My work with the Mounted Police
My passion for horses started when I was five years old. I was playing outside the terraced house in Liverpool that I was born in, Needham Road, Kensington. It was a very rough, tough neighbourhood but my parents did such a good job of keeping me on the straight and narrow and I eventually joined the police service.
Returning to the part where I was playing outside the house, in 1968. I was probably trying to burst tar bubbles with an ice lolly stick, which was one of my favourite things to do, when suddenly there was a sound like thunder. BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM… I was terrified. I never, ever strayed far from the front door of the house, but I was as intrigued as I was scared, a disposition that is still with me to this day. I was off in the direction of the noise, it was honey to a bee, walking at first, then running, the noise was getting louder; BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM… my heart was thumping, my legs were pumping, what was it, I just had to know.
I reached the junction of Needham Road and Edge Lane, some two hundred yards from the front door of my home, I was on a different planet, all alone and not caring, just driven to locate the source of the thundering sound, BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. Then from around the corner next to the army barracks (the IRA bombed some years later) the cause of the tumultuous sound emerged.
HORSES, hundreds of them, being ridden to the stadium of either Everton or Liverpool football clubs to control the crowds. ‘Where are you going’ boomed one of the policemen riding one of the horses. I could still hear the BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM, but the horses had stopped, it must have been my heart. At exactly that moment I felt my mother’s hand grab my arm, she was not happy! ‘Horses’ I shouted, ‘I want to touch the horses’, but I was dragged away by my mother who was in full throttle rant at my waywardness and lack of concern as to the dangers of wandering.
However, that was just the start of things between me and the police horses
The dye was cast, horses have intrigued me from that day to this. If anything increasingly so. As a child I only met ponies on the regular family holiday to North Wales but this was enough to keep me enthralled. I distinctly remember being on a pony and it spooked and took off, if I was captivated before this happened, I was totally besotted now, these ponies were incredible fun, still are.
I also became interested in my dads penchant for an occasional flutter on the race horses and I quickly learnt that I had a vested interest, as it was always the case that if Dad won, I won, but if Dad lost, I didn’t lose, these horses are amazing, I thought, not realising at the time how right I was.
I did not have the contact with ponies that a lot of my current friends had as a young lad. As a teenager I did have a couple of girlfriends who had ponies and I would always be the only lad who wanted ‘a go’, the girls thought I was cool, I thought that was very cool. It started to get serious, however, when I had a long standing girlfriend, who I eventually married - I would do all the jobs at the stables and ride whenever I could. Then, in 1984, I joined the police and that was when it all started to take off.
After some years on the front line in uniform I was fortunate enough to apply to the mounted police and was accepted on an initial riding course which lasted for eight weeks. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, I was being paid to be taught to ride ‘properly’. I had two instructors, one was an ex cavalry man, who was very much in the tradition of the cavalry and a stickler for excellence in the saddle. I learnt so much from Mike. The other Frank was superb too, he would go on after retirement from the mounted police to become a world renowned stipendiary steward for The British Show Jumping Association.
I passed my riding course (top student) and was immediately posted to the mounted section. I will never forget the first time I rode the route to the football ground of Everton passed the very spot where in 1968 it had all began. I smiled to myself and looked to see if there were any children, but alas there were none.
I went on to train horses as a serving officer and my mounted career spanned 25 wonderful years. I was qualified as a police riding instructor in 1999 after training at the world famous Imber Court home of The Metropolitan Mounted Police of London.
It was at the mounted police in Liverpool that I met Dorothy Johnson, a fellow of The British Horse Society who was to fire my passion for horses onto a whole new level. Dorothy was known world wide and she was teaching riding at the invitation of the mounted police to further her own breadth of knowledge and experience of horses, that was the measure of the woman, at this stage she was in her 60’s, but age was as much a barrier to her quest for learning about horses, as it is to mine, that is no barrier at all!
Dorothy encouraged me to ride racehorses over steeplechase fences, which I had to lose four stone in weight to achieve, but achieve it I did. I have to say riding racehorses with short stirrup irons is the most wonderful way to acquire great ‘feel’ for a rider, as well as a truly independent seat, something to which all good riders aspire, or should do.