‘Still Feeling Its Oats’

By Mike Bisceglia

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, September 15, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene]

Retired officer, Dennis Pelletier, and 36-year veteran, John Galvin, are used to the adoration by summer visitors to the area. After all, the Hampton Beach Mounted Patrol Unit (HBMPU) has been keeping the peace on Hampton Beach since 1981.

HAMPTON BEACH — Two horsemen ride their mounts in a slow amble. Dressed in a smartly-pressed uniform, there is no doubt that one rider is a mounted patrolman. The other, sporting chaps and a Stetson, could easily pass for a lawman out of the old West. They draw to a halt some yards before where the sea meets the sand. In moments, a crowd gathers. Quickly, the smiles form and the questions begin.

Retired officer, Dennis Pelletier, and 36-year veteran, John Galvin, are used to the adoration by summer visitors to the area. After all, the Hampton Beach Mounted Patrol Unit (HBMPU)has been keeping the peace on Hampton Beach since 1981.

“Yes, the questions are usually pretty much the same,” said Galvin, a graduate of Suffolk University. “But for the folks asking them, it may be their first time being touching close to a horse [sic]. Beyond that, they may never have asked a friendly question to an officer. In one brief moment, they find out that our horses are large but gentle, and the policemen riding the mare actually very human. That’s a lot of positive learning in a very short time.”

“The HBMPU has had a terrific presence here every summer since its inception,” said Pelletier. “Being visible above the flow of foot traffic in the beach-front community is a definite deterrent to criminal behavior. Conversely, just the fact that our mounted officers are accessible to all visitors makes the unit a wonderful public relations tool. All things considered, our being here is a definite win-win for everyone who wants a safe and happy summer experience on the beach. And, truthfully, who doesn’t want that?”

At the onset of the season, the HBMPU was nearing three decades of pride and service, but sadly the Unit’s existence seemed very much in doubt. Tough financial times nearly brought an end to the patrol. Just when the end seemed imminent, the beach community, particularly the Friends of the Mounted Patrol, rallied and raised the funds necessary to keep the Unit solvent at least until the end of the summer. Some who worked to save the unit include: Bob Preston, Senator; Gardiner Macintosh, beach resident; Victor Lessard, Town Selectman; and Phil Richards, Town Manager.

“There are some major sponsors for the mounted police,” said Pelletier. “They include: Seacoast Harley Davidson, the Hampton Police Association, Bolyea Properties, Kennedy and Loiseau Real Estate, Wally’s Pub, Provident Bank, Purple Urchin Restaurant, Preston Real Estate, Seacoast Coca Cola, the 401 Restaurant, the Galley Hatch, and the new additions to the Friends of the Hampton Mounted Patrol.”

“The HBMPU owes a great deal of gratitude to Jimmy, “The Commish”, Kennedy, the former Hampton Beach Precinct Commissioner,” said Pelletier. “Without him no drive to save the unit would have been possible. Jimmy saw the worth in the horses and the work the mounted patrol did. He said the horses should be a Hampton mainstay, and we, all of us, agree that Jimmy truly saw the value of the patrol in the community. It has to be said that Hampton Police Department simply had to show our appreciation to Jimmy by having two mounted patrolmen at his funeral as an honor guard. All of us hope he knows how much we believe in the mission he left for us to accomplish.”

“The people who know the value of the HBMPU really worked to get us over the hump,” said Galvin. “We are, however, hopeful that the passage of the warrant article on the ballot in the spring election will take some of the pressure off. That would help all of us to breathe a sigh of relief.”

“In the meantime,” said Pelletier, “We have to raise funds to care for our animals through the winter months. That’s why we’re raffling a Harley-Davidson wide-glide motorcycle on October 10th. We’re only going to sell three hundred tickets at $100 apiece. That’s really a great opportunity to win a brand new bike as well as help what we know to be a very worthy cause. This is the part I love saying, we have less than 100 tickets remaining. So, the future of the cause looks very bright indeed!”

Over the years, the Unit has had some 15 Tennessee Walking Horses as mounts. Only two horses, Arrow and Butch, remain today.

“Both horses are aging,” said Pelletier. “We might have another good year or so with Arrow, but we know he will soon need to be retired and replaced. All of that is an expensive proposition. The care and feeding of the retired animal runs into some money, and then there’s the replacement and training of the new mount. The HBMPU is a class organization, and we want to continue to maintain that degree of decorum and pride that has become such a hallmark of the town of Hampton.”

Shortly, the horses will be wintering at Runnymede Farms in North Hampton. The home of some champion thoroughbred race horses now cares for the Units’ mounts.

“This down time is essential,” said Lori Davenport, who, with husband, Bret, currently owns the farm. “Yes, we care for the horses during the summer, but summer can be a stressful time for them. They maintain a regular work schedule, and that can be grueling. Winters, however, allow them an opportunity to be more carefully groomed; have blacksmithing done on their hooves; and simply enjoy the quiet of the meadows here.”

“These are great and beautiful animals,” said Kinsey, Lori’s daughter. “My mom and I have been caring for them the last several years, and we make sure they receive lots of love and care.”

Kinsey, a Winnacunnet High School graduate and soon-to-be UNH freshman, really enjoys grooming and feeding the mounts for the HMBPU. “It is a labor of love,” she said with a smile. “I know the horses enjoy the care they receive, and I’m very happy to provide it.”

Lori went on to say that tending the horses is no small order. “They eat about eight quarts of grain and 20 pounds of hay each day. Add water to that, and you have a very substantial diet. Yes, the care for these horses is labor-intensive, but I do love them.”

Each of us has his or her own reason for loving the Hampton Beach Mounted Patrol Unit. Suffice to say, each reason is positive, and, to every one of us, just a little personal. It comes down to the question of worth. The unit is worth saving. It’s worth the love. The horses are our joy, and our passion. That’s good enough, isn’t it?” said Pelletier.

We think he may be right. It is good enough.

Those interested in purchasing a raffle ticket for the Harley-Davidson motorcycle may visit the information booth at the Seafood Festival or contact the 401 Tavern, Wally’s Pub.

Edgar & Javier Romero of Clinton, MA love the up close and personal encounter.

Andrea McDonald and Faith Mailer from Lynn just can’t resist Butch.

Linda Burnetti has summered at Hampton Beach since she was 5. Now, she enjoys feeling safe, knowing the Mounted Patrol is nearby.

“In the meantime,” said Pelletier, “We have to raise funds to care for our animals through the winter months.