February 11, 2021
MCC's (Martin Community College) new equine instructor, Lawson Walston, wasted no time in reaching out to his contacts and scheduling a presentation/lecture for students enrolled in MCC's Equine Business and Equine Training programs. NCSU (NC State University) Master Officers Jason Wright and Jeanne Miller, along with their Clydesdale partners, Savannah and Phoenix, provided the students with practical career information and a mounted police work demonstration in the MCC horse arena on February 2.
The officers kicked of their presentation with brief background information about themselves and how they came to be mounted law enforcement officers. Miller, an '09 graduate of NCSU's Animal Science program has been riding and working with horses for 24 years. She worked in the University's Equine Education unit for four years before making the move to mounted police work. She has been with the force for 10 years. She also owns a boarding barn in Youngsville, NC and operates a riding lesson program.
Wright, who earned a degree in business administration, had no experience with horses until he started taking his daughter to Miller's riding lessons. He was immediately drawn to riding, and after some initial training, discovered that he had an innate talent for it. He quickly became proficient enough to join the NCSU Police Department and has been there for nine years.
Wright went on to provide the students with a brief history on mounted law enforcement. It started in rural England in 1758 to supplant foot patrols on long and rough country roads. By the 1830's, political unrest and rioting in London brought additional mounted patrols to citystreets. The use of mounted patrols also gained popularity in Colonial America and Canada. The concept quickly spread throughout Europe as well as to far flung corners of the Earth like Japan and Africa. In 1987, NCSU became the first law enforcement agency and the only university in North Carolina with a mounted police patrol.
All law enforcement officers in North Carolina must complete BLET (Basic Law Enforcement Training) at a Community College. However, mounted officers must also learn basic horsemanship and horse management skills. According to Wright, "A mounted officer must have respect for the horse and understand that working with horses can be a dirty job, especially when it's muddy and wet outside. Mounted officers also interact more with the community because people are more drawn to horses than police cars."
Miller explained that draft horses, like the Clydesdale she was riding, are a preferred breed for law enforcement work. Their large size and calm demeanor make them especially suitable in crowd control situations. Their larger bones and feet also provide them with improved soundness on urban pavement.
Miller went on to explain that training a horse for police work is primarily about building trust with the rider. Horses instinctively flee unfamiliar or distressing stimuli. Mounted officers must learn their horse's personality and use their horsemanship skills to bond with their horse andgive the animal confidence under any condition. Thus, most mounted officers are assigned to just one horse.
Wright and Miller concluded the presentation with demonstrations of riding techniques and procedures they use regularly: Side-passing, a riding technique used in crowds and for side stepping obstacles; disengagement of suspects who attack the horse or its ride; chasing suspects; and handcuffing suspects from the saddle. Much of the demonstration can be viewed on the MCC Equine Program Facebook page.
Tammi Thurston, MCC's Equine Program Director stated, "We are so thankful to NCSU for allowing these talented equestrians and hard-working officers to share their experience with our students. Their presentation certainly broadened the career horizons for everyone in attendance."