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Working with horses can be very rewarding and there is a choice of great careers out there which allow you to spend lots of time with these gorgeous creatures. You need to be dedicated because working with horses, no matter what niche you choose to be in, is not for the faint hearted – think very early mornings, lots of mucking out, grooming and often not as much riding as you would ideally love. However, there is one career that involves working with horses that many people would like to find out more about and this is to join the Mounted Branch of the police force.
It has always been hard to join the Mounted Branch of the police and these days it is even harder. Due to government cutbacks, police recruitment all over the country has been stopped right up until 2015. After this only limited amounts of people will be considered to join the mounted police and it's estimated that for every job that may come up, there will be around one hundred applicants. People who have been in the armed forces, university or who have been employed as former police constables would be given priority for the jobs when they come up too.
Becoming part of a mounted police unit is about as hard as becoming a pilot or even getting into medical school. You would need to be very determined, have all the qualifications and a lot of patience if you are thinking about a career in the mounted police. You would also need to be prepared for a lot of very strong competition when applying for a job and maybe a few let downs too, but this should never stop anyone from trying!
The story of the mounted police first began way back in 1760 as a way to deal with highwaymen who were plaguing the metropolitan areas at the time. The mounted force was so successful at capturing highwaymen at various turnpikes around the capital that in 1805 the original number of eight men was increased to over fifty mounted police who were known as the Bow Street Horse Patrol.
These mounted police were the brainchild of Sir John Fielding, a Bow Street magistrate and very soon, his mounted police force's long arm of the law stretched up to 20 miles around the Charing Cross area of the capital, covering all the main roads in and out of London.
The men at the time wore scarlet waistcoats with blue greatcoats over them together with trousers and black hats made out of leather. The men also wore stocks – this was the first uniform any police force in the world ever wore.
Over the years, the Bow Street Horse Patrol protected travellers and also the rural areas of the country. It was in 1919 that Lt Col Laurie organised what we now see as the mounted branch of the police force. He was an ex-commanding officer in the Royal Scots Grey Regiment and at the beginning of the century he took up the role of Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police. The Mounted Branch of the Met was moved from Kensington where it had been based for so long to Thames Ditton. This is where horses and riders are trained in all the modern day tactics of crowd control and other duties the modern mounted police have to perform.
Policemen from many countries of the world were trained alongside eager UK recruits and in 1971, two women made history by becoming the first females to become officers in the Mounted Branch of the Met. Today, officers from around the world still go to Thames Ditton to train, and there is even a small museum housed there which documents the whole history of the Mounted Branch.
Today, the Met has 150 officers in the mounted branch and 120 horses which are kept in eight stables all around the capital. Their duties are varied from high visibility patrols all over London, at sports events and demonstrations to much more sedate things like ceremonial functions.
The more qualifications you have the better when applying to join the Mounted Branch of the police force. It naturally helps if you are already an accomplished rider and have British Horse Society qualifications and well as horse management qualifications gained at an agricultural college. Anyone who is considered for a position would be asked to do up to 3 or more years probation within the police force – you would not be working with horses during this time but in other areas of the force.
Working in the Mounted Branch means having to work long hours, just as in any other career that involves horses. Early mornings start at 7am with feeding horses after which their stables need to be mucked out and hay nets refilled. Water and feed buckets have to be cleaned and then horses need to be groomed and their rugs changed. Because all police horses have full clips, they need the rugs to keep them warm and this need changing every day and then again in the evening.
When it comes to duty, a rider has to wear an array of things to protect them – on top of this they have to carry loads of things in their belts which includes a truncheon, CS spray, handcuffs and a first-aid kit. When needed mounted police also have to wear body armour too. A horse and their riders can patrol anything from nine to ten miles every day, although occasionally this can be as much as sixteen miles on ceremonial occasions.
The majority of police horses come over from Ireland – the reason being the Irish tend to breed big, athletic type horses which are perfect for the job they are asked to do. They range from warmbloods, Irish draught/thoroughbred crosses and sport horses with some even having Shire in them. They are big horses, with most of the standing at around 17 hands or even taller making them very impressive horses indeed.
Because it's so hard to get into the mounted police and since the force is not replacing any mounted police who are due to retire, there is however another option you may like to think about. Another area where you would work and ride horses would be with the Royal Military Police – but again you would be up against a lot of competition and you would need the necessary qualifications to even be considered.
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