Jefferson County deputies recently participated in mounted patrol training hosted by El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at the Latigo Trails Equestrian Center in El Paso County.
Jeffco Sgt. Janie Enriquez said the training is designed for the horses and the riders.
“It is something that is done when either you get a new horse or rider to the unit,” she said. Enriquez described the training as a certification course for officers who are new to the mounted patrol unit.
According to Enriquez, Jefferson County has six horses and riders on its mounted patrol, and the department would love to add more to help regrow the force.
“This is just the beginning of relaunching the Mounted Patrol Unit,” Enriquez said. “It had died down and faded over the last couple of years. Riders retired. Their horses got older. Family circumstances happened.”
She explained that the training is needed to ensure that both horse and rider are prepared not only for duty but also to be in public.
“We’re putting them into the public,” Enriquez said. “We must know that they can meet a certain standard for safety.”
The training is rigorous to ensure those standards are met.
“It’s a 40-hour training, and everything is taught from the ground to the saddle,” Enriquez said. She said training also included basic horse care, bonding, calming techniques and some lessons on the mental health of the horse.
“They start off with horse theory in psychology,” Enriquez said. “So you can understand horse behavior, or why these animals act the way they do, based on nature.”
She went on to describe calming techniques as key for duty.
“You run into a lot of interesting things, especially at festivals and fairs and community events,” Enriquez said. “So learning about a horse’s psychology and how to calm them is kind of where it starts.”
According to Enriquez, the horsemanship portion of the training comes before the law enforcement training.
That includes search and rescue techniques and coming in contact with vehicles, pedestrians and other situations.
“Being on a horse in and of itself can be a little bit intimidating,” Enriquez said. “So you just want to make sure you’re using the proper techniques based on the situation.”
The training required practice and testing for all of the law enforcement techniques.
“We did evidence searching in open fields and properties,” Enriquez said. “We kind of have a bird’s eye view from up there where you can see evidence that may not be found. And we can also cover more ground on horseback.”
Part of the training included what to do when kids want to come pet the horses.
“I would say the majority of mana patrol is like community events and public relations,” explained Enriquez. “People love animals. And it’s great for kids to be able to come up and meet the horses and ask questions and interact with officers while they’re with this awesome animal.”
Enriquez said that officers welcome kids’ curiosity about the horses. However, there is a safe way to engage with the animal.
“The best thing to do is just say hi to the deputy and approach the horse from the front where the horse can see you,” she explained. “And then just asked the deputy if this is a good spot and if we can pet your horse and we’ll always make it happen.”