Police Horses in Nottingham by Barbara Hind


The Mounted Section can lay claim to being the longest established department of the police Service.

In 1760 a number of men were appointed to patrol the roads on horseback around London.   At that time the roads were a dangerous place and travellers were often set upon by highwaymen, so the first Mounted Patrols making travelling safer.

The horse patrols were highly successful and consequently in 1805 the strength was increased to 52 men, all of them over 35 years of age, married and ex-Cavalrymen.  Their uniform consisted of a blue greatcoat and trousers, a red waistcoat, black leather hats, stocks (a kind of tie) and white leather gloves.  It was because of their red waistcoat that they soon became known as “Redbreasts”.   As well as the uniform each man carried a sabre, pistol, truncheon and a pair of handcuffs. Since 1805 things have, of course, changed a great deal.  No longer are highwaymen in evidence on the roads and the role of a Mounted Police Officer is somewhat different from that of their predecessor.  Today, a Police Horse is trained for crowd control, a job for which it is exceptionally well suited.

A horse weights some 600-700 kgs and is an exceptionally strong animal.  When seated on the horse’s back, the rider’s head is some three metres above the ground which, of course, enables the rider to see into a crowd and spot potential trouble before it begins.  The rider can then use the horse’s strength to push a way into the crowd to stop trouble before it starts.








The first Police Horses owned by this Force were purchased in 1877 by the old Nottingham Borough Police.  Two horses were bought and ridden by ex-cavalrymen, their main use was as despatch riders in what is now the City of Nottingham.

They were stabled at the old Canal Street Police Station until the outbreak of World War II when the bombing of Nottingham looked imminent.  The horses were then moved to quarters at Wollaton Park where they remained until December 1979 when they were moved to Sherwood Lodge.

Sturdy horses of about 16 to 18 hh were of mixed breeding were best and started work at about 5 years of age. The Mounted Section comprises a Sergeant and seven Constables with two civilian Grooms.  There are eight operational horses and one young horse in training, each officer being responsible for their own mount.  The grooms take care of the horses when an officer is away for any reason, they also muck out and exercise the horses.








During it’s time in training the horse will be taught to be well-mannered and obedient under any conditions.  Much of the training is aimed at getting the horse accustomed to sudden and unusual sights and sounds.   On average it takes about six months to train a horse.  However, bearing in mind the horse’s temperament and the fact that his natural defence is to run away from things of which he is afraid, the training is never hurried and, to a certain extent, the animal is allowed to set his own pace.








Most officers who apply for attachment to the Mounted Section have no previous riding experience, they must, however, be well grounded in Police work and will have several years’ experience in normal police duties.

The initial training period is 16 weeks during which time the officer is taught equitation and stable management.  The officer’s progress and aptitude is continually under assessment and at the end of the training period the successful applicants will be offered a place on the staff of the Mounted Section.  Training continues until the officer is competent to properly perform the duties required of a Mounted Police Officer.

As previously mentioned, the primary function of the mounted Section is crowd control.  Every football match or function attended by large number of people, especially where the crowd is likely to be rowdy or violent, is attended by Mounted Officers and their horses.








In addition to crowd control, officers also take part in searches for criminals, people missing from home, or property, etc, which is lost, stolen or abandoned.  The horse’s ability to cover the ground and the rider’s vantage point together make an admirable combination for this task.

The noble bearing and character of the horse also provide a spectacular addition to ceremonial occasions when Mounted Officers provide an escort for royalty or VIPs visiting the city.  Again, the horse’s training enabling him to face crowds, noise, flags being waved, etc, yet remain clam and under the control of his rider.

Police horses are usually sponsored for retirement, and live their last days out in pleasant company.


Taken from video taped interviews by Barbara Hind with Sergeant Lesley Taylor. ©Barbara Hind