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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Saddle Up

Give a police officer a horse and instead of walking nervously by, crowds flock to steal a glimpse and a pet. The phenomenon is one Evansville Police Department Officer Tyrone Wood noticed four years ago at a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee.

A lifelong equestrian, Wood has led the movement to bring mounted police officers back to Evansville. In 1927, the police department enlisted the help of horses to patrol the streets of the River City, but discontinued the program in 1935 for patrol cars.

Currently, the EPD has two authorities on horseback including Wood and Jeff Vantlin, who both completed their training certification at the Southern Police Institute, Richmond, Virginia. Their horses can be spotted patrolling festivals, neighborhoods, and crowded events such as concerts, basketball and hockey games, and races this year.

One officer on horseback is equivalent to 10 officers on foot, says Wood.

“We obviously have a height advantage,” says Wood, who has worked at the EPD since 2006. “We can see things that an officer in a car can’t. Everyone likes horses and we hope to use that to maintain a better relationship with the community. If there are problem areas that we need an increased police presence, we can go to an area on horse and people will notice that we are here.”

The equestrian program is funded with donations through the Evansville Police Department Foundation and the officers purchase and own their horses. Wood bought his horse, a 10-year-old palomino Warmblood mare, which stands at 17.1 hands high, from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana.

About three days a week, Wood boards and works with his horse at Carmen Hurley’s Night Sun Stables in Evansville desensitizing her to potential situations on the job. The Shawneetown, Illinois, native will honk horns, turn on sirens and lights, clap, yell, ride a bicycle, push a stroller, pop balloons, and more.

“We do so much to prepare the horses to make sure they are as safe as possible,” he says.

The mounted police patrol is in addition to Wood and Vantlin’s regular shifts. Wood says he hopes to break down any barrier between the community and the police department through the connection of horses.

“We aren’t just policemen in uniforms; we are husbands and wives and we have kids and this is our community, too,” says Wood. “We want to see less crime. We want you to feel safe.”

For more information about the Evansville Police Department’s mounted officers, call 812-568-9422 or search for their Facebook page using EPD Horse Detail.

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