Anyone who attended Double Decker this year might remember the five-horse patrol on the Square at night that weekend. The horses are part of the Oxford Police Department’s Mounted Patrol.
The OPD Mounted Patrol was formed five years ago after being granted the go-ahead from Mayor Pat Patterson in 2009. It was developed as a method to better deal with crowd control after the bars close, especially on busy weekends, so patrons could leave the Square fight-free.
However, now the Mounted Patrol is in dire need of assistance from Oxonians.
David Sage, operator of the Corner Bar, is the president of a local, nonprofit organization: Friends of the Mounted Patrol. Sage credits its conception to a conversation he had with a mounted patrol officer.
“They told me that they didn’t have enough money,” Sage said. “The tax money was not enough and they didn’t have money for even buying enough hay. Well, that wasn’t okay, because we all wanted them up here at the Square.”
Sage said that other business owners, especially those who operate bars, all benefit from the Mounted Patrol. The Patrol is efficient in crowd control by decongesting the alleyways and streets post-bar closings.
“They use their horses to break up fights easily,” Sage said. “I saw them do it – there were two guys fist fighting and an officer put his horse through. That fight was over with as soon as there was a horse between them.”
So, Sage developed a way to return his gratitude to the mounted patrol: fundraising.
“There are cities who have these organizations, for example, New Orleans have groups similar to us,” Sage said. “These citizens pitch in to help their local police department. That is what I wanted to do: if they don’t have the money for hay, we will get them the money, or hay itself.”
Sage gathered a board of five members to oversee the charity’s operations. They allocated enough funds to purchase a horse trainer and sent the OPD Mounted Patrol to Mobile, Ala. to learn more techniques from the Mobile Police Department’s Mounted Patrol. The nonprofit even provided the officers with a house to stay in during the training session.
“We started going door to door,” Sage said. “We’re still growing and we need help from all people in Oxford.”
The nonprofit is eight months old now. It is a 501c(3) charity and the donations made to ‘Friends of Mounted Patrol’ are tax deductible. The group even has a PayPal account connect to its website to make donating even easier.
“We are asking for money to help pay what we owe for the horse trainer and their vet bills,” Sage said. “We also want to purchase certain parts of mounted patrol uniform for both officers and the horses. We are wanting to help with the horse stables too.”
Sage said that not all donations have to be monetary. Hay and horse fodder are more than acceptable. Sage pointed out, though, that while the Patrol appreciates a feed donation, the stable currently has just one empty stall at the moment and storage is limited.
The stables themselves are also a donation to OPD’s Mounted Patrol by Nancy Dabney, the Friends of the Mounted Patrol’s treasurer.
Oxford Mounted Patrol moved into Dabney’s 80-year-old cattle stable in December 2012.
“A couple of years ago the city asked me if the police department could use my barn to house the mounted patrol horses,” she said. “They had to house their horses at stables in another county just out of Oxford. Their drives to town and back were so long that they were putting the horses up at 1 a.m. after working.”
Alderwoman Janice Antonow was the first to suggest Dabney’s barn due to its proximity to town and the space available.
“She lives just over there,” Dabney said, as she pointed to a house across the pasture that belongs to Antonow. “We talked about keeping the horses here and we liked the idea. My barn is closer, and within the city limits.”
The barn was even remodeled to accommodate about eight horses in stables of varying sizes. The stable is located at South Lamar Blvd. and Pea Ridge Road, just past Whippoorwill on the left.
Mounted Patrol officer David Misenhelter looks after the five horses. Each day, he or Dabney let the horses out in early mornings, so they can roam and eat freely until training sessions or patrolling. There are currently four Quarter Horses and one Clydesdale.
The horses’ names are Gunsmoke, Roy, Rimrock, Reggie and Della. Della is the sole Clydesdale of the patrol. Some of the horses have served for four years and some are still in training.
Misenhelter rides Reggie, a 16.1 hands tall, 12 year old quarter horse who is a newcomer to the mounted patrol. His youthfulness is noticeable in his temperament.
“He’s a lot of fun to ride,” Misenhelter said. “It’s important for officers to match up with their horse’s temperament – it’s what we’re in training for. It is a privilege to ride these horses because establishing trust with them is important.”
Misenhelter trains the horses also. He pointed out horses and gave a short funny story or a fact about each of them. He brushed the fleas off them and lets them run out into the pasture while checking for anything amiss.
“I watch the horses and how they carry themselves,” Misenhelter said. “If they’re limping, not holding their tail as high or swishing it, I’ll know right away they’re not feeling well.”
All of the horses are in good health and one of them, Roy, is approaching retirement soon. He is 21 years old, has dark brown fur and has an expectant look about him. He was a donation from a police officer’s family member who will take of him in once the horse retires. Roy has served on mounted patrol since 2009.
“Roy is the Alpha of this pack,” Misenhelter said. “The horses stay out of his way, and he has a say in what the pack does. He has always been dependable in loud crowds, always kept his calm. I relied on this one the most out of the pack.”
The horses have all been trained to stay calm in loud situations, even if they may get hit.
“People can be loud, there was even someone who threw a beer bottle right at the horse’s head,” Dabney said. “Watching the horses clear out a crowd in the alleyways is something.”
Misehelter added that the “horses’ faces are sensitive. The Mounted Patrol is meant to be approachable, but we have to tell people to not smother them. People love coming up to them and just petting them.”
The Mounted Patrol was developed as a crowd control device, but Officer Misenhelter really enjoys the approachability aspect too.
“When I’m on a horse I can see above everyone,” Misenhelter said. “But it doesn’t mean I can’t talk to them. The Mounted Patrol is good for social barriers; being on a horse shows people that we have time to stop and talk to them. We do everything a patrolling officer would do, but from a saddle.”
All horses are donations from various horse owners around Oxford. The mounted patrol is open to expanding the horse count in the near future. At this moment the horses are sharing the stables with Dabney’s two horses and a beloved donkey named Zeke.
“My horses and the donkey are fostered,” Dabney said. “The donkey, Zeke, is the smallest, but he picks the most fights! He guards the pastures and chases wild turkeys, stray dogs, and deer away from the hay or even crossing the pasture.”
“The donkey is smart, a little too smart,” Misenhelter said. “One time I closed the fence, heard a clacking and turned around to find the donkey biting at the chain!”
Friends of Mounted Patrol made an April Fool’s prank when its Facebook page declared Zeke the donkey as a new member of the patrol. The donkey is indeed a presence with the mounted patrol in his shenanigans.
Friends for the Mounted Patrol recognizes the unity officers have with their horses and wishes to keep the service operational.
Sage, the group’s president, and Nancy Dabney, the treasurer, along with three other board members have a website with information about horses, the Patrol, and their needs. There is a PayPal account for credit card donations. The web address is: www.oxfordmountedpatrol.org.
To send cash or check donations by mail, the address is: P.O. Box 1171, Oxford, MS 38655.
There is also a Facebook group with more than 1,000 likes. Click Here to visit that page.
“We need you,” Sage said, “We need the help with caring for the horses. They do a lot for us and we want to return the kindness.”
– Story and photos by Callie Daniels, staff writer for HottyToddy.com and lover of all animals. She can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.