Magnificent Met police horse starts ‘new career’ bringing joy to visitors after early retirement

  • A courageous Metropolitan police horse whose career ended prematurely after he developed a degenerative eye condition has found his retirement home.

    Last week the Devon Horse & Pony Sanctuary welcomed 19-year-old 16.2hh gelding Rio, who retired from the force last year after six years’ service.

    Founded by Sylvia Philips in 1976, the Devon sanctuary had more than 50 horses and ponies, including police horses. After Sylvia died in 2009, her son Roland and his wife Alison took on the running of the charity and moved the larger horses and police horse to their home in France where they started the sister charity, Brantome Police Horses.

    Roland and Alison have since moved back to Devon while their daughter oversees the operation in France, and Rio is the first police horse to join the Dartmoor base since 2012.

    Roland, a former Metropolitan police officer, told H&H the gelding’s arrival caused “quite a stir” when the 12-berth horsebox arrived on the village green.

    Credit: Aerial Vision Marketing

    “When the magnificent Rio stepped out there was an audible gasp from onlookers, at 16.2hh he isn’t the biggest police horse we have ever had but he certainly has a presence about him, on the street he must have demanded instant respect,” he said.

    “After receiving the best training in the world, which only the best horses get through, Rio was issued to officer Lyn Frearson and served from a very busy central London police base at Kings Cross.”

    Throughout the gelding’s career he served at demonstrations and many football matches at Millwall. He was also involved in ceremonial duties including the Changing of the Guard and Trooping of the Colour.

    “Lyn told me he was a very brave horse who could always be relied on and would courageously go into any situation however dangerous,” said Roland.

    “The officers and horses are also brilliant for public relations. You will always see a police horse surrounded by admirers in the street and people will often talk to officers on a horse where they may not engage with police normally.”

    Rio’s career came to a premature end after it was discovered he had cataracts, which affected his peripheral vision. Last week he was accompanied by Lyn to his new home in Devon, and the charity is in the process of sourcing another police horse to join him in his “new career” of greeting visitors. The charity is planning to hold sessions for frontline workers, who have been through difficult times, to come and spend time with the horses.

    “Rio will bring a lot of joy into our visitors’ hearts in Devon and in particular will help anyone with emotional or mental health problems – at this present time nothing could be more important,” said Roland.

    “He won’t know he is working, he will just be himself letting his adoring public make a fuss of him. If you are ever feeling down and hug a police horse, life seems so much better afterwards.”

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