‘We wish you peace’: farewell to former police horse who won award for ‘astounding bravery’

  • A former police horse who won an award for his “astounding bravery” during the London riots has died aged 29 after a golden retirement full of rolling, tummy rubs and galloping in the fields.

    Boris, who served with the Metropolitan and Gloucestershire police, joined the former as a four-year-old and served for 20 years, retiring to The Horse Trust five years ago.

    Boris passed his initial training at Imber Court with “flying colours”, and was posted to Shoreditch Police station in Hackney.

    “Boris was so good he was very quickly selected to do all The Queen’s escorts, although he was so strong only a handful of officers could ride him as he would have a habit of taking off,” a Horse Trust spokesman said, adding that after several years, Boris was transferred to the stables at Kings Cross, and issued to another officer.

    “During his time there he was involved in many public order incidents and policed many football matches across London, always brave and fearless, and he always he led from the front going into disorder situations,” the spokesman said. “He maintained his brave attitude and helped instil this into the other horses.”

    In 2014, Boris was given the PDSA order of merit, known as the “animal OBE”, for his courage in the 2011 riots.

    “Although small for a police horse, because he was so brave he led the mounted unit into the heart of the Tottenham riots after a long day of patrolling football events,” a Horse Trust spokesman said. “That day they were greeted by burning buildings, fallen debris, missiles thrown at them and foot officers in danger. On arrival, with Boris leading the way, the crowd began to back away and allowed foot officers to regain control. This astounding bravery gained Boris and the other horses the PDSA order of merit.”

    Boris’s rider, Constable Paul Copeland, said he was “as brave as they come, with a lovely calm nature and willingness to work.”

    Boris won another accolade in the Animals in Policing Awards 2021 for his “exemplary” service with Gloucestershire Constabulary. By that time, he was living at The Horse Trust, to which he had retired in the presence of Princess Anne, in 2018.

    “The Horse Trust was honoured to have provided Boris with a well-deserved retirement after all his years loyally serving our country,” the spokesman said. “He enjoyed an incredibly peaceful retirement, during which his favourite ‘retirement’ pastimes were galloping around the pastures, rolling in the sand paddock and grabbing a good tummy rub by one of his wonderful carers.”

    Boris had had navicular and arthritis for some years, which had been managed by the team to keep him comfortable and happy, the spokesman said, but the conditions progressed to a point where this was no longer possible.

    “Therefore, we made the extremely heart-wrenching decision to say goodbye, accepting this was the right time for him”.

    Russell Pickin, director of equine care for The Horse Trust, and former mounted branch inspector for the Met Police, said Boris was “the archetypal police horse who looked stunning, dealt bravely with any situation and gave many years of unwavering service to the Metropolitan Police and people of London.”

    The spokesman added: “After all you have done for your community and those you served, we wish you peace, our brave and gallant Boris. You have touched the lives of all who knew you, both in your career and in your retirement.

    “It has been both a joy and a privilege to serve you after your years of dedicated service and you will be sorely missed by everyone at The Horse Trust.”

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