Neigh nonsense advice for becoming a mounted officer
It’s one of the most coveted jobs in policing . . . we’re of course talking about being a member of the Mounted Section.
Founded in 1857, Northumbria Police’s Mounted Section was started with just one horse, a gift to the then Chief Constable.
Fast forward to 2020 and the team now boasts eight horses, all with names starting with P (P for Police naturally).
Peroni, Perth, Pluto, Percy, Penelope, Patronus, Potter and Parker make up Northumbria Police’s team of equines.
Sergeant Stu Coates heads the unit, which includes six highly-trained police constables and four dedicated grooms.
“Roles in the mounted section have always been highly coveted,” said Sgt Coates.
He added: “A lot of young riders grow up with the dream of becoming a mounted officer and we get asked a lot when we’re out and about what it takes to join us.”
Sgt Coates explained recruits need a minimum of three years’ service as an officer but most candidates have over a decade of experience in policing before making the move to mounted.
Fitness is also key.
Sgt Coates said: “Most of our riders are fitness enthusiasts. The role is very physically demanding and officers are expected to take responsibility for this.
“Excellent communication skills are essential as we are ambassadors for the Force and take a leading role in engaging with the public.
“What might surprise a lot of people is that previous riding experience is not essential but the capacity to learn to ride is. Successful candidates are required to pass a suitability course before completing the 16 week riding course.”
While a career in policing was always Sgt Coates’ calling, a career as a mounted officer was a dream that didn’t start as a child but at the age of 44. This saw Sgt Coates, who had never ridden, under-go the 16 week intensive course.
He said: “It’s arduous – that’s the word for it. It’s 16 weeks intensive training at the end of which you are externally assessed. You must be capable of completing intricate manoeuvres and able to complete two rounds of jumping. A theory exam also makes up part of the course.”
But anyone wanting to join the section may have to wait a while – Sgt Coates says on average a space only comes up once every six years.
He added: “Our riders grow in experience through their mounted service and due to the amazing opportunities it provides officers rarely leave. The job is very exclusive due to the small size of the team and slow turnover.”
But all that training and effort is worth it says Sgt Coates.
He said: “I would describe the Mounted Sergeant’s job as a privilege and a pleasure.
“The Mounted role is one of great contrast.
“At one end of the scale it is engagement with the community which is fulfilling and well received by the public. We engage with vulnerable groups and many underprivileged groups.
“The section also has an important role in policing large scale events and crowds. It is always a privilege to provide support to our officers who are on foot.”
And offering advice for to future team members, he said: “Get experience in public order and have an attachment to see if it would suit you – nothing speaks volumes more than experience.”