Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Beloved Clearwater police horse dead at age 6

CLEARWATER — Garnet the horse was named after the crimson-colored gem because of the deep red shine of her coat.

Born in 2007, the 16-hand bay quarter horse with a black mane and tail spent the past two years patrolling Clearwater as part of the Police Department's mounted unit, most recently attending an outreach event Oct. 12 at Westfield Countryside mall.

Nancy Miller, a reserve Clearwater officer and Garnet's owner, lost count of the people who stroked or snapped photos of Garnet that day.

"We didn't know," Miller said, "three days later, we were going to lose her."

On Oct. 15 Garnet died at Miller's Odessa home. Pregnant with her second foal, she was 6 years old.

"We all loved her very much," Miller said. "So it's heart-wrenching."

In 2011, the Police Department created the mounted unit in an effort to reduce criminal behavior, such as drug use and sales and public sexual activities, in large parks and other wooded areas where it was difficult for officers to navigate on foot or by cruiser.

The unit is operated by Miller and Debbie Storey. Miller retired from the department as a lieutenant after 30 years of service in 2009. Storey, a Clearwater police property clerk, volunteers her time in the unit.

Atop the horses, Miller and Storey can easily travel through tall grass, sometimes inhabited by snakes and insects. They patrol several parks and the east-west trail in Clearwater.

But the best part of the job, Miller said, is interacting with residents who approach her and Storey because of the horses.

"There are people that will come up and talk to me," she said. "They would not talk to us otherwise."

Garnet was among four horses — the others are Smokey, Rudy and Blue — that take turns patrolling the city. The Police Department leases each horse for $1 per year and covers medical expenses for the horses if they are hurt while on duty.

When Garnet was about 3 years old, Miller took her to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office's police horse training program at the fairgrounds in Tampa. For about a week, trainers tested her resistance to loud noises, ground obstacles and bright lights. She walked over a bridge and withstood the flashing lights of a police cruiser and the loud humming of a helicopter, among other tests.

"That's enough to freak out most horses. She was, you know, a little bit intimidated by it, but she got used to it," Miller said. "She was an excellent police horse."

When trotting across a street snarled with traffic, "she never seemed to hesitate," Storey said.

Five months' pregnant, Garnet had recently developed colic, and medicine had helped. That was, until Oct. 15, when she collapsed while grazing in Miller's pasture.

Unable to coax Garnet to stand, Miller called a veterinarian, who arrived and diagnosed a severe case of colic. Her vital signs worsened and her prognosis was poor.

"I had to make the horrible decision to let her go," Miller said through tears. "We had to euthanize her."

She was buried on Miller's Odessa property. Miller and Storey hope to place a memorial stone atop her grave.

Storey's horse Smokey was close to Garnet. They often grazed in the pasture together and worked side by side on patrol, Storey said.

"He misses her," she said. "They grew up together. They just had a tremendous bond."

In the days following Garnet's death, Smokey lingered in the pasture, at one point lying on the ground — perhaps, Storey believes, in search of Garnet's scent.

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727)445-4157. On Twitter: @lauracmorel. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.

Beloved Clearwater police horse dead at age 6 10/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 6:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival wraps up with Above and Beyond, more at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    The first numbers trickled in on Sunday, and they didn't look great.

    Louis the Child performed at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium on May 28, 2017.
  2. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  3. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  4. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  5. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.