A horse who could be a “handful” on the hunting field has turned out to be the perfect candidate for a role on the beat.
Irish draught Bess spent four seasons hunting with a bloodhound pack with her loaner Ellen Chapman but used to be a bit of a “Jekyll and Hyde” character — behaving very differently between the summer and winter seasons.
“She was an incredible hunter and made for the job but she was the opposite to most mares — when she was ovulating through the warmer months she became very dopey and sleepy and not particularly interested in competitions,” Ellen said.
“There would be two or three weeks in autumn or spring when she was lovely and then once she’d been to the opening meet, she was quite full-on. She was a machine but I always had to have my wits about me.
“She could also be a bit difficult to handle in winter, once her blood had been got up.”
Ellen decided she wanted a horse she could compete more throughout the summer and with the agreement of Bess’s owner Sarah Armstrong she put the 16.1hh, 12-year-old mare up for sale.
“I really tried with her but our dressage was painful and although she was a very genuine jumper and would always get you over a fence, she didn’t always do it with much momentum,” said Ellen, who had also used Bess as the main model for her company Trickle Net.
Not long after Bess’s advert was posted, she received a call asking if the mare would be suitable as a police horse.
“I told them that 90% she would suit the job but I didn’t know how she would be in winter — whether her behaviour was a seasonal thing or just because she’d been fired up by hunting,” Ellen said. “She was never dangerous, she could just be a bit of a pain.”
Many police forces only recruit young horses and the previous maximum age for equine cadets in the Metropolitan Police was eight but a shortage of suitable animals meant they had broadened their criteria.
“They were forced to look at older horses but they have found now that unsurprisingly, older horses fly through their training,” said Ellen, who worked for the mounted police in Manchester when she was in equestrian college.
“Normally it takes 12-18 months to fully train a police horse but Bess got through the training in 12 weeks. Within a few weeks of her starting at the training stables she was nannying younger horses.”
“Our police horses play a huge part in keeping people safe, and I am confident Clevedon will support our officers
The six-year-old gelding join’s the force’s seven other horses; Odin, Aurora, Loki, Luna, Atlas, Viktor and Harper
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Bess recently moved to Great Scotland Yard and is out patrolling the streets of London — where she helped arrest a man carrying a knife in her first week on the job.
“When Sarah and I talked about her changing job we decided it was the right role for her and would probably give her more sound years,” Ellen added.
“One of the best things is that when they retire, they are offered back to their old home.”
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