Policing on horseback is ideal for high-visibility crime prevention. Mounted Gardaí sit several feet above the height of a crowd with the result that they have a good vantage point and can be easily recognised by members of the public. The Mounted Unit was established in 1998 and is based in the Phoenix Park. The unit’s facilities include stables, tack rooms, stores, paddocks and an all-weather training arena. The Unit provides support to Garda Districts in many counties on a regular basis.
Functions of the Mounted Support Unit include:
- Crime prevention and detection patrols – supporting mainstream policing
- Searches for missing persons over rough terrain that is inaccessible to vehicles
- Community policing including school and community project visits
- Major event policing e.g. matches, concerts and festivals
- Public order and crowd control
The most important characteristics of a police horse are its temperament and its physical attributes. Police horses work in busy environments and they need to be brave and able to handle confrontational situations without becoming distressed. The unit concentrates on Irish-bred horses as these tend to have the most suitable qualities. Horses are initially introduced on a 6-week trial and if suitable they are then trained to become police horses. This process involves slowly introducing them to the various hazards and problems they may encounter whilst on patrol or crowd duty.
Training of Mounted Unit Gardaí
On applying to join the Mounted Support Unit, applicants must undergo a medical examination, pre-selection course and interview. They must then successfully complete a 12 week course. This includes training in basic equitation skills, arrest procedure, public order and stable management. Members receive an additional 14 days of refresher training each year. Extra training is also undertaken on a regular basis with colleagues in the Divisional Public Order Units around the country to prepare for specific events as they arise. Courses are given by in-house instructors at the Mounted Unit facilities. All initial courses and Advanced Equitation courses are independently assessed.