Police to scout for 15 thoroughbreds for its mounted unit.

Finding right horses for the 133-year-old Mounted Police Unit here is a fussy business.

This month, a group of seasoned riders and veterinarians of the unit will visit renowned turf clubs, stud farms, and cavalry units in North India to buy 15 thoroughbreds with physical and temperamental qualities characteristic of police mounts.

The team headed by sub-inspector S. Balamurali, the unit’s chief, and veterinarian N. Sathyaraj will look for pure-bred horses under the age of four and with exotic bloodlines, including that of famed Arabian mounts.

Ideal mounts

Mr. Balamurali says that, ideally, police mounts should have large hooves, which resemble ‘inverted coconut shells’ (so that they can be easily shod), relatively small head, close ears, good bearing, and elegant gait. They should measure a minimum 150 cm from ‘hoof to shoulder.’

Temperament

The police will gauge the temperament of the prospective mounts by assessing how they respond to visual and auditory stimuli, such as a sudden limb movement or metallic sound. The selectors will reject horses which ‘flinch, jolt, jump, bite or kick.’

Mr. Sathyaraj says stallions and mares might make better police mounts as they are more resistant to diseases and exude a higher vitality than geldings (horses which are castrated to make them tamer).

Colour and texture

Colour and texture of the coat, shape of the tail, and distinctive markings on the skin will also influence the selection.

“For instance, the police prefer horses with smooth and shiny coats,’ says Mr. Sathyaraj.

Well-groomed looks

Police mounts are expected to look well groomed at parades and, hence, ones with even ‘slightly hairy coats’ are not preferred.

Optimally, saddled and mounted on a parade ground, police horses should offer as little contrast to one another as possible.

Hence, the unit’s first choice will be horses with matching coats such as ‘bays, chestnuts, brown, gray, sorrel, and dapple grey,’ says V. Ashok Kumar, a veteran rider. City Police Commissioner P. Vijayan, a rider himself, says most of the serving mounts are almost past their age of active service.

He is looking for horses which have been bred purely for racing but have been eliminated from the circuits due to minor ‘perceived physical or temperamental flaws.’

They can be trained to become excellent police mounts suited for a range of duties, including night patrolling.

He hopes to have the new mounts in the police stables here before the monsoon.

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