by Brian Rudnick
Philadelphia Police officers Manuel Lorenzo and Carmello Oquendo were patrolling Chestnut Hill along Highland Avenue astride their mounts. Lorenzo was riding Ruben, a black coated Dutch warmblood and former dressage horse, and Oquendo was riding Ranger, a rescued Belgian draft who had been pulling farm carriages.
The policemen are two of the 12 officers riding horses from a stable of 15. They patrol throughout the City, says Oquendo, and could be in Chestnut Hill one day and in Old City the next. There were a couple hundred in the unit in the 1950s and ’60s and the hope is for the unit – re-introduced in 2010 – to build back up to a more recent level of 30 riders.
Although the officers can perform all regular police functions, their main purpose is deterrence and the officers equate a mounted duo’s effectiveness to that of 20 officers walking a beat. The horses are trained to deal with different conditions, disturbances and people. Ruben and Ranger were receptive to pats on the neck and the officers say they are good for community relations – the public loves them.
The Philadelphia Police Foundation website accepts donations at http://www.phillypolicefoundation.org/projects/mountedunit/ to rebuild the mounted patrol.
See them in action below: