Police Will Use Two-horse Unit for Now

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, November 23, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON — Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said the department’s Mounted Patrol Unit will be in action this summer.

“Our goal is to have two horses running this summer and we well absolutely have that barring any unforeseen circumstance,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said an anonymous donor has come forward to aid the town in purchasing a new horse to ensure the unit continues. The unit was in jeopardy of being permanently sidelined after one of department’s two remaining horses was unexpectedly forced into early retirement last month.

Patriot was diagnosed with equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, which is essentially multiple sclerosis for a horse, leaving Aarow as the department’s only horse.

Town Manager Fred Welch said the unit needs at least two horses to be operational and the department was faced with two choices: Disband the unit or try to secure another horse through private funds.

“The department wanted to keep the unit,” Welch said.

The unit, which at one time included four Tennessee walking horses, dwindled to two this summer.

Buddy and Blaze, were retired in the aftermath of being removed from the Tidewater Campground on Route 1 back in May. At the time, the department removed all four horses from the farm the town contracted with after they were found to be severely underweight.

An investigation into the care of the horses revealed the rapid weight loss was because of confusion by the caretakers over the horses’ feeding schedule. While a specialist ruled out any abuse, the town cut ties with the farm and has since found a new home for the horses.

Sullivan said Buddy and Blaze’s retirement has nothing to do with what occurred at Tidewater Campground.

All horses were nursed back to health at the Epping farm of retired Hampton Police Deputy Chief Dennis Pelletier.

“All the horses were doing great,” Sullivan said. “But two of them were retired due to their age. They were at the point that it was time to retire them and we did so.”

Sullivan said Patriot’s disease is unfortunate but not uncommon for horses.

“It just one of those things and there is nothing you can do about it,” he said. “We had other horses that had the disease and needed to be retired for the same reason.”

Horses become infected with the disease when they eat contaminated feces of opossum.

The disease is degenerative and affects the nervous system of horses. Signs include lameness and weakness.

Sullivan said the department’s remaining horse, Aarow, is doing well and is being retrained in preparation for returning to active duty this summer.

Pelletier, who started the unit in 1981, is already reaching out to his sources to find Aarow a new companion.

“We are very confident that we will have another horse soon,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said there are no active plans to return the unit to four.

“Right now, due to our budget constraints we decided to only come back with two horses,” Sullivan said. “We are confident that is a good starting point and we will address going back to four in the future.”

The unit was created as a way to respond to crowd control issues that plagued Hampton Beach in 1979 and 1980. Over the years the unit has proved to be an effective tool in terms of crowd control and providing the department another public presence.