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Eager Mounted Patrol Students Get Street Smart

An Omaha Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit officer rides his all white horse through the training course.

An officer of the Omaha Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit works on the training course with his horse.

Four Omaha Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit Officers ride their horses in the training stable.

Officers in the Omaha Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit enter the training stable on their horses.

Three officers in the Omaha Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit ride each of their horses around the training facility.

Three Omaha Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit officers ride their horses through the training course.

OPD Mounted Patrol Unit Shows Versatility

The Omaha Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit opened its stable to WoodmenLife earlier this year. During that visit, the members of the unit introduced visitors to the confident, dependable and endearing animals that make the officers’ duties so enjoyable and rewarding.

The Mounted Patrol Unit has six officers and one sergeant who ride; there is also a stable manager who is not a sworn officer, says Sgt. Joe Svacina. They dedicate full-time to the care and schooling of four patrol and two training horses. Ultimately,Members of the unit would like to have nine to 11 horses so that each officer can be assigned a horse and there are a few in reserve.

The animals learn to be versatile and composed to work a wide variety of events. They are regulars for the College World Series crowds, serve as ambassadors at community events and navigate unpredictable protests.

From the Classroom to the Streets

The officers do as much as possible to ensure the animals are confident in the face of uncertainty. The horses are gently guided and reassured that nothing bad is going to happen in the ring. It is a safe space where strong bonds are built.

Those bonds are essential for mounted patrol success. Svacina and his peers take time to assess each animal’s strengths through the training process and partner them with officers who can maximize their talents.
In the arena, the officers work tirelessly to make sure their animals are ready to encounter uncertainty on patrol. That means walking through flapping ribbons, uneven spaces and even road flares. Each challenge mimics a potential obstacle on the streets and helps the animals build confidence.

Self-assurance is essential when the animals task is pushing back crowds. The police department has learned from experience that people are more apt to back up for a horse than a patrol car. Some Omaha Police horses have a knack for pushing and seem to enjoy it. Eastwood, who has been with the force for 5 years, is especially good at it. He is their best crowd-control horse.

WoodmenLife Helps Add to the Ranks

In the coming months, Omaha’s mounted patrol will add to its ranks. This is all made possible thanks to a $15,000 donation from WoodmenLife. The unit has looked at dozens of contenders since last fall – both around Omaha and in other states – but no animals fit the bill. About 90 percent of the horses that come for a trial fail out. The mounted patrol unit is looking for the right investment: an animal with excellent conformation, confidence, health and versatility.

The honor of naming the first horse went to WoodmenLife, which hosted a Facebook contest to decide on the winning name

Blue, we can’t wait to meet you.

Updates out of Nashville

In 2017, WoodmenLife donated $12,000 to the City of Nashville to add three horses to its mounted patrol unit. The gift was a thank you to the community for hosting the WoodmenLife National Convention. The first of three horses purchased is named Orozco, in honor of an Omaha police detective who was slain in 2015.

The Nashville PD reports that Orozco is doing great and the community has embraced him with open arms. A second horse, Zeus, is in training and has worked at community events and parades as well as school demonstrations. Both are doing exceptional around children.

A third horse may not be far away. Like Omaha, they are looking for a versatile animal with excellent conformation.

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