Converse County Sheriff’s Department in Wyoming provides security from horseback
August 31, 2016
It's not often law enforcement officers can provide a presence and security at events on horseback, but the Converse County Sheriff's Department in Douglas, Wyo., is trying it out as part of a new program.
Cpl. Rick Jones said the mounted patrol program in Converse County was an idea he came up with while riding in a parade with the Converse County Sheriff. The department looked into it and decided it was a good idea, so Jones was sent to Riverton for formal training.
"We lined up training and put together what we needed to do to have an official program," Jones said. "The Riverton Police Department has a mounted patrol unit, so I went there in 2013 to become certified."
Deputies in the unit have to be re-certified annually. The department's goal is for Jones to become the instructor for the mounted patrol unit for the county. That way all certifications can be done in house.
The horses part of the mounted patrol are personally owned, as is their tack. Mounted patrol training isn't easy, Jones said. It consists of 40 hours of training which includes an obstacle course with things like a car wash, fireworks and smoke bombs. Participants also learn how to arrest people on horseback, control crowds and riots and provide vehicle escorts. The patrols also work on improving horsemanship and equitation skills.
"Everything is a building block," Jones said. "We take the horses through the obstacle course to get them gentle and used to different scenarios. The training lasts about a week."
To complete the course, participants are judged on their equitation skills and successfully completing the obstacle course safely and confidently.
"They want to make sure the horse is trained well enough that he is safe when placed in situations that require mounted patrol," Jones said.
The horses need to be even-tempered, level-headed, calm and maybe a little curious.
A well-broke horse is a must.
"I've had little kids come running up to the horse, and the horse has a good response so I can quickly turn his hindquarters away from the child," he said. "These horses get to where it's no big deal. I've even had little kids come up and grab my horse around the front leg. Nothing phases him."
Jones said larger horses, even draft crosses and larger Quarter Horses, work best for the program. They also like the horses to be bay, brown, or black so they appear more uniform and blend together.
"It's mostly the aesthetics," Jones said. "Dirt and blemishes don't show up as well. The horse will still look good after a day of work."
Most of the horses in the program are at least 10-12 year-old, and are older, experienced ranch horses.
In Converse County, Jones said there are a lot of opportunities for a mounted patrol. They have already assisted with searches for evidence, and can be an advantage in future search and rescue missions.
"There is advantages to using a horse in rough terrain," Jones said. "Not only can you cover more ground, but there is the extra height benefit. In search and rescue, a horse is slower, but it is quieter than an ATV, and it would be easier to hear someone calling for help that is still far away. Also, if you really know your horse, you can pick up on some of its cues. Horses can see and smell things way before we know it's even there."
These horses can even be used to search for and rescue survivors during plane crashes, which may times happen in the rough hills where it is hard to get to them any other way.
The mounted patrol workssecurity at the Wyoming State Fair and crowd control during the concerts.
"It can be a little intimidating at first being on the horse around a lot of people, but you get comfortable with it pretty quick," he said. "Presence is always a good deterrent. There are actually a lot of advantages being horseback. You are up higher, so it is easier to be aware of your surroundings and people. The key is finding a good horse, and training it properly."
As more people within the department become certified, Jones said he wants to see them hold demonstrations at events like the Wyoming Horse Expo.
"We can show them how we do things, and perform some maneuvers for them," he said "It would be really fun to work with other agencies with mounted patrols and do some demonstrations."
Jones makes school visits, especially to the rural schools, where he talks about the mounted patrol program.
"I really enjoy the mounted patrol program, and I like talking to people about it and seeing their support for it. People love the idea, and want to see it work. After all, Wyoming is the cowboy state. Deputies mounted on horseback is almost expected here." ❖