7 young thoroughbreds brought from Royal Western India Turf Club, Pune

It was a rough ride for the four bays and three chestnuts. The young thoroughbreds, the latest additions to the 135-year-old Mounted Police Unit here, arrived at the police stables here late on Tuesday.

The geldings had travelled 1,200 km from the Royal Western India Turf Club, Pune, in two specially prepared trucks to their new home in the city.

Seven policemen, including police veterinarian N. Sathyaraj, accompanied them on the three-day journey, which commenced on Saturday evening.

The unit chief, S. Balamurali, said they spread several layers of hay on the floor of the cargo hold of the trucks to ensure that the horses did not loose balance during the long journey. All sharp edges of the vehicle were covered with cloth.

The policemen travelled alongside the horses to ensure that they did not fall during sudden stops or manoeuvres.

Dr. Sathyaraj said the heat was overbearing, both for the horses and the men. The outside temperatures averaged between 35 and 28 degree Celsius. The trucks had to be stopped at regular intervals to water the horses. Initially, the geldings were reluctant to accept feed or water (mixed with oral rehydration salts) from their new masters.

“We coaxed them to feed by gently whispering and stroking them. After much effort, the mounts started responding to our overtures,” he said.

The veterinarian constantly watched out for signs of colic in horses, a sign of dehydration that can often be fatal. The policemen tried to minimise the mental and physical stress caused to the horses by constantly sprinkling their coats with water and limiting their view with blinds.

They fed the mounts pre-cooked oats. The policemen examined the dung of the animals and took their body temperature at regular intervals to detect any signs of illness.

At the stables, the police built a ramp to offload the horses. They fed the mounts a blend of crushed oats, rice bran, and linseed topped with a helping of palm sugar and fresh grass.

Dr. Sathyaraj said horses were sensitive animals and separation from their stable mates, new surroundings, restraint of natural movement for long hours, maintenance of abnormal posture during transport, noise of traffic, and exposure to dust and slipstream of vehicles had stressed them out. Hence, he had prescribed them full rest for three days after which their preliminary training as police mounts will commence in earnest.