Merseyside's Police Commissioner will today join the celebrations as the Force marks 130 years since the creation of its mounted section.
In 1886 Liverpool Police became the first provincial police force in Britain to maintain a permanent Mounted Branch and today (Thursday, 8 September) the entire Mounted Section will be joined by the Commissioner, Jane Kennedy and Chief Constable, Andy Cooke, for a team photograph, a tradition which began in 1925.
Some of the current crop of horses will display their prowess this afternoon by responding to a variety of simulated challenges, such as a crowd mimicking a protest with flags, a giant see-saw to train them to walk on difficult terrain, and a barrel full of stones to simulate noise.
The section will also be visited by Phil Smith, 74, a former mounted officer who was a sergeant in the Mounted Section for 12 years before retiring from the force in 1994. He featured on the photo taken for the section’s 100th anniversary in 1986.
He said: “Back then every officer had their own horse which you had to muck out and look after yourself. When I retired, my horse Olly retired too and I took him on as a pet right up until he came to the end of his days.
“The section underwent a period of modernisation while I was there. When I started, mounted officers would go out without a radio and the section was treated quite separately to the rest of the force but now it is much more integrated.
“During my time we began to be called to any incidents in parks or on beaches which officers on foot couldn’t get to and we became a more active department in general policing, as well as policing football matches.
“When I was in the section, the Lord Mayor always attended official functions by horsedrawn carriage with four mounted officers in ceremonial uniform and I was on duty for the last of those. In 1982 we were also involved in the visit of Pope John Paul II when there were hundreds and thousands of people in the streets.”
The force has experienced huge change since the mounted section was formed in 1886 to replace the inefficient hiring of horses from local ‘jobmasters’. With few telephones in the force, horses were used by officers to transport urgent messages as well as for the transport of prisoners. During a Transport Strike in 1911 they were even used to transport food desperately needed by the local population.
Over the years, the section helped police Royal Visits, World Cup matches in 1966, a civic reception for The Beatles, and regular trophy processions by Everton and Liverpool football clubs.
In 1938 the Mounted Section moved from its original headquarters in Hatton Garden in the city centre to its current base at Mather Avenue and is today used for crowd control, to patrol the shorelines in holiday season and famously to guide the victorious horse in the Grand National into the winner’s enclosure.
Temporary Sergeant Kit Yorke said: “The Mounted Section now helps police a range of events, including major sporting events, Armed Forces Day, Liverpool Pride, music festivals, the Grand National, community events and the visit of the Giants.
“Another important part of our job is patrolling the city centre on a Friday and Saturday night, keeping the public safe.
"Mounted Officers can be deployed around Merseyside providing high visibility patrols to areas that have been subject to serious incidents.
"This provides public reassurance and give the officers the opportunity to engage with the community affected. Often local residents will approach those officers on horseback and highlight community issues, meaning officers are able to feed back to local patrols or partner agencies so they can tackle the problems."