There is a stereotype out there that all Texans ride horses everywhere.
That is partially true within the Houston Police Department, which recently added a new horse to its mounted patrol courtesy of a local resident.
On Tuesday, officers with HPD’s Mounted Patrol Unit introduced Matilda, the newest addition to its force. What was unique about the situation is that Matilda was previously owned by Acres Homes resident Carlas Murray.
Murray recently gave Matilda – who came to her and her husband a few years ago after her previous owner had died – to HPD to replenish its herd.
Officers with HPD’s Mounted Patrol Unit are part of an initiative aimed at fighting crime more directly, according to the city. Mounted patrol officers said Tuesday that cars have become their biggest obstacle in fighting crime as they cannot get everywhere. On horseback, they said, officers can more easily protect and reach communities that are most in need.
“This will allow us to be out in more neighborhoods, doing more patrolling and getting people to know about that (program),” at-large Houston City Council member Mike Knox said.
A few months ago, Murray said she saw officers riding around on horseback and initially wondered what was going on or if something was wrong.
After chatting with the officer about the mounted patrol, Murray she said she believed her own horse – an 8-year-old mare – would be perfect for the program due to strong bloodlines and previous training.
“I just talk to everybody, and I just wanted to know if they were OK and if there was something I could do,” she said. “Then when I noticed the horses we started talking about all that, and I wanted to invite them over to see my horse. I’m proud of my horses.”
Her pride appears to have been warranted as several officers Tuesday characterized Matilda as “one of their best-trained horses” already. In order to be on mounted patrol, horses must be trained to be able to handle large crowds, noisemakers and other distractions.
HPD’s mounted patrol is used for events such as parades, but also serves as crowd control in other instances. Their use also can be a simple way to connect with an officer’s community beat.
“One of the goals in law enforcement is to get closer with our community – this is a perfect example of how the neighbors working with the police can achieve wonderful things,” Knox said.
Knox said that connection via mounted patrol and horses like Matilda can break down barriers between police officers and the community – in turn making the community safer.
“Kids just love horses and love to walk up, and that provides a great opportunity for police officers to make a different kind of impression than they might otherwise,” he said.
Murray can attest to that and is thankful she can play a small part in the outreach.
“I love to see you guys out there on the horses, and I want to come give them water, talk and do this and that,” she said. “I’m all about horses.”