It was saddening to see yet again police horses finding themselves caught in the middle and being abused, this time in Whitehall, London on Saturday during the Black Lives Matter demonstration. They cease to be horses in these situations and become authoritarian entities and many people who in normal circumstances may treat animals with compassion lose all reason in their efforts to attack or injure the figure sitting on them.
Over the past years we have seen, time and again, police horses put at risk and violently attacked when the frenzy of confrontation gets out of hand. There will always be people who see no harm in hurting animals but putting that aside there is no excuse for throwing bicycles, flares, and other objects at them.
Many will contend that if they were not there they would not get hurt and this is absolutely right as in these modern civilised times they shouldn’t be. But if we are truly civilised we should not be taking out our anger on them, either intentionally or accidentally. In trying to injure or unseat the rider the innocent horse maybe viewed as collateral damage. On Saturday the police officer and horse could easily have been killed or bystanders seriously injured by the fleeing horse. How urbane is that?
The runaway horse showed good sense by going home.
And what about the mental impact on the animal as the runaway horse seen on Saturday was clearly terrified? What also was the sense in cantering the horses through a melee on wet slippery roads during a downpour – where was the health and safety risk assessment there? The runaway horse showed extremely good sense by finding its own way home away from the chaos.
We are now well into the 21st century, with the Police possessing high-tech equipment for every eventuality and yet forces around the world still seem unable to combat crime or deal with disturbances without resorting to putting horses (or dogs) at risk on the front-line. The fact that the horses must wear protective equipment is testament to the risk of injury.
In 2018, a police horse name “Morecombe” tragically died after falling on a metal pole which punctured his stomach while patrolling a football match, having slipped while “responding to reports of disorder”. He is not the only fatality in recent years. Although many police forces in the UK have already got rid of their horse section and retired them to normal lives, most still feel a need for them.
When are we going to remove the danger to everyone – horse, rider and public by banishing them to their best and most useful role as ambassadors and ceremonial participants or better still retire them? Once again we have seen that there are no qualms about attacking or injuring a horse regardless of the new “Finn’s law”.