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Steadfast police horse wins national hero award after 18 years’ service

A former police horse who held steadfast in the face of disorder throughout his 18-year career has been named Petplan’s hero pet of the year.

Part-bred draught cross Finsbury retired in May, after a career with the Royal Parks Police and, after a force amalgamation, the Metropolitan Police.

He is now living with Met mounted branch officer Elizabeth Keyte, who nominated him for the award.

“I wasn’t a rider before I joined the police,” Elizabeth told H&H. “It wasn’t easy learning on the job but the horses took care of me then, so I wanted to give something back. I take them on in retirement, to try to repay everything they’ve done for me.”

Finsbury was not Elizabeth’s issued horse but they both worked at the Met’s Lewisham stables, and she rode him on occasion.

His work included community visits, such as trips to schools, events such as the Notting Hill Carnival and “countless” football matches, at some of which he experienced “violent disorder on a huge scale”.

Finsbury, third from left, with the Lewisham team at the London Olympics

“Finsbury could always be relied upon to be the most steadfast, unflustered mount who would lead his ‘herd’ of four-legged colleagues into a hostile crowd,” Elizabeth said in her award submission. “An example of his bravery was displayed during the Lambeth Country show in 2017. Mounted officers were requested to clear a fun fair area of rival gangs who were fighting and attacking police.

“Finsbury led the way and during the disorder, was hit by a large bottle. This could have caused another horse to spook and become difficult to handle, but not Finsbury. Finsbury is now enjoying his retirement, but his service to the public and Metropolitan Police was exemplary and his bravery shown during his years ‘working’ for all of us deserves this accolade.”

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Elizabeth entered Finsbury’s name for the Petplan awards, which aimed to “recognise all pets who enrich our lives and shape the world in which we live”, as she wanted him to have recognition for his service.

“I felt I owed it to him, to speak up for him, and all the other retired and serving horses,” she said.

“I was so grateful he won. All horses do what they do because we ask them to; the selfless acts they do for us, and I’m glad to see people appreciate it.

“He’s having a great time now; out in the field with two others, chickens running under his feet, the farmer gives him Polos, and in the morning, I open the window and call him, and he whinnies back. He’s part of the family.”

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