horses

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

On today's program: The federal Mission Act brings expanded health care options to Pittsburgh-area veterans; scientists get their feet wet in Pennsylvania bogs; a new bill could strengthen protections for horses; and a Pittsburgh city manager who sold himself a house for $2,500 faces the consequences.

Allegheny County Police Department / Facebook

Authorities say a dog in a yard near a police mounted unit event in Wilmerding escaped and bit one of the participating horses.

Allegheny County police say its mounted unit and one from Pittsburgh were in the area last Wednesday talking to a citizens police group about the duties and responsibilities of the units.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Public safety officials in Pittsburgh have announced plans to bring back a mounted police unit to help patrol the western Pennsylvania city.

The department said Wednesday that it was in the "early phases" of re-establishing the mounted unit after a 14-year absence to patrol the entertainment districts and for numerous special events.

Several full-time officers will be part of the unit in the special deployment division and others will serve as needed.

The Pennsylvania horse racing industry received more than $242 million from slot machine revenue in 2014, but interest in the sport is waning, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the Gaming Control Board.

Last year, 11 percent of the $2.3 billion generated by slot machines went to the Pennsylvania Horse Development Fund, which establishes racing prizes, in-state breeding incentives, as well as health and pension benefits for horsemen and their families.

Mary Wilson / WITF

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.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

John Tabatchka affectionately pats his horse, Will, and flips the switch on the Electro-Groom. He begins to methodically vacuum Will’s flanks.

“It’s designed to groom show cattle, horses, etc,” Tabatchka said over the roar of the machine. Will shudders his flesh as if shooing a fly. “He’s a little ticklish.”

Tabatchka is the huntsman for the Sewickley Hunt Club, one of two remaining foxhunting clubs in Western Pennsylvania. Instead of chasing a live fox, Sewickley organizes a drag hunt, in which members chase a fox’s scent through the woods. But Tabatchka’s job remains the same.

“My job is to breed, raise, train and then hunt the hounds on a hunting day,” he said.

Foxhunting came west over the Alleghenies with the region’s earliest European settlers and took root in the region. George Washington himself spent as much time as possible on the back of a horse. The sport is a direct link to the past, Tabatchka said.