About the horses and the unit
Greater Manchester Police has one of the busiest Mounted Units in the country. It covers the whole of the county. The type of work the unit is used for is extensive. From covering hotspot crime areas, assisting in searching for missing people, policing; demonstrations, parades such as football homecomings, concerts and most regularly, football matches.
The unit itself is made up of specially trained police officers, skilled grooms and trainers. But the most important members of the unit are the horses!
The unit is based at Hough End in Chorlton and horses are transported around the force to work, using horseboxes.
Horses are used in a variety of public order situations. Due to this they each have their own protective equipment just like police officers. Each horse has their own bridle, saddle and visor. The visor is attached to their bridle to protect the horse’s eyes and face, should flares or missiles be thrown in dangerous situations. Each horse also has special protective boots called “knee and cannons” to protect the horses legs. A single officer and horse from the mounted unit can do what eight police officers on foot can do in hostile situations.
Greater Manchester Police have used horses to police since the unit opened on the 16th June 1976. Horses are used for a variety of reasons;
• Officers can cover more ground when using horses to search.
• From their position, mounted officers can spot problems early on in large crowds and diffuse the situation.
• They are very useful for community engagement as they have a large visible presence.
• In public order situations, horses can be used to assist with crowd control more efficiently. (Due to their size) .
All of the horses at the unit are at different stages of their careers. Some are fully fledged police horses with years of experience, others are called “remounts”. This is when a horse has been through initial stages of training with the training staff and are handed over to an officer who helps them learn the job.
It isn’t just officers, grooms and training staff that look after the horses. The vet and farrier attend the unit regularly to ensure the horses are fit and healthy and their feet are well looked after due to the horses having to do a lot of work out on the roads.
How are police horses trained?
When horses first arrive at the unit they have to partake in a strict training program. It can take up to two whole years to train a horse to do the job.
A horses’ natural habitat is living in fields with lots of open space where it is quiet, so asking them to stand outside a football stadium surrounded by 75,000 people is a big ask! Due to this and as to not frighten the horses, training is done bit by bit, with new horses attending smaller events and building up to the big ones.
Just like us, every horse is different and has its own personality. A police horse has to be patient and very brave.
GMP are very particular in the horses they select. They have to be between 16.0 hands and 17.2 hands.
This is so they can oversee large crowds and carry a range of different sized officers.
The horses have to be fit, strong and good natured. Horses usually come to the unit between the ages of five and ten years.
This is so the horses have enough time to learn their new job and spend enough time with the team.
It can take from six months to two years to train a horse to become a police horse.
Each horse is named after a character from the works of Charles Dickens, this is a long running tradition of the Greater Manchester Police Mounted Unit.
What happens to our police horses when they retire?
Horses are just like us. They need to rest. Each horse, just like officers, will have days to rest in the week.
They even have a two week summer holiday that they take in turns. This allows the horses to have a break from work.
GMP horses usually retire around the age of 20 when they are taken to retirement homes:
The Horses Trust in Buckinghamshire Bransby Home of Rest in Lincoln
Both of these homes are charities and they allow visitors to meet our retired horses along with other horses that the charities have saved.
Retirement means our horses have the chance to go out in acres of fields all day.
They get to do this with other horses and have some fun and well deserved rest, as a thank you for working so hard for Greater Manchester Police.