Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Patrick's Day with Mounted Police Horses

St. Patrick's Day... so that just happened.

I just finished a breakfast of warm buttered soda bread (and I'm about to have second breakfast, of more of the same) and thinking about my St. Patrick's Day past. A lot of snow, for some reason, despite the fact that I've lived most of my life in Florida. Snow at horse shows, snow at work, snow when we all thought we could reasonably expect something more like spring. And last year's snow, at the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Riding home on Apollo with Sgt. Besom (on Teddy, left).  Central Park, St. Patrick's Day 2013
Always snowing. An Earstagram view.
Readers might remember that this time last year, I was working for the New York City Parks Department's Mounted unit. Here's something readers might not have known: St. Patrick's Day is apparently also the annual New York City Regional Suburban Teenager Day of Public Drinking. 

I don't think this holiday is recognized by any municipal laws, but it's definitely observed. It seemed like every teenager from every bedroom community in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut hopped a train with a 64-oz Gatorade bottle filled with liquor-cabinet contraband, and came to Central Park to get drunk and puke in public. Like you do.

And it's the charming job of the Mounted unit to chase the drunken teenagers out of the park! 

A rare snow-less view of the Pond, Central Park
So there I was, on the back of a spotted draft horse, snow flying in my face, using my horse to move a group of about a hundred inebriated high school students out of a charming rustic gazebo along Central Park South, listening to glass shatter and what were essentially children screaming obscenities, all to the soundtrack of bagpipes and drums and brass bands, and all I could think was, "Thank God for this horse."

Perfectly adorable Apollo.
I was riding a truly amazing horse. His name is Apollo, and his stoic gaze and striped forelock are still a fixture in the mounted unit. Massive, spotted, and resembling nothing so much as a pinto army tank, Apollo might be the most wonderful horse in the world. Solid and bombproof, he also has a naughty side, and when he decides to play a trick on his rider and spook at a squirrel or start a quarrel with his partner on patrol, he'll do it so covertly that you'll never be able to blame him for it. 
Mounted police horses are truly the most amazing of horses, right up there with hippotherapy and therapeutic riding horses on my equine deity list. Last night, I read this article at The Atlantic Cities: "Are Police Horses a Dying Breed?" Despite its negative, click-bait title, the writer points out many of the ways in which police horses are not anachronistic, and are being reintroduced in some departments which had previously phased them out. It's worth a read, and a share, to support our working horses.

Oh look. Snow. Central Park 2013
I'm endlessly thankful for my year with the Parks Mounted unit, for the experiences, the people, and the amazing horses I met there. Working horses are a breed of their own, to be treasured. I hope someday to write about mounted police work in my fiction.

And before I sign off, let me share a few things. I have a new Facebook page: Natalie Keller Reinert: Horse Books for Grown-Ups, where I will be sharing lines and sneak peeks at my upcoming eventing novel, Ambition. Come and like that if you are so inclined! 

Gina McKnight was nice enough to post an interview with me at her blog Riding & Writing. In this interview, I discuss scintillating topics such as the use of butter in mashed potatoes, and being boring and making outlines of your work. You should totally read it. 

And finally, I'd like to publicly thank Castleton Lyons for continuing to sponsor the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. Other People's Horses was a semi-finalist in the 2013 book competition, which honors horse racing in full-length literary works. To have my book selected as the only fiction semi-finalist was an incredible honor. I wish the finalists all the best, and hope to see them again with a new horse racing novel in the future!


Rhonda Lane said...

Thank you for writing about your time with the NYPD Mounted Unit, Natalie. Were you "deputized" when you were on patrol with Apollo?

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

Close. This is the Parks Department mounted unit. I was actually hired as a groom, but quickly found myself on mounted patrol most days. I had authority to educate and inform the public of laws, but not write tickets. Or arrest anyone, lol.

In New York City, the vast acreage of public parks requires its own enforcement unit, the Parks Enforcement Patrol, which includes regular car/foot patrols as well as harbor and mounted units. I applied to be a full-fledged officer, but personal life got in the way and would have made it impossible to attend the Parks Academy. Had I done it, I would have been a law-enforcement officer.. how bizarre!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Love this post. Thanks for reminding us about the steady, patient, reliable working horses of the world, and for introducing us to adorable Apollo. :D

Anonymous said...

Great post. Are most of the police horses drafts? Definitely reliable types.

St. Paddy's Day didn't sound like too much fun. How about other times? Did you get to interact with the public and kids?

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

Kate... yes, definitely there were many fun times!

We spent a lot of time hanging out with kids, encouraging people to pet the horses, educating folks about horses. Many times the only contact a New York City kid has with a horse is through the police horses and carriage horses they see on the streets.

Police forces are starting to turn to drafts and draft crosses for reliability and steady tempers.

Laura Crum said...

Apollo looks and sounds like a wonderful horse. Loved the photos!

Alison said...

Cool photos and what an exciting/interesting job! I am jealous when all I post is about the same old boring stuff. :)