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(Retired) racehorses and the U.S. Park Police

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  • (Retired) racehorses and the U.S. Park Police

    So, yesterday I went to visit a horse I've got on trial to become a U.S. Park Police mounted patrol horse. I was amazed, absolutely amazed, at the quality of the TB stock they have there.
    The USPP training barn is near the Washington DC Zoo, at the edge of Rock Creek Park underneath the tall Connecticut Avenue bridge. It is a former public stable, really pretty old building, with a big indoor, a turnout paddock, real quiet (amazingly) and leafy. There are about 20 horses there.
    My own horse, many of you may remember him racing, is Babinda (GB), a son of Old Vic that still holds the mark at Saratoga for 1 3/8ths on the turf. My brother in law trained him for Cristophe Clement and retired him to me when he was done (he'd been claimed and was racing for Ben Perkins in NJ but still came here, about 5 years ago.)
    The horse is quiet, kind, brave and not real sound. I hilltopped him, used him for lessons, but he is not sound enough to jump, so his use here in my riding school is limited. I promised to look after the horse for the duration, and will get him back, either when USPP is done with him in some years, or if he washes out of their program. But he was underutlized here, and it seemed like a natural fit.
    So, anyway, went there yesterday to visit. Babinda looks fantastic, great flesh (not fat like he was here), bright eye, intelligent manner. The chief training officer longed him and rode him and showed me how she's re-working his thrust from front-to-back to back-to-front. He went softly and happily. I know he misses his 24-7 turnout, but he'll get it back someday, and those police horses work really hard so they seem content in their small paddock and roomy stalls.
    I wandered the barn after watching Babinda train, and got to say hello to PC Plod --a Kinross Farm 'chaser -- stakes winner -- who is one of their best. Kinross, a big farm near Middleburg, often donates horses there. They also have Dancewel (a Maryland 'chaser, I think) and a nicely bred colt from Hazel Marsh's farm in Clarke County.
    I am going to do a series of newspaper articles about Babinda's journey - I hope he makes it. They do a 90-day trial period, in which they will work on his flatwork (so the horse is very biddable, and very obedient) and then they go into Rock Creek park for trail rides. If the horse is doing all that ok, they then go out onto 16th St. NW (a mixed business-residential area that's more quiet than, say, Georgetown, but more busy than the park. Then to Georgetown, then to downtown, then onto the Mall and to the Capitol building area.
    Anyone else know any other good old horses that have 'retired' onto the police force? I'll get a better list from the USPP on what really good horses they've had.
    * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

  • #2
    what a cool story, thanks for sharing, and good for you for finding work for your guy, because those OTTBs do love to have a job.
    Don't wrassle with a hog. You just get dirty, and the hog likes it.

    Collecting Thoroughbreds - tales of a re-rider and some TBs

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    • #3
      Very cool story... there is also a farm in Olney where they keep Park Police horses... very nice big farm with huge fields...

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      • #4
        That's great. I am glad you have found a place for Babinda. Such a neat horse!
        View my photographs at www.horsephotoguy.zenfolio.com

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Talked to the commanding officer again today -- Babinda did well on his 'checkout' trail rides in Rock Creek Park (no surprise - the horse has been trail riding and hunting (hilltopping) with me for 5 years) and may go into DC as early as this weekend! They start out on 16th street but soon move into Georgetown.
          The main thing, the officer says, is that a horse will STAND STILL -- partly for members of the public to coo and pet them ('every single person that stops me asks 'ooooh, what's his name???' the officer says) and -- get this -- for STOP LIGHTS!! Imagine, a horse moving along with traffic, stopped at a traffic light! Babinda is fine with traffic, naturally, and activity -- he raced in Italy, France, Ireland, England and all over the US, plus took part in several of my kiddie camps here at Hunter's Rest (far more activity than most racetracks!) so he should be a shoe-in for the force! He'll have to assent to having a 9 mm (with live rounds) shot off him, and to be able to plunge bravely into a mob to perform crowd control (think angry dredlocked World Bank protesters or crazed Cranberries fans) and to still allow a little Japanese kid visiting the cherry blossoms to stroke his nose and allow photo ops at the Tidal Basin.
          * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

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          • #6
            I am a retired National Park Service park ranger that did mounted patrol for many years. We would get some of our horses from the US Park Police and they were quite amazing! THey would go through, around, over, under anything! And these were horses that didn't make it for city use, but did quite well on beaches and town type settings. Some of my best riding memories ever come from those horses.

            Melissa

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            • #7
              I was in Tampa years ago for Zoofest (a concert to benefit the Lowry Park zoo featured The Monkees and some others) and there were a lot of Tampa Mounted Police there and they all had GIANT beautiful OTTBs. LOL I got as many pictures of them as I did of The Monkees!
              Every mighty oak was once a nut that stood its ground.

              Proud Closet Canterer! Member Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.

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              • #8
                I've got one who is with the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. His name is Cope's A Wonder, aka Stanley, and is also an ex-CANTER horse from Charles Town. He, too, was a pro of a racehorse, though more blue-collar than your guy, Hunter's Rest. He really found his true calling as a police horse, where he didn't have to jump or engage his hindquarters. He particularly enjoys pushing the big oversized ball they have to mimick crowd control.
                Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.

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                • #9
                  How Hilarious that you mention the crazed Cranberries fans. . . what great times!!!

                  I love seeing those beauties cruising their turf.

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                  • #10
                    HR- What a great story! I can't believe PC made it to be a PP horse! That horse used to be quite....well to put it nicely...SCARY...on the backside. I remember being parked next to the Kinross clan several years ago at Blue Ridge and it took Neil and Chris both a lot of effort to keep all 4 feet of PC's feet on the ground and to keep him calm! So good to hear!

                    One of Bay Cockburn's 'chasers, Muzzleload, also went to the USPP. From what I hear he is doing fantastic! For a horse that didn't like to turn and would run away with you like a freight train, I think it's pretty good!

                    Congrats to Babinda on (hopefully) finding his niche!

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Steele
                      Didn't Lone Star Lester also make it to the police force? Seems like he did.
                      Re: the Cranberries -- I asked the police officer what was her 'scariest moment' on horseback (thinking it'd be some sort of Palestinian demo) but she said it was a Cranberries concert on the Mall a few years back. She said the organizers expected about 3000 people there, and 30,000 showed up. She said they (the mounted police, about 5 of them) were patroling the Mall area anyway that afternoon, and that they responded to a frantic call from the concert organizers that people were getting squashed and trampled, and that the concert couldn't start. The mounted force had to, literally, squeeze between the stage and the front rows of people, who were being suffocated, and force everyone back. They were not 'dressed' for that type of work, having gone out for just a regular day of horse petting duty downtown. People started throwing shoes at them, and smacking their horses on the face. It sounds nightmarish -- those horses -- and officers -- are so brave. I can't imagine, but the horses do it willingly. I think this is the key to the success of the TB in police duty - so smart, so willing, and so BRAVE.
                      Re: the big soccer ball they use to 'practice' getting a horse to press 'into' something -- Babinda has already passed that test, with me. One of the local horse clubs has one and Babinda was a star at a little clinic they had with it a few years back. I've got pix of him, ears pinned, charging into it with his chest, rolling it forward with such force!
                      Anybody else know any horses who did police duty?
                      * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

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                      • #12
                        I think you're right about Lester. There is another horse I'm forgetting, hopefully I'll remember later.

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