Police horses are at risk of joining the endangered species list, as there are now only 12 forces nationally, including Lancashire, to have mounted branches.
Over the past two years, five forces have decided to sell their horses, stables and tack due to the swingeing cuts to the police budgets.
I understand that senior police officers in Lancashire are now scratching their heads as to how they will slice another £20m from the budget and no doubt the mounted branch may be one of the potential targets for a further reduction in size or even closure.
Mounted branches are expensive to run, they require a significant investment in property, training and equipment, as well as the provision of a high level of grooming and care for the horses.
However, a recent report has highlighted the value of police horses, especially when they are engaged in neighbourhood patrols.
It’s very true that officers patrolling on horseback act as a magnet to members of the public, with people from all walks of life asking to pat the horses and chat to the officers.
The tens of thousands of people who attended the Lancashire Police open days will probably consider that the police horses were the highlight of the weekend and recognise them as the valuable policing resource that they are. As a former officer, I was always pleased, if not a little wary, of their presence at football matches and in a variety of public order situations.
Only the most stupid people will try and argue with a police horse that is galloping towards them. (Although there are always those who will try).
Lancashire Mounted Branch has a Facebook page, which is well worth a visit, where you can read about the operational policing events and arrests that its horses and riders are involved in.
It’s not accurate to view them as a policing luxury or only a requirement for ceremonial duty; they are a vital part of this country’s policing style.
Some very difficult decisions are going to have to be made during the next round of cuts and it will be a sad day if yet another mounted branch is closed.
It may be one way of saving money, but once they are gone they will never come back. Take notice the next time you see a police horse, as they are a disappearing breed at risk of extinction!