Mounted police officers patrol designated areas on horseback, enforcing laws and providing crowd control to maintain public safety. Perhaps the most famous mounted police unit in the world is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force (RCMP), known for its scarlet-coated officers and jet black horses.
Mounted Police Officer Duties & Responsibilities
This particular form of police work typically requires officers to be able to do the following work:
- Ride a horse.
- Maintain crowd control.
- Patrol off-road areas.
- Respond to citizens.
- Do standard police work.
- Speak publicly.
The most visible duties of mounted police officers are conducting patrols on horseback and assisting with crowd control at events. In crowd-control roles, a common line heard in the industry is that one mounted officer is comparable to 10 or more officers on foot. Mounted officers also may be involved with other duties, such as search and rescue operations, traffic control, and the pursuit of suspects.
Mounted police officers can use their horses to facilitate interaction with members of the public who would not normally approach law enforcement personnel. Mounted officers also have a high profile in the community. As part of their community service function, mounted officers may visit schools or community groups, participate in parades, or provide an escort for police funerals.
Mounted Police Officer Salary
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not separate mounted police officer earnings in its police salary data, it does provide comprehensive information on general police officer earnings.
- Median Annual Salary: $62,960 ($30.27/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $105,230 ($50.59/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $35,780 ($17.20/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017
Education, Training, & Certification
The first step in becoming a mounted officer is qualifying as a regular police officer. This generally involves six months of police academy training before moving on to a probationary period as a new officer. After about three years of service, an officer can apply for a specialty unit such as the mounted police, provided a position is available.
- Education: Before police academy training, it is generally preferable for police officers to get a four-year college degree with a major in criminal justice or a similar field.
- Training: Preparing for a mounted unit can last anywhere from three to six months. Officers generally take regular riding lessons as well as attend training clinics put on by top instructors. Mounted police specialty training can include courses in equitation, horsemanship, equine behavior, equine anatomy and physiology, advanced crowd control techniques, and search and rescue training. The U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Unit in Washington, D.C., offers a highly respected training program that requires more than 400 hours of intense instruction. U.S. Park Police instructors often travel to provide their extensive training program to other police departments across the country, and they also provide training at police seminars and related events. In addition, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police travels the U.S. providing similar training courses.
Police horses also go through an intensive training process to desensitize them to a wide variety of sights and sounds they may encounter while on patrol. A variety of equine breeds are used for police work, but the most prevalent breeds in police service are draft horses, quarter horses, and Thoroughbreds. Police horses are almost always geldings.
Mounted Police Officer Skills & Competencies
Mounted police officers are law enforcement officers like any law enforcement officer, but working with a horse adds another layer to the skills they need.
- Athleticism: Officers need to be skilled riders, capable of covering rough terrain and possibly even tracking suspects at varying speeds. Additionally, officers involved in crowd control need to have expert control of the horses they ride in order to prevent injury to people nearby on foot.
- Love of animals: A mounted officer and a horse truly are partners and need to have a bond that includes complete trust and an ability to communicate as well as they can with one another.
- Communication skills: Because mounted police officers often are the face of a police force, whether in parades or presentations, they sometimes need to speak about what they do and answer questions from the public.
- Problem-solving: Mounted police officers are doing police work like any other officer and must be able to solve problems like any other officer.
Job growth for police officers is projected at 7 percent for the decade ending in 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is on par with the projected growth for all careers.
Competition for jobs working with mounted units is expected to continue to be intense, as only a limited number of opportunities are offered in this specialty area of police service. There generally are many more applicants for mounted police units than there are open positions.
In the U.S., mounted police officers are able to find work in most states and many large cities. Opportunities for employment exist with police departments, the military, and the U.S. Parks Service. Patrol areas may include cities, parks, and rugged terrain not easily accessible on foot or by car.
While police stables generally have full-time grooms on staff, officers generally take pride in grooming and feeding their mounts as time permits. Officers also may be responsible for trailering their horses to patrol areas that are not close to the stables.
Some officers also compete in nationally recognized mounted police competitions, such as the North American Police Equestrian Championships, or other local and state-based competitive events.
Officers frequently work nights and weekends and must be ready to respond to emergency situations with little or no notice. Mounted units work outdoors in varying weather conditions that can include extreme heat, extreme cold, high winds, and heavy rain.
How to Get the Job
Fundamentally, the job is still about police work, so being a police officer must be the primary goal.
Working closely with a horse requires having a real love for the animals.
Competition for mounted police officer jobs can be fierce. Keep trying.
Comparing Similar Jobs
Some of the other jobs, including median annual salaries, that being a police officer can prepare someone for include:
- Correctional Officer and Bailiff: $43,510
- Private Detective and Investigator: $50,700
- Probation Officer: $51,410
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017