Participants at the recent meeting of the Kingwood Positive Interaction Program (PIP) were treated to a visit by two Houston Police Department officers, along with their horses, for an evening of learning and getting to know one of Houston’s most effective crowd control units, the mounted patrol. Both the officers and their horses were a sight to see up close and personal. As the PIP participants gathered outside the building in the church parking lot, they were greeted by the officers sitting astride their big horses.
“My name is Horace Mann. I am not Officer Horseman, but I am Horace Mann,” Mann said with a smile on his face. “I have been in the department right at about 30 years. I am not a cowboy. I did not grow up on horses or anything like that. The police department taught me how to ride a horse,” he said. Mann explained he started out as an officer on regular patrol for four years, then served 12 to 13 years in the mayor’s office and then worked at the city jail. After that he joined the mounted patrol.
“I’ve been in mounted patrol for about 14 years now. My horse’s name is Royalty. Royalty is his sponsorship name. His born name is Gladius. Around the barn we call him Gladius,” Mann said. The horses are donated from a variety of organizations and are given their horse patrol names by their sponsors. They usually have a different name given to them at the time of their birth.
“He is a full Percheron. He is 18 hands tall and 19 years old. He weighs 1,865 pounds,” Mann said. The percheron breed is a very large breed of horse, often used as a draft horse. They are reputed to be the original war horses in wars where horses were heavily used before industrialization. A hand is the 4-inch unit of length used in the measurement of a horse’s height as measured from the ground to the height of its withers (shoulder blades). Royalty, at 18 hands, is 6 feet tall at his withers.
The other officer introduced himself as Officer Daniels and said he had been in the HPD for about 11 years. He has been riding the same horse since joining the mounted patrol several years ago. He too noted he had never been a horse rider before joining the mounted patrol.
“The horse I am riding goes by the name of Holli. Its Hollister, but Holli for short. She is a percheron and quarter horse mixed, is about 15 ½ hands high and is 11 years old. She is my everyday horse,” Daniels said.
Mann pointed out the color of his horse was a mixture of gray and darker spots and patches, as was Daniel’s horse. A characteristic of the percheron breed is, as they age, they slowly and unevenly change from primarily black to a mottled gray color. That makes them what is called a dapple-gray among horsemen and women. The department currently has 36 horses made up of all breeds. They are acquired through sponsorship by commercial and charitable organizations to help offset the high cost of maintenance. The annual coast of a sponsorship is $5,000 a year and currently all sponsorships are filled. The sponsor gets to pick its horse’s official HPD Mounted Patrol name, in these two cases, Royalty and Hollister.
“Basically, what we do is crowd control. We do parades and visits like this, but we cut our teeth on crowd control. Our job as police is to allow you to peacefully protest which is your right. But when it becomes not a peaceful situation, that is usually when the ground troops call us in and for the most part, we make it a peaceful situation and for the most part a happy ending,” said Mann. When used in crowd control they are trained to easily and slowly move up to people as the officer advises the person or people to back off or disperse or whatever is appropriate. For the most part, people comply in the face of such a dominating presence of a big horse with an officer in the saddle, slowly and methodically approaching. Mann noted horses, compared to other working animals, are both smart and calm in situations such as loud demonstrations. That makes them ideal in managing often emotional crowds.
Mann and Daniels invited everyone to approach the horses to pet them, talk to them and even give them apples. At the same time everyone was able to ask questions about the mounted patrol and the officers’ own routines and experiences. When it was all over, everyone seemed enthusiastic, knowing this kind of police service is in place and ready to go in Houston, including Kingwood, if ever needed. More information photos and details regarding the mounted patrol is maintained by the city of Houston on its website: houstontx.gov/police/mounted/patrol.htm .
The Kingwood PIP meets the 3third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., at the Kingwood Church of Christ. However, the remaining meetings in 2021 will, by consensus, return to a teleconference Zoom meeting format due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns of several participants in the October meeting. The PIP will hopefully return to in person meetings in 2022. The meetings are open to the public and all are welcome. Contact the Kingwood HPD to obtain information for joining the meeting on Zoom.