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At the State Police Stables in Hershey, Most of the Horses Are Hand-Me-Downs

Mary Wilson

The Pennsylvania State Police are taking applications: inquire within if you're calm, ready to work and have four hooves.

Most of the agency's 26 horses were donated. Last week, it took a few potential recruits into its stables in Hershey.

State Police Cpl. Mike Funk said donors have the option of taking their horse back after it is retired, usually around the age of 20.

"They may have acquired a horse for whatever reason — for their kids to learn how to ride, and the children grow up and move off to college, and now they have a horse that they're not doing anything with," said Funk. "This is a good place for them to send them."

Kate Leary drove up Wednesday with Quickdraw, a white and gray horse that's been working with Maryland's Howard County Volunteer Mounted Patrol.

"This has just been a wonderful horse," said Leary. "But for our application, we only do the parks and rec — with children. We don't have to do the crowd control, or need such an impressive horse."

She said the group doesn't donate horses often.

"We keep our horses forever," she said. "But ... we weren't using him to his potential ... and he's just got a sweet personality." As she unloaded him from his trailer, she reeled off some of his idiosyncrasies to Funk: easy to clean, doesn't mind gunfire.

Funk said animals must be able to handle chaotic street scenes and curious kids with equal aplomb.

"They don't know when we put them on the trail whether we're going into battle, let's say, for crowd control, or we're going to a camp cadet demonstration where people come up and pet them," said Funk.

Quickdraw cleared a vet check and now begins a three- to four-month trial period with the agency. If he stays, he could be deployed to Philadelphia during the pope's visit this fall or the Democratic National Convention next summer. Horses are still the agency's best bet for taming crowds.

"If I was on the ground and I had 10 officers going into a crowd, they want to resist the men on the ground. They don't resist the horses," said Funk. "We can move large amounts of people with the least amount of force using horses. It works perfectly."