Story and Photos by Virginia Hatch
Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, July 16, 2003
The Hampton Mounted Patrol can be found at Hampton Beach between Church Street (the turn-off from Ocean Boulevard to I-95)and the State Park (at the bridge leading to Seabrook) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.. A popular place for seeing the horses up close and having a chance to pet them is across from McDonald's in the police parking spaces from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. On the beach, they will stop if asked unless they are responding to a call. In which case, they usually promise to return.
Duties of the Hampton Mounted Patrol include patrolling the beach and be found at Hampton Beach between Church boardwalk, side streets, White's Island area (a family-oriented area) and casino-closing traffic. From 7 to 10 p.m., they do public relations. At 10 p.m., their responsibility changes to moving crowds, keeping kids from hanging on corners and forcing families to use streets for walking; and keeping vehicular traffic moving. At 1 a.m. when the bars get out, moving crowds to keep altercations from occurring. They work in conjunction with three walking beats. From atop the horses, the officers can see who needs to be taken into custody. Participating in parades, (Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Memorial Day), and homecoming events in other towns, memorial services, funerals for fallen officers, and appearances at schools are special functions.
Horses were used as a vital tool in the University of New Hampshire riots. They were used as a tool to prevent students from overtaking fraternity row. The horses and officers were struck with bottles and fireworks. They couldn't react. They had to hold a street until it was decided that they should move. The horses were fine and did very well. There were compliments and praises on the demeanor of the horses during this time. This action was planned ahead of time because of prior super bowl parties. Several motorcycle units as well as State of New Hampshire Troop A barracks personnel were included in the plan, according to Officer Andy Jowett of the Hampton Mounted Patrol.
An Officer's Dream. As an officer, retired Deputy Chief of the Hampton Police Department Dennis Pelletier had a dream that the Hampton Police Department would have a mounted patrol unit. In 1981, that dream became a reality. Local people and tourists have made this a popular attraction. The 1,100-pound Tennessee Walking horses, which are the preferred mount for this duty, have a smooth gait and a running walk as opposed to a trot that is common to most horses. The smooth ride makes it easier for the riders to be in the saddle for eight hours.
The policemen, seated in the saddles of the tall, stately horses have excellent visibility while working in a crowd or directing traffic. The Tennessee Walkers measure 15.3 hands, about five-and-a-half feet tall to the horse's shoulder. The horses provide great mobility on the sand enabling the officers to patrol the beach more easily. The horses cover ground more quickly and move through traffic better than a cruiser could. Two horses can be used to form a wedge and separate a crowd. People perceive horses as friendly thus encouraging people to approach the police officer on his mount.
Children. Kids love the horses. It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words. We invite you to see the photos that accompany this article in lieu of thousands of words. Finding lost children on the beach is a constant search and rescue operation performed by the Hampton Mounted Patrol. From their vantage point on their horses, they can spot the missing child; then, hold it until it is claimed by worried parents or guardian, who can spot the horse and rider easily on the beach.
Are children ever afraid of the horses? Sometimes, until they watch other people's reaction to the horses; then, they'll let their guard down.
The Riders of the Hampton Mounted Patrol since its inception in 1981 and their current status are:
Dennis Pelletier, Retired; John Galvin; Larry Hammer, Retired; Neal Socher, State Police; George (Skip) Bateman, Retired; Jim Tuttle; Andy Anicelli, State Police; Joseph Galvin; Tim Galvin; Phil Russell; Dan Florent, U.S.Marshall; Aaron Pickering, Retired; Steve Henderson; Larry Barrett; Andy Jowett, Fulltime; Richard Sawyer; Tim Kerber; Tim Hamlen, Fulltime; Barry Newcomb,Fulltime; Joseph Jones, Fulltime; and Lee Griffith, U.S.Marshall.
The Horses of the Hampton Mounted Patrol since the beginning and their current status are: Rasta, deceased; Sundance, deceased; Scout, deceased; Magic, deceased; Commander, retired; Peacock, retired; Senator, deceased; Blaze, Sergeant ("Ebe"), retired; Buddy, Patriot, and Sam. Retired horses go to Hampton Mounted Patrol's Founder Dennis Pelletier's farm in Epping, where they receive love and special attention in their later years.
Groomers and Caretakers of the horses have been: Heather, Jenn and Amanda -and, from the beginning, the owners of the farm at Tide Water Campgrounds on Route One, Wally Shaw and his family and Gigi.
Auxiliary Group, Friends of the Mounted Patrol was formed to support the Hampton Mounted Patrol with the purpose of raising money to supplement the budget allocated by the Town of Hampton for its support. One of the activities of this group is to sell merchandise reflecting the Patrol. This year, this merchandise will be available at the Seafood Festival at Hampton Beach. Another activity of this group is to solicit donations for the upkeep of the horses and the rider's equipment. Donations may be made by check to: Hampton Mounted Patrol, PO Box 1245, Hampton, NH 03843-1245 or online at their website: http://www.hamptonmountedpatrol.com/ merchandise.htm.
Frequently-Asked Questions. A frequently asked question is about how the horses are cared for. The horses are kept on a spacious farm with several acres of grazing area. They are cared for very well by a horse groomer/trainer and the owners of the farm. The officers who ride can frequently be found there on their own time, checking on them constantly and giving them plenty of exercise. The horses are generally retired when they get to be in their early 20's. The officers are very familiar with each horse's personality and characteristics. Because of this it is not difficult to determine when it is time for them to retire. We have an arrangement to have each retired horse spend his retirement days at a nearby farm where they are pampered even more. Other frequently asked questions are: Can I pet him? (Yes, as long as the officer gives the o.k. first) What's his name? (That's answered by the officer.). Can I take him for a ride? (No - unless you come and work for HMP!) What do they eat? (Hay, grain and special feed. Sugar and carrots for a treat) Can I feed him? (No, thank you. The HMP doesn't want them to get in the habit of expecting food from every hand that comes near their mouths).
[Photo by Virginia Hatch]