You may have spotted a pair of police officers on horseback riding through Elmira on Wednesday afternoon, a sight which will soon be familiar to the town as the Waterloo Regional Police rolls out its new mounted unit.
“The horses are in the latter stages of their training now,” said Elmira detachment Sgt. Siegfried Peters. “They are expected to be deployed on the weekend of the Maple Syrup Festival if all goes according to plan.”
The horses around town this past week are not officially on duty yet, as they’re still in training.
Experienced officers have been working with the horses in order to prepare them for everyday riding. The training for police horses takes about 16 weeks and is designed to ensure that the horse will not be spooked easily, build a bond of trust and respect between the horse and its rider, improve the horse’s tolerance to sensory obstacles and improve the horse’s show performance.
“The biggest challenge isn’t controlling the horse as it moves,” explained Const. Ron Derksen, who led the Niagara Regional Police Service when they recently deployed horses in their region. “It’s keeping the animal calm and obedient when directed to stop.”
Since the Waterloo Region pilot project was announced last year, there has been some controversy about the need for such measures in this area, especially given the cost.
“With our heritage in the region, with our Mennonite background, it’s really what we should be doing in Waterloo Region,” said Insp. Steve Beckett, of Waterloo Regional Police in a statement at the time of the launch.
The price tag associated with adding horses to a police force includes the cost of a horse trailer, riding equipment and boarding fees at a stable near police headquarters. Cost of setting up the two-horse program was set at $40,000. Early estimates predicted the horses would cost $20,000 a year to maintain.