The Horses Exalt the Officers Who Ride Them

Cantering through smoke, over obstacles and down city streets, recruits in Washington, D.C. train for careers as mounted police

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Officers enrolled in the mounted-police training program at Edgewater Stables in Washington, D.C. soon learn that, contrary to the old adage, the backside of a horse is not always good for the inside of a man, or a woman. Frequently, in fact, it can be downright unnerving, such as when a cranky thoroughbred decides the time has come for its rider to join the "airborne club." Broken bones and other injuries are not uncommon among trainees; sore muscles and aching joints are routine. But by the time they reach the end of the United States Park Police's ten-week program, the graduates have every right to be proud of what they've accomplished, enduring tough rides through creeks, up muddy embankments and across busy intersections in all kinds of weather; learning how to care for horses as well as ride them; practicing crowd-control techniques under drill conditions every bit as realistic as the demonstrations the officers may someday have to face on the National Mall.

 A branch of the National Park Service, the U.S. Park Police is primarily responsible for law enforcement on federal property in Washington. It also maintains field offices at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco and at Gateway National Recreation Area in Brooklyn. Many of those who learn to ride at Edgewater Stables are affiliated not with the U.S. Park Police but with local and county police departments across the country. One thing the trainees all have in common is their relative unfamiliarity with horses. But that suits the Park Police instructors just fine. As an old text on military equitation states: "A raw man is much easier taught to do well, than one, who has learnt ever so long, on bad principles; for it is much more difficult to undo, than to do; and the same in respect to the horse."

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