Pennsylvania State Police are recruiting…horses

Police on horses gather a crowd of protesters towards the sidewalk on Highland Park Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Approximately 300 protesters showed up on August 2, 2018, outside of the Make America Great Again rally. (Natalie Piserchio for WHYY)

Police on horses gather a crowd of protesters towards the sidewalk on Highland Park Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Approximately 300 protesters showed up on August 2, 2018, outside of the Make America Great Again rally. (Natalie Piserchio for WHYY)

Some horses working in Pennsylvania’s State Police mounted patrol unit could be retiring soon and the humans are recruiting possible replacements.

“There isn’t a set retirement age for Pennsylvania State Police horses, the animals kind of let us know when it’s their time to retire… it’s an individual decision for the horses,” said spokesman Ryan Tarkowski.

Changes in energy, temperament, or other behavior are signs that it may be time for one of the 28 horses to hang up their policing duties.

Like their human counterparts, horses who want to join the force have to go through a training and trial period — 120 days for the four-legged troopers – which is why recruitment starts now, said Tarkowski.

In the past, donations have typically come from horse owners who can no longer afford to maintain the horse or feel it would benefit from the physical activity.

But not all candidates make the cut. Since 2015, nine out of the 12 donated candidates have made it through the trial period. PSP looks for candidates that will keep cool in all sorts of environments –from parades to protests to community events.

“They have to be very calm under pressure,” said Tarkowski. “They’re going to be out with the crowds with some loud noises and have to take commands so there’s a very specific kind of horse that we’re looking for.”

Donations should be geldings, or castrated, and fall between the ages of five and 15. In terms of height, the horse should stand at around 5 foot 4 inches at the shoulder, up to 18 hands high.

When donated horses retire, the original owners have the option to take them back. Otherwise, the PSP finds a suitable home where they can enjoy their remaining years.

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