MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, October 29th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Police Horses Part 2!
Last week, we took you to Wilmore, Kentucky. It’s a small town where college students train horses to work with police officers. Two of those horses are Kaiser and King. Today, WORLD Senior Correspondent Myrna Brown follows them to their new home. Here’s their story.
AUDIO: [LOADING HORSES ONTO THE TRUCK]
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: April 27th was graduation day for these 3-year-old bay-colored gelding horses: Kaiser and King. It’s a tearful goodbye for student trainers Hope Beers and graduating senior, Olivia Schnorbus.
OLIVIA SCHNORBUS: Him leaving is like the end of my time here at Asbury.
HOPE BEERS: And so we put the horses on the trailer, got them set up with hay bags and they’re off on the road.
AUDIO: [TRAILER DRIVES OFF ON GRAVEL ROAD, WATER SPLASH IN BARN]
Six hours later, King and Kaiser arrive at an 18-stall barn with three pastures, in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. Kelly Robison is one of the first humans they meet. Unit Commander, Lt. Greg Lyon hired the non-officer, stable master to pick up where the Asbury students left off with ongoing training.
LT. GREGORY LYON: We get them associated, get them comfortable here, and then we started riding them. We basically had three or four weeks and then boom!
AUDIO: [PROTEST SOUND OF FIRECRACKER EXPLOSION]
On May 29th, hundreds of demonstrators descended on downtown Atlanta, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The worst of it was less than 15 minutes from Kaiser and King’s new home. The Mounted Patrol Unit had to make a difficult decision.
LT. GREGORY LYON: These horses basically sat.
Lt. Lyon says while his human officers worked constant 12-hour shifts during the unrest, the horses never participated in crowd-control efforts.
LT. LYON: We’ve got a horse that’s almost 2,000 pounds and you’ve got the strength of 20 men in one of those legs and I think we as a police department managed this in a way that didn’t have to see anyone get injured by a horse.
The unrest continued for weeks. King and Kaiser couldn’t continue their training.
LT. LYON: But yes it was pretty much the first week of July we were able to kind of breathe and go back to normal.
Even when the protests and riots ended, there was another interruption in the horse program—COVID.
LT. LYON: So because of COVID the stuff we do day to day, career days at the schools, community events, fairs, six days a week usually… were all cancelled.
Regardless, the horses still had to be cared for.
AUDIO: [HAIR BRUSHING]
OFFICER PEREZ: Grooming a horse is also good to get some kind of relationship with them.
That’s Officer Abraham Perez Gilbert grooming King.
Sergeant William Schapker gives Kaiser his daily shower.
MYRNA TO SGT: So, they actually don’t like it. SGT: So what you want to do is keep a steady pressure on him until he actually does calm down.
Nearby, with a shovel in one hand and a rake leaning against the pen, Officer Joseph Williams begins his daily routine cleaning the horses’ stalls, preparing their hay and…
OFFICER JOSEPH WILLIAMS: I’m going to empty the water because we give them fresh water every morning. Although it’s full, it’s been sitting there all day and all night. And then we’ll fill up two buckets at least.
Williams has been in the Mounted Patrol Unit for five years. His usual mount is Jasper, a 4-year-old bay colored gelding, also from Asbury University.
OFFICER WILLIAMS: Sometimes I refer to him as my dude. [laughs]
A nine-year-veteran with the APD, Officer Williams says when it comes to partners, he prefers horses to humans.
OFFICER WILLIAMS: The difference is you’re a lot more intimate with your horse. You’re riding him.
And there are other advantages to policing on horseback.
OFFICER WILLIAMS: I want to say it was a carjacking and there was a weapon involved and they gave a description of the car and the suspects. The helicopter was up, people on foot, people in cars, but they could not see the suspects. Because we sit high, we didn’t have to jump off our horse or anything. They immediately surrendered, seeing a big horse, you know.
It’s a tool officers have used throughout Atlanta P-D history—as seen by the showcase of old black and white photographs on the other side of the barn.
MYRNA TO LT. LYON: Tell me about this one. LT. LYON: This one here? Gosh, it’s from 1977. This right here… I would say this is the bread and butter for the mounted patrol: community engagement, especially with the children.
AUDIO: [Clip clopping of horses on the street as cars pass by]
And that’s what’s on the docket today. Kaiser and King are finally out meeting people.
AUDIO: He is 1½ and Charlie is three. You want to pet him?
Three-year-old Charlie has never been this close to a horse before.
POLICE OFFICER: We’re kind of taking them out for just a training ride and it’s very important that they get used to people.
See, look he’s licking my fingers.
This is the duo’s first time interacting with the public without a veteran horse along.
Kaiser and King do great. It’s good for the horses, but as it turns out, it’s good for the community as well.
MOTHER: And I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to have a good memory of a police officer at a young age.
MOTHER: It’s way more approachable and less intimidating than a police car. Would you ever walk them over…. I would never walk them over to a car. The horse it’s approachable.
You want to pet the horse? (asks her child)
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Atlanta, Georgia.