Houston Police Mounted Unit goes BITLESS!

Houston Police’s mounted unit go bitless
Houston’s police force have 40 horses from all breeds and backgrounds working 8-10 hours every day in downtown Houston. Many of the horses have been swapped to bitless bridles and all are BAREFOOT. The dept say the horses are all thriving, healthier than ever, and their vet bills have been cut in half.



I found this info on their website:

The Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol has a unique combination of donated and purchased horses. At present, there are thirty-eight (38) horses in our herd. These horses represent many different breeds, some of which are: Percheron; Belgium; Quarter Horse; Hanoverian; Tennessee Walker; Dutch Warmblood; Thoroughbred; and Spotted Saddle Horse. There are currently thirty-two (32) police mounts assigned to patrol duty. Each officer is issued one mount and is responsible for the care and wellbeing of the horse. The extra horses are currently not assigned or are in training.  There are a few requirements that a horse must pass before the initial 90 day evaluation period.

  • Gelding or mare is accepted into the unit
  • Minimum height of 15.2 hands
  • Between the ages of two (2) years and fifteen (15) years
  • Must be of gentle temperament
  • Must pass a vet check

After the acceptance, the horse will go through a ninety (90) day evaluation and training phase. During the initial training/evaluation phase each horse will be assessed at the Mounted Facility and put through such obstacles as tarps, fireworks, and smoke. Also, the horse will be farther assessed while working alone and in groups with other mounted horses. Harassment and crowd control situations will be introduced at this point. Next, the horse and trainer will move outside the Mounted Facility to the major parks and Houston Intercontinental Airport.   After successful completion of these initial training phases the horse will then be exposed to the central business district. This downtown geographical area is very dynamic for training as there is major construction projects ongoing, continuous vehicular and pedestrian traffic, water obstacles, curbs, and ever changing terrain.

Once a horse is accepted into the Mounted unit it will be assigned to an officer or supervisor.  Typically, we attempt to match a mount and rider based on the rider’s skill level.  Should an officer’s assigned horse be out of service, then one of our extra horses will be temporarily assigned to the rider.

Should a horse, upon a negative evaluation, not be accepted into the Mounted unit then it shall be returned to the donor. If a horse is to be retired the original owner is given first opportunity to have the horse returned to its original home. If the original owner chooses not to accept the horse or is unavailable, then a suitable home is located for the retired horse. We have a long list of horse lovers who are interested in accepting one of our retired police mounts.

After acceptance to the mounted unit the horse and rider will continue equine training. As a rule, the entire mounted unit has training once a month. During this training there is primarily equitation and ground training, formation, crowd control, harassment, and loud noise (fireworks, sirens, etc.) exercises. Also, all mounted officers and mounts must go through, and pass, a four (4) week Natural Horsemanship instructional class using Pat Parilli’s principles.

In 2003 the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol was the first unit to initiate a bare foot program for all law enforcement agencies in the United States and the program has proven to be a great success. We no longer utilize a farrier and over this period of time we have had very little hoof problems. Currently, there are four (4) mounted officers who have been trained in barefoot hoof trimming. These officers believe so much in this program that much of their learning of barefoot and trimming techniques was paid for out of their own pocket. Initially, when a horse’s hooves are trimmed we will utilize hoof boots until the sensitivity has dissipated. Over a period of time the hoof will strengthen and no longer require the boots. Our hoof boot of choice is the EasyCare, Inc., Old Mac G2.

Should you know of a horse that you believe would make a good addition to the Mounted Patrol unit, please contact Senior Police Officer Greg Sokoloski or Police Officer Meredith Villarrealat 832-394-0399 for further information. If you would like to make a donation toward the purchase of police mount please go to www.houstonpolicefoundation.org  and follow the instructions regarding a donation. As always, designate
the monetary donation to the “Mounted Patrol”.

Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol Facility
5005 Little York Rd. Houston,Tx. 77016-2547
Main Telephone Number: 832-394-0399
Primary Fax Number: 832-394-0398


The Houston Police Department revived the combination of horse and police officer with the reestablishment of the Mounted Patrol in October 1984. Funds for the new mounted unit were originally provided through a grant from the Downtown Central Business District during the tenure of Mayor Kathy Whitmire and Chief of Police Lee P. Brown. The original mounted facility was located at 300 North Post Oak Lane, but in April of 2009 the mounted unit moved to its new facility located at 5005 Little York Road.

Today, Mounted Patrol is part of Strategic Operations, Homeland Security Command, Special Operations Division. The downtown business district and Hermann Park are the primary focus of Mounted Patrol. But, periodically, the mounted unit is given assignments to work with patrol divisions who are having a particular crime issue in a specific neighborhood. The unit has established itself as an undeniable asset to the Houston Police Department and the community we serve. The unit is an invaluable tool in crowd control and public relations as well as the enforcement of city ordinances and state law. All supervisors, police officers, and horses work together to provide the community effective, quality service. Due to the increased height on a horse the mounted officer is able to survey a large area quickly and address problem situations effectively. The officer and his mount are also a crime deterrent due to their increased visibility to the public. A mounted officer, on horseback, is able to transverse geographical areas in which it would be difficult for police officers in cars, on bicycles or on foot to proceed.

One mounted patrol officer and his/her horse has been compared to the effectiveness of 10 to 12 police officers on the ground in crowd control situations. Our unit has provided crowd control in many diverse situations. Some of the events include, the 1992 Republican Convention at the Astrodome; the 1994 and 1995 Houston Rocket NBA Championship Parades in downtown Houston; numerous Galveston Mardi Gras Parades; the 2004 MLB All-Star Baseball Game and the 2005 and 2017 World Series, both at Minute Maid Park; 2016 Final Four; Super Bowl XXXVIII and XVII and preceding parties in downtown Houston, along with after Super Bowl events. The mounted unit was an integral factor in the success of these huge events and will continue to be a much needed asset as more large special events are scheduled in the City of Houston.

Although a mounted officer on horseback may be intimidating while in crowd control situations the general public sees him/her as very approachable. Citizens who wish to see and touch the police horse will stop the mounted officer many times during his/her tour of duty. Also, members of the mounted unit are requested almost on a daily basis to provide demonstrations for schools, civic clubs, and other community based programs.  At these programs the mounted officer will explain the duties of the mounted officer on horseback as well as demonstrate the effectiveness of the horse in a law enforcement capacity.

Mounted patrol officers are available to perform demonstrations.  The demo may be scheduled at the facility or at a location of your choice. Away demos are somewhat limited due to distance, but as a rule, we will travel anywhere in the city limits of Houston, Harris County or an adjacent county. You may call the facility at 832-394-0399 to receive further information on how to schedule a demo.

We welcome everyone to visit our outstanding equine facility.  If you would like to make a donation to the
Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol please go to www.houstonpolicefoundation.org and designate your donation to the Mounted Patrol.


Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol Facility
5005 Little York Rd. Houston,Tx. 77016-2547
Main Telephone Number: 832-394-0399
Primary Fax Number: 832-394-0398

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2 comments have been posted...

  1. Helen Fleming

    Hi Dawn,
    This past week a couple people with Houston’s Mounted Patrol attended the Imagine A Horse Trick Training Clinic at Red Horse Ranch, Sue de Laurentis’ and Allen Pogue’s ranch in Dripping Springs, TX.
    RHR is where my horses are boarded so I attended the clinic also…an informative and intense 3 days!

    One of the participants, Rebecca, a long time member of the Mounted Patrol, was asked about their horses going bitless. She said the article was published over 3 years ago and since then the horses have returned to bits. I believe she said snaffle bits since they are all about gentle control. Houston’s vast urban area has increasing challenges as the population continues to increase and the horses they use for patrols are all donated and are accustomed to a bit. Rebecca wants to establish a farm where they can raise and train foals for their mounted program using the same methods Allen and Sue have developed over the decades.
    I saw this article, too, and posted it on my fb page. I’ll go back and edit to give the updated information.

    Really enjoy reading your blog every morning. Thank you.

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