Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Horse patrols train for Super Bowl crowd control

Mounted officers train for the Super Bowl on Thursday at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. The officers, including Polk County sheriff’s Deputy Randy McGuirt, right, played soccer on horseback to practice coordination as a team.


Mounted officers train for the Super Bowl on Thursday at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. The officers, including Polk County sheriff’s Deputy Randy McGuirt, right, played soccer on horseback to practice coordination as a team.

TAMPA — A dozen horses on a dirt field bunched together in a scrum, backpedaled and charged until one side-kicked a giant soccer ball through orange cones like a scene from a beer commercial.

Their riders screamed, "Get it, girl, get it," and horses, named Lucky and Sequence and Spot, galloped and shoved and snorted.

Thursday at the Florida State Fairgrounds, these horses from area mounted patrols practiced for the Super Bowl.

Not as some halftime stunt, but as crowd control for the Feb. 1 event, expected to draw thousands to Channelside and Ybor City for parties, rallies and drinks. The game was a warmup drill during a two-day training session for mounted units from Tampa and Pinellas Park police and Hillsborough, Manatee and Polk sheriff's offices.

It allowed Tampa police Cpl. Mike Morrow to evaluate riders and get the horses used to tight spaces. Other drills included trainers trying to grab and tackle mounted officers who maneuvered their horses into intimidating defensive spins.

The horses also clumped together and marched shoulder to shoulder through a mob of practice rioters, splitting the crowd while smoke bombs boomed and loudspeakers blared crowd noise.

Those weren't easy tasks for horses, who by nature identify with prey rather than predator, Morrow said. But the training sessions — including pushing a football-like blocking sled around — are meant to shape and bend their behaviors until they can break the will of mobs.

Their mere presence can settle unruly crowds because mounted officers say the animals are calm, stoic police ambassadors who don't look as menacing as riot police. But they are more than community relations tools, officers quickly pointed out.

Horses cut through traffic jams, push more people aside than 18 men, give officers high vantages and keep law officers safe, because people are less likely to attack a mounted officer than one on foot.

"Size, intimidation, strength," Tampa police Officer Scott Rehbein said of the animals' advantages.

The horses also provide a release from the grim realities of patrol and detective work for many mounted officers who also work in other roles.

Tampa police Detective Lisa Bishop, the city's lone domestic violence detective, investigates cruel beatings and family batteries. She has worked for the department for 19 years, including 12 on patrol. A criminal once put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. It didn't fire.

"Being able to do this takes me away temporarily," Bishop said.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or

Horse patrols train for Super Bowl crowd control 09/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 10:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marijuana extract sharply cuts seizures in severe form of epilepsy


    An oil derived from the marijuana plant sharply reduces violent seizures in young people suffering from a rare, severe form of epilepsy, according to a study published last week that gives more hope to parents who have been clamoring for access to the medication.

  2. 'I ain't fit to live': Police say Mississippi gunman kills 8


    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — A man who got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over his children was arrested Sunday in a house-to-house shooting rampage in rural Mississippi that left eight people dead, including his mother-in-law and a sheriff's deputy.

    People embrace Sunday outside the Bogue Chitto, Miss., house where eight people were killed during a shooting rampage Saturday in Lincoln County, Miss.
  3. Kushner's Russia ties questioned as Trump cites media 'lies'


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Sunday demanded to hear directly from top White House adviser Jared Kushner over allegations of proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia, saying the security clearance of President Donald Trump's son-in-law may need to be revoked.

  4. Muslims thankful for support after rant, deadly attack


    PORTLAND, Ore. — Muslims in Portland, Ore., thanked the community for its support and said they were raising money for the families of two men who were killed when they came to the defense of two young women — one wearing a hijab — who were targeted by an anti-Muslim rant.

    Jeremy Christian is accused of killing 2 men who stepped in as he berated two women.
  5. Following Trump's trip, Merkel says Europe can't rely on U.S. anymore


    LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Donald Trump last week, saying that Europe "really must take our fate into our own hands."

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, shown speaking with President Trump last week, says Europe “must take our fate into our own hands.”