Loyal police horse who braved fires and missiles during London riots retires

A police horse who was decorated for his “outstanding bravery” during the London riots has been retired with honour after a 20-year career.

Boris, a 24-year-old grey gelding, is to enjoy a happy and peaceful retirement with The Horse Trust after a career in which he was awarded the PDSA’s Order of Merit (the “animal OBE”) for his courage under fire in August 2011.

Bought by the Metropolitan Police as a four-year-old in October 1998, Boris passed his initial training with flying colours and was described by his trainer as “excellent from day one”.

His first posting was to Shoreditch police station in Hackney, where he soon became the horse to escort the others, as he was “always so good, and fearless”.

Boris’s conduct meant he was also quickly selected to form part of royal escorts.

“Several years were spent at Shoreditch until he was transferred to Kings Cross stables and issued to another office,” said a spokesman for The Horse Trust. “During his time there, he was involved in many public order incidents and policed many football matches across London, always brave and fearless and always he led from the front going into disorder situations. He maintained his brave attitude and helped instil this into the other horses.”

The 16.1hh gelding’s last stable was Bow, in the east end of London, where he was issued to PC Scoteriou, a new mounted branch member, who said he “gave me the confidence to do my job always without fear and was always the first horse into a situation leading the way forward for the other horses to follow.

“We made such a good team, I never thought I would become so attached to a horse but I did and I was so upset to see him go,” he added.

“He was one of the bravest, well-mannered horses I have ever met, except when he is on the soft [ground]; he is so strong he would take you for a ride and boy did he take you, he never wanted to stop!”

London riots

On 6 August 2011, 10 horses and officers were deployed to Seven Sisters police station, where buildings and vehicles were burning. Their job was to protect other officers from the unruly and “encroaching crowd”, which was armed with “firework-type rockets”.

“The horses were surrounded by burning buildings and falling debris, with missiles being launched at them and their officers,” said Boris’s award citation. “This was a situation far more extreme than any training could have prepared them for.

“The horses stood their ground, despite being struck on their chests, hindquarters and, on one occasion, the head. Their unwavering determination led to a visible retreat by the crowd, which enabled the foot-duty officers to do their job.”

The Horse Trust spokesman added: “Boris led the Met mounted section from the front that terrifying day and never once flinched, even when having missiles thrown at him or moving passed burning buildings towards dangerous crowds of rioters to protect foot officers in danger. When his saddle was removed for the very last time, it was a truly emotional moment for all.”

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Princess Anne unveils statue

Boris’s retirement was overseen by Princess Anne, who was at the Horse Trust to unveil a bronze entitled “Soldier and Horse”, to serve as the charity’s war memorial.

“HRH commented in her address that something that remains as true today as it was then, is how close the bond is between soldier and horse and in the Horse Trust’s modern context, also between police officer and horse or disabled rider or driver and pony.

“Horses are no longer required to serve on the battlefield yet our military working horses still proudly represent our country around the world on state ceremonial duties, along with the horses of The Royal Mews.”

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