grazing with his fieldmates.

    “Last winter, Parker sustained an eye injury for which he had cutting edge treatment, including trialling a contact lens to protect his eye,” the spokesperson said. “Whilst this treatment was a success, unfortunately Parker’s arthritis continued to deteriorate and his stiffness was noted to be worsening by our wonderful grooms who keep such a close eye on all our residents. The level of stiffness Parker was exhibiting despite his daily pain relief was a serious concern for his quality of life. Therefore, after evaluation, we made the sad decision to put Parker to sleep, giving him the dignified end that all those equines who have served the community so bravely deserve.

    “A wonderful horse full of zeal and charm with an amazing legacy working for Greater Manchester Police, Parker, you were an utter sweetheart, one of the friendliest we’ve ever had and we are proud to have cared for you in your final years. Goodnight, PH Parker.”

    On his retirement, GMP thanked Parker for his outstanding service.

    “Our cheeky, loving, steadfast, brave boy Parker,” the force said at the time. “No quote rings more true than the words ‘horse of a lifetime’ when it comes to you. Not many horses have this kind of impact on people. There will NEVER be another Parker, ever.”

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