Horse of a Different Color

(Photo: CityBeat)

The Cincinnati Police Department wants to buy six horses for its mounted patrol. In a statement by Lt. Michael Neville, the department said the horses “must be gentle and free from bad habits such as biting or kicking.”

I found this amusing because of my first contact with police horses. I was covering protests against the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue in 2000 when a line of officers on horses started forcing a group of protesters and journalists to march to the Suspension Bridge. We got out of the way as best we could, but one of the mounted cops kept yelling, “Keep moving, or you’re going to get kicked!” By the horses, that is. Seems the police only want their horses to kick on command.

The police department is very specific about the kinds of horses it wants: “Dark colors (black, brown, chestnut, bay, or sorrel) are preferred, but color is not a determining factor if other qualifications are met.” So much for color-blind policing!

— Gregory Flannery

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8 Comments on “Horse of a Different Color”

  1. Not the Mamma Cass! Says:

    hey Greg. Al Sharpton gave, I thought, a good definition of protesting this weekend. He said a protest is intended to raise awareness of an issue (this in response to a question about what the goal of a protest is?)

    Do you accept Sharpton’s definition? If so do you believe the TABD protests “raised awareness” about the issues you were protesting/supporting?

    If so do you believe action has since been taken to effect positive change in your opinion?

    I only ask because it’s interesting how protests are perceived both as means to an end (change agents) and an end in themselves (issue awareness).


  2. Anonymous Says:

    Those poor white horses!

  3. Gregory Flannery Says:

    Dear Not the Mamma: I think Sharpton’s definition is accurate for most protests. However, I’d argue that the time for merely symbolic protests has passed and, given the assault on the Constitution by the Bush regime, it is time for direct action. Instead of merely raising awareness about the war in Iraq, the torture of prisoners and the slaughter of civilians, we ought to be trying to impede the military operation in this country.
    As for the effect of the TABD protest, yes, it certainly raised local awareness about globalization of the economy. But the unintended cobsequence of the protest might have been more lasting: By showing the violence initiated by police officers, attention began to focus on CPD. It all came into greater focus just five months later, during what white people call “the riots.”

  4. Lone Ranger Says:

    I say let the horses bite! Let them bite every kid with pants pulled down and cell phoen in their hands that they see.

  5. mc Says:

    Re: the police horses, which I assume were of some interest in the OP. (It’s hard to tell but I can shed a little light on some obvious misunderstandings.)

    These horses have to be the best. They have to be sound and intelligent. They need to be able to tolerate the masses of those who will act in a threatening manner. Horses see many things as threats that we do not. It is important to understand that when we wish to see horses as threatening. They rarely are. People, on the other hand, can be threatening to horses very easily. People act in many irrational ways very frequently.

    Since horse are prey animals, the necessary heart and sheer courage is quite a valuable thing to find. It is not typical for a horse to tolerate large masses of people and lots of noise. It is not in their nature. It is the rare horse which can pass the test. Most horses would run away from the threats and would endanger lives by doing so. You and others are fortunate that the horse was so well trained and so obedient.

    I have the utmost respect for these horses. They are trained by some of the best people around. You would be very lucky to meet these trainers. They are superb at what they do since lives can be at stake. It is a very difficult job. Few can handle it and fewer do it well. It takes many years of experience and considerable talent to do this.

    Since there is no “bad color” for a horse, preferences for uniformity in color can be overlooked. There are color preferences for horses in many equine fields. This is not unusual at all. In Dressage, dark horses are preferred. This is no indication of superiority. It is due to tradition and the breed of horses used in that discipline. In racing, white horses used to be thought of as bad luck. That is traditional and not factual. In the cavalry (aka the police unit), there were preferences for color since they wanted to appear as uniform as possible. There were units of cavalry and they wanted to match up. No mystery there either.

    Sorry to hear that you were warned about the actions which can happen when a police horse is working and in a very stressful situation. Sorry that you do not understand that using a horse to move a crowd is far less violent than using chemical sprays or batons. Sorry that you have no idea how tough it is for any horse to tolerate the fear of so many humans crowding around it and making all kinds of noise. A less obedient horse would run right over you and we would hear about your injuries instead.

    Any references to a horse lacking sense is inappropriate and indicates a lack of knowledge. The horse is obeyng his rider and in what to him (the horse) is a very terrifying circumstance. It shows the courage and trust the horse gives to his rider and the intelligence the horse has.

    Show the horse a little respect if not kindness. He has no choice in what he is told to do. He obeys out of trust and no horse is “bad” for doing so. He is doing his job. That is why horses are known as noble creatures and justifiably so.

  6. R Says:

    I participated in a Pro-Choice March in Cincinnati several years ago. I will always remember how the police used the horses as threats against peaceful choice supporters. If we didn’t move fast enough or respond quickly enough to the police’s demands -regardless if the commands made any sense – the horses were used. I know a horse makes us all think of my friend Flicka, but try having one come at you as it rearing back at you and with a policeman with a gun on its back.

    Poor horses. Peaceful creatures used for attempting to control the rights of others. I wonder if the horses will be given psychological testing to see if they fit in? MMPI?

  7. Natasha Says:

    MC apparently knows horses. I grew up around horses, and I never ‘got’ them. Had a very bad experience with one as a child.

    Horses are big and intimidating creatures, which may explain why the police would want them in their stable.

  8. Gregory Flannery Says:

    I have no problem with horses. It’s their use in harrassing peaceful protesters that I object to.

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