Recent footage of protestors attacking mounted police officers and their horses has given rise to petitions calling for horses to no longer be used in policing. H&H speaks to police representatives and welfare experts to get their views...
Questions have been asked over the future of frontline police horses after three were injured and one became separated from his rider during recent riots.
Petitions calling for the use of horses to be banned in protests – or altogether – have emerged since a horse was caught on camera cantering loose through London after his rider fell, when a small minority attending the Black Lives Matter protests turned violent on 6 June.
Protestors had been seen throwing bicycles and other missiles at members of the Metropolitan Police mounted section. Chestnut gelding Rocky spooked and ran under a traffic light, which knocked his rider off, and made his way back to his stable. Rocky was unhurt. His rider, Nicky Vernon, sustained a punctured lung and fractures to her collarbone and ribs.
The following weekend (13 June) three horses from the Northumbria Police mounted section were injured in more violent protests.
A spokesman for the force said Peroni, Patronus and Parker only sustained minor injuries, and Patronus and Parker had been on duty again on Monday (15 June).
Chief Inspector Sam Rennison from the operations department told H&H: “We are incredibly proud of our mounted section here at Northumbria Police.
“Our horses and riders are trained to an exceptional standard and are an integral part of our operational policing teams. They are a fantastic resource and we use our mounted section for a wide variety of events, including public safety and public order. They are useful for a number of reasons as riders are able to monitor crowd dynamics from a height and are able to cover greater distances when needed. Horses are also a fantastic way of allowing us to engage with the public and have a more visible community presence.
“Sadly, we know the role poses a risk of injury to both the horse and their rider but thankfully these incidents are rare and when they do happen they receive expert medical attention.”
Northumbria’s equine recruits undergo extensive training, being exposed to a range of situations to ensure they are suited to the role and compatible with their riders, and have on-the-job training.
World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers told H&H public concern around the “shocking” 6 June incident was understandable.
“We are relieved to hear that the police horse returned to the stables safely and wish the police officer a speedy recovery from her significant injuries,” he said.
“As appalling as this was it is important to look at the wider perspective. Police horses have long been an important element of policing and, along with their riders, are very highly trained. They spend less than 20% of their time attending high-profile activities such as demonstrations and are an excellent way of engaging with the public, generating more than six times as many instances of casual public engagements than officers on foot.
“Lessons will be learnt from last weekend’s events but that doesn’t mean that police horses don’t still have a role to play in keeping us safe. Equally we hope that the increase in protection for service animals provided by Finn’s Law will make people think twice before targeting them.”
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