When tourists and New Yorkers come to see all the wonderful sights that New York City has to offer in our beautiful parks, they often have a look of amazement on their faces as one of New York's “Tallest” trots by. People are astounded. Children grin at you from ear to ear.
I know that look well. I have worked for the Parks Department for over 24 years, and I never tire of it.
In addition to its citywide foot patrol division, NYC Parks has a small and dedicated group of horseback-riding officers, and six horses (Monty, Pete, Justice, Apollo, Atlas, and Teddy), known as the Mounted Unit. I am proud to be part of this great team.
Many people are curious about horses, and when they see a member of the NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol on horseback in our parks, they wonder why and how horses are used for patrol. And they have a lot of questions about the horses themselves. Thus began, back in 1992, a free NYC Parks public program we call "The Horse of Course."
A “Horse of Course” can be as small and informal as an impromptu meeting with some folks as they explore the park, or as grand as a full-blown event, complete with a speaker from the Mounted Unit and demonstration tables displaying horse equipment, feed, and literature on horses.
Whether we are teaching an adult gathering, young children or a mixed age group, our free educational materials enhance and inform what you may already know, from coloring books for the little ones to a glossary of commonly used horse terms.
We also talk about how we keep our horses fit and healthy and well behaved so we may deal safely with the public we have vowed to protect and serve. And how our horse patrols are especially adept at covering wooded areas in large parks, where cars can’t go, or assisting in crowd control at big events such as concerts in the parks. NYPD is in charge of law enforcement in our city, including in our parks, but the NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol, and its Mounted Unit, help ensure quality of life rules and regulations, and add service and protection.
Monty and Pete are Percherons (Monty, our oldest, will retire soon). Teddy is a Clydesdale. Justice, Apollo and Atlas are Spotted Draft Horses, which means they are a mix of Percheron, Belgian, Shire, Clydesdale, Suffolk Punch, Drum, or American Cream breeds. Sometimes the horses prefer grazing. Sometimes they prefer meeting you. You never can tell.
I hope to see you in the parks and at our wonderful events featuring these beautiful and important four-legged New Yorkers. If you see us, come on over and say hello. If we haven't been there already, we may be coming to a park near you!
For more information about NYC Parks PEP officers and its Mounted Unit, go to www.nyc.gov/parks
Lori Knowles is a Sergeant assigned to the NYC Parks Mounted Unit in Manhattan