Kind-hearted police horse to enjoy ‘well deserved’ retirement after 14 years’ service

  • A kind-hearted police horse who served his country for 14 years has said farewell to city life to enjoy a relaxing retirement.

    Lionheart, who has been at the forefront of many mounted police operations in London and the Midlands, holds a special place in the hearts of those who worked with him.

    The 17.2hh part-bred Clydesdale served with Nottinghamshire Police from 2004 until the force closed its mounted section in 2012. He then joined the City of London Police, where he carried out duties until his final day in service earlier this month.

    During his time with the forces, he led the Freedom of the City parade for the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in 2016 and was part of the Lord Mayor’s Show every year since he joined the London force.

    Lionheart served at the funeral of King Richard III in Leicester in 2015 and attended numerous football matches, sporting fixtures and public disorder situations.

    He also helped train many new riders, including some senior officers, and was an “exceptional escort horse” to new equine recruits.

    Officers at City of London Police remembered him as a “loving and caring horse who always aims to please”.

    Chief inspector Jesse Wynne said that Lionheart, known as Lionel, was his “horse of choice” when she was mounted branch sergeant.

    “I formed a very special bond with him and we worked on many jobs together including the funeral of King Richard III, in Leicester and we also led the whole of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment of 150 horses from Knightsbridge to the Guildhall,” he said, adding they served at many football matches together.

    “I went for my final farewell patrol with him on 8 November and I will miss him greatly.”

    Mounted branch stable manager Eloise Mayhead added Lionel is the “kindest horse”.

    “[He] never likes to do anything wrong or be in your bad books,” she remembers.

    “He does whatever the rider tells him to do as he has total confidence in the rider.

    Although he’s a big wimp at heart, he’ll go wherever you tell him to go as he is so subservient and very kind.”

    Lionel will enjoy retirement with police volunteer Elaine Freer.

    “For the last six years he has served the city in the same way he did Nottingham — by being almost unflappable in all circumstances,” said Ms Freer.

    “In the eight years since [my former horse] Welli was put to sleep, I never stopped intending to have another horse — eventually, when the time was right.

    Lionheart, ridden by Commander Gyford, at his final Lord Mayor’s Show

    “The risk when you have had a horse you have loved very much is that you want any subsequent horse to be just like the last one; a replacement instead of a successor.

    “Having known Lionheart for so long I knew that I appreciated him for who he was; not just how he was similar to Welli, but all the ways in which he is different too.

    He has earned his retirement and I look forward to sharing it with him in long grooming sessions and relaxing hacking, well deserved after his 14 years of service.”

    Mounted branch sergeant Jim Green added Ms Freer will give him the “perfect retirement”.

    “Lionel has always been a favourite with the officers due to his kind and gentle nature,” he said.

    “I had the privilege of riding him for his last patrol, as he lead the remembrance parade through the City on Remembrance Sunday.

    The horses are as much a part of the team as the people and it’s always sad when we have to say goodbye.

    “Lionel is going to someone who genuinely loves him though which makes it much easier. Elaine has known Lionel since he was young and I know she will give him the perfect retirement he so deserves.”

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