Pinehurst Police Forms Mounted Patrol Team
For years, Sgt. Tina Sheppard has dreamed of patroling the streets of Pinehurst on horseback, but the idea of forming a volunteer mounted unit never received the necessary approval.
Led by Sheppard, the Pinehurst police department is now organizing a 12-member volunteer mounted patrol to work local special events, assist with search and rescue opperations and serve as a public relations tool.
Chief Earl Phipps said the patrol would not be on the main thoroughfare unless they are beinging showcased, like when riders participate in parades.
The tentative timetable to get the group on the street is spring. Before then, certain training standards for both rider and horse will need to meet.
"The idea at the end of the day is to have everybody readily identifiable with the Pinehurst Police Department," Chief Earl Phipps said during a recent organizational meeting. "We are a brand new group, so we have as long as we need.... When we go out we want to make sure we look like we are toghether and we are trained properly. I'd rather do this right and take our time."
Sheppard participated in the mounted patrol in downtown Pinehurst during the Christmas holidays. She said that experience illuminated the benefits of the mounted patrol.
"I was so amazed what I could see going through the crowd," Sheppard said. "If there had been a problem in the middle of the crowd I could have picked the person out. When you are up there you can see so much, you can see so far."
Pat Connell is a world champion barrell racer and retired teacher who is among the volunteers for the mounted patrol. Connell, who owns horse farms in Moore County, said she welcomes the opportunity.
"I've done a lot of things around horses and I wanted to do more," Connell said. "This isn't competition, this is fun."
Connell said while some associtate Pinehurst with golf, she focuses on horses.
"For me Pinehurst has always been about the horses down at the (harness) track," she said. "I think this is a wonderful idea that will be good for the town. It will be a big calling card."
Sheppard led the first organizational meeting of volunteers on Jan. 14 in which volunteers and department leaders discussed the basics of forming the patrol, expectations for both horse and rider, uniforms and proper riding equipment and liability, among other topics.
To be a member of the patrol, an individual must be 21 years old and a U.S. citizen. All members are responsible for having access to a horse, tack, saddles and transportation. Members are also responsible for all expenses associated with the use of their horse and equipment in rendering volunteer services.
Horse and rider, among other requirements, must successfully complete a confidence training certification course and be approved by three judges before being used for Volunteer Mounted Patrol activities.
"The main thing is the horse," Phipps said. "We have to make sure the horse is sound."
Volunteers will not carry weapons.
Mounted patrol will wear a blue, grey and black shirt with reflective stripes. The shirt will have a replica silver badge on the chest and "Police" (for officers of the department) or Mounted Patrol (for volunteers) emblazoned in silver lettering on the back of the shirt. Each mounted patrol officer will carry a radio and wear a helmet.
The department will provide some of the necessary gear, including two shirts (one short sleeve and one long), a reflective vest, a helmet, a saddle pad, a jacket, a helmet and a police radio.
"We have a very light budget," Sheppard said. "We are going to have to get a lot of things on our own."
Jan and Wayne Rasmussen of "The Country Saddler attended the first meeting and offered to help find quality, cost-effective tack and riding wear for the volunteers as needed.
In addition, Bill Fogg was tapped to help train the horses. Fogg previously worked as a mounted patrol trainer for a police department on Long Island, NY.
Cricket Gentry, a trainer instructor for the American Heart Association who has a paramedic background, will oversee health and safety issues for the patrol.
Phipps said he is excited about the interest the residents have shown in the mounted patrol.
"This is another opportunity to plug in and fill a need," Phipps said. "To see a community that wants to give back every day just blows me away."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 964-9535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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