Portland’s Mounted Patrol facility offers a different type of tour
By Nancy Ruhle
On family vacations, it is always a challenge to find an activity that will please everyone from Grandma down to the kindergartener. Recently, while visiting a friend in Portland, Oregon, I found an excursion that does just that. It’s not the great Portland Zoo, but it does involve animals—horses, to be exact.
These superbly-trained geldings belong to the Portland Mounted Patrol , a police division located within walking distance of downtown Portland. This excellent facility, formerly a flour mill, opened in 2001 and offers tours by appointment, Tuesday through Friday. Hours vary according to the season and the weather. Call (503) 823-2100 for an appointment.
My friend and I were guided by Kevin, a personable and informative police officer. The officers work a ten-hour day, four days a week, and are responsible for their individual mounts. Prior riding experience for the officer, we learned, is not necessary; in fact, no riding experience is preferable. This way, they do not have to undo any bad riding habits. Also on hand are stable attendants and a full-time trainer for the horses. The horses currently used are either purchased or donated. Good disposition and temperament are critical.
THE BARN TOUR
Kevin toured us through the massive barn, discussing the horses, each of which has his own large box stall. Kevin’s horse was lying down, tired because of the previous days’ hard work at the Rose Festival. In the barn is an automatic horse walker, a circular contraption with which horses can be exercised. No doubt this becomes important during Portland’s rainy months.
After the stall area we entered the tack room with its gleaming saddles and bridles. A stable attendant was hard at work polishing one of the Australian stock saddles.
From there, Kevin took us to the covered riding arena where one officer was working a horse on a long lead and three other horses were having "play time." It was obvious at this visit that the officers are sensitive to the animals needs, making sure that they have ample opportunity to just be a horse and a member of the herd.
I was fascinated by two of the horses in the arena who were playing a game, something I have never observed in horses before. The dominant horse would pick up a stick and try to get the second horse to grab the other end. As soon as the other horse took hold, the dominant horse would pull it away. They repeated this scenario over and over.
Kevin’s tour was excellent. There was ample time for questions and observation, and at the arena we were encouraged to spend as much time as we wanted observing the horses. Touring the Mounted Patrol Unit is probably not in the guide books, but for me it ranked right up there with Portland’s famous gardens and zoo.
Portland Mounted Patrol Horse Facility
Nancy Ruhle is an animal lover based in Los Gatos, Calif. This is her first article for BAFT.
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