Mounted Police Officer Career Profile

Mounted police during the English Defence League march in Newcastle upon Tyne 29 May 2010
Roger Coulam/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Mounted police officers patrol a designated area on horseback, enforcing laws and providing crowd control to maintain public safety.

Duties

The most visible duties of a mounted police officer are conducting patrols on horseback and assisting with crowd control at events. Mounted officers are very effective in crowd control roles; it is commonly said in the industry that a mounted officer is comparable to ten or more officers on foot in such situations.

Mounted officers may also be involved with other duties such as search and rescue operations, traffic control, and the pursuit of suspects.

Mounted police officers can use their horse to facilitate interaction with members of the public who would not normally approach law enforcement personnel. Mounted officers also have a high profile in the community. As part of their community service function, a mounted officer may visit schools or community groups, participate in parades, or provide an escort for police funerals.

Some officers also compete in nationally recognized mounted police competitions, such as the North American Police Equestrian Championships, or other local and state-based competitive events.

While police stables generally have full-time grooms on staff, the officers generally take pride in grooming and feeding their mounts as time permits. Officers may also be responsible for trailering their horses to patrol areas that are not close to the stables.

Officers frequently work nights and weekends and must be ready to respond to emergency situations with little or no notice. Mounted units work outdoors in varying weather conditions that can include extreme heat, extreme cold, high winds, and heavy rain.

Career Options

Perhaps the most famous mounted police unit in the world is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force (RCMP), known for their scarlet-coated officers and jet black horses.

In the U.S., mounted police officers are able to find work in most states and many large cities. Opportunities for employment exist with police departments, the military, and the U.S. Parks Service. Patrol areas may include cities, parks, and rugged terrain not easily accessible on foot or by car.

Education and Training

The first step in becoming a mounted officer is qualifying as a regular police officer. This generally involves six months of police academy training before moving on to a probationary period as a new officer. After about 3 years of service, an officer can apply for a specialty unit such as the mounted police, provided a position is available.

Training for the mounted unit can last anywhere from three to six months. Officers generally take regular riding lessons as well as attend training clinics put on by top instructors. Mounted police specialty training can include courses in equitation, horsemanship, equine behavior, equine anatomy and physiology, advanced crowd control techniques, and search and rescue training.

The U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Unit (in Washington D.C.) offers a highly respected training program that requires over 400 hours of intensive instruction.

U.S Park Police instructors often travel to provide their extensive training program to other police departments across the country, and they also provide training at police seminars and related events. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also travel the U.S. providing similar training courses; the RCMP is perhaps the most recognized mounted unit in the world.

A variety of equine breeds are used for police work, but the most prevalent breeds in police service are draft horses, Quarter Horses, and Thoroughbreds. Police horses are almost always geldings (castrated males). Police horses go through an intensive training process to desensitize them to a wide variety of sights and sounds that they may encounter while on patrol.

Salary

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not separate out mounted police officer earnings in its police salary data, it does provide comprehensive information on general police officer earnings.

According to the BLS, the median salary for police officers was $58,630 ($28.19 per hour) in their 2014 salary survey. The earnings ranged from under $33,760 for officers in the bottom 10 percent to more than $96,760 for those in the highest 10 percent.

Job Outlook

Job opportunities for police officers are expected to grow at a rate of about 4 percent over the decade from 2014 to 2024. This is slower than the average rate of growth for all professions surveyed.

Competition for jobs working with mounted units is expected to continue to be intense, as only a limited number of opportunities are offered in this specialty area of police service. There are generally much more applicants for mounted police units than there are open positions.