Ex-Racehorses Find New ‘Mounts’ With Chicago Police

by | 08.22.2013 | 12:13pm
Some police departments take on OTTBs. Billy Cales of the Chicago Mounted Police attends to his partner, "Airhart"

Retired Thoroughbred racehorses are trained for a variety of second jobs after their careers at the track are over. Not many, though, find themselves crime fighters and peace officers on the streets of a big city.

Welcome to Chicago. While most police departments use draft horses and crosses for their mounted patrols, the Chicago PD has always preferred Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, and mixes of the two breeds. Leaders of the Chicago Mounted Patrol believe ex-racehorses often make an ideal transition from the backstretch to the front lines of police work.

While in town for the Arlington Million, the Paulick Report's Scott Jagow and Natalie Voss took a side trip to downtown Chicago and met the horses – and their human partners – who protect and serve the Windy City.

  • 4Bellwether666

    Gotta love it…

  • MA

    All the people who think Thoroughbreds are too hot would probably have a heart attack knowing they can do police work. Great report on something I’ve never heard about.

  • nu-fan

    Not only can these horses do exceptionally well in inner cities but they should be considered for many parts of the West where motorized vehicles cannot go. If I remember correctly, there was also a news item where law enforcement was finding that riding horses got them into terrains along the border to patrol those areas. So many great second careers for these horses. These possibilities should be explored and promoted by the horseracing industry rather than just the short cut way of the horrible alternative.

    • Roisin

      nu-fan, you are correct. The patrol was in remote areas along the Canadian border not accessible to motorized vehicles. Also, it was reported, the horses were able to alert riders to activity normally missed by humans !

  • DinkyDiva


  • 14151617

    Ray you are quickly becoming my HERO

  • justaguest

    What a great piece, makes me love my hometown even more! I will be sharing this out for sure.

  • Hindoo54

    When I first moved to Lexington in the mid-1980s, the police department there had a wonderful old stakes-winning gelding named Hook It Up, who had raced for the Wolken family of Turf Catering. After a distinguished second career helping to keep peace on the streets of Lexington, Hook It Up was retired with great pomp and ceremony at the base of the courthouse steps. Hundreds attended, including the local media and the extended Wolken family. I still have pictures from that day, of the officer and his horse, and they still make me tear-up when I look at them. … Thanks for the piece on Chicago’s Thoroughbred peace officers.

    • pepperlex3

      When I lived in Woodford County as the curator of a historic property, I wrote about Hook It Up in one of my weekly newspaper columns. He appeared as the mount of a historical figure in a re-enactment we staged, and he behaved perfectly. I’m pretty sure I can find it if you’d like a copy.

      • Hindoo54

        I’d love to read that!

  • betterthannothing

    Thank you for this wonderful documentary! Thoroughbreds are fabulous horses.

  • Kentucky Woman

    what a great interview! Super job Natalie and Scott!

  • Barbara Luna

    Turning For Home recently saw our South Fleet adopted by the Philadelphia Mounted Patrol. Thanks to Bonnie Hutton of After the Races who worked with him at the farm with flags, dogs, loud noises and crazy distractions (all tests he passed with flying colors!), he made his debut in the city of Phila. on the 4th of July and is doing great! We are proud, to say the least.

    • Mimi Hunter

      The first horse I remember was a police horse in Philadelphia. I fell in love with that horse – and the love of horses never wore off – and that was over 60 years ago. His name was Mickey.

  • circusticket

    I LOVE thoroughbreds. Mine will do ANYTHING for me. He also has nerves of steel!

  • R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Great story. Thoroughbreds have been used for many years by different police departments. This story really tells the bond between the officers and their horses and the value that the horses bring to the force. One horse equals 8 to 10 officers on the ground in crown control. All of their horses are renamed after officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Bravo.

  • Suzanne

    What an awesome story! Love those happy endings:-))

  • Roisin

    I do appreciate the great story but must mention that all police forces are not equal when it comes to care of their horses. I learned that the hard way re a gelding called Mike’s Thunder.
    However, the story did have a good ending thanks to a caring owner who was the last to claim him and kept tabs on the horse.

    • nu-fan

      Yes, if only owners and former owners would just keep close tabs on their horses…. What a difference it might make!

  • Barbara Wood

    I only hope and pray that they are well cared for and not sold down the river upon retirement from the force.

  • In tears

    This article with information on purchasing x race horses for police work should be emailed to all large city law inforcement agencies. Pa. state police use mounted officers. Most of the horses I saw are quarter horse cross. The State police use them at the Muskfest in Bethlehem, Pa. every August for a week of the event. Anything to save a horse.

  • Delrene

    Thank you for this great article about police horses in Chicago. I wondered if the thoroughbreds are heavier once their new career commences as they appear to have to carry more weight ( not saying “chubby police ” officers but certainly more than 115 pounds. They aren’t under the strict

  • Cathy R

    Very Very Cool!!!!

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