This neglected horse found a happy ending.
One of the newest members of the Albany police department is 13 years old and weighs approximately 1,700 pounds. His name is Ace, a once neglected horse who has now found a loving home and new career.
Ace, a white Percheron, used to spend his days pulling a wagon.
As Sgt. Peter Noonan, who is in charge of the department's mounted unit, explained in an interview with the Times Union:
"The gentleman who owned that team fell on hard economic times and had to give up the wagon. He kept the horses for as long as he could, but eventually he could no longer feed the horses he had."
That's when Ace was rescued by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When finding homes for the horses, the MSPCA "ended up prioritizing law enforcement because they know the horses aren't going to be overworked or harmed (and) they are going to get proper food, proper shelter, proper veterinary care," Noonan said.
The 17.1-hand horse had never been ridden, but when the officers made the trip to Methuen, Mass., in October to try him out, they found that he was willing to learn.
Ace "didn't really understand everything (the officer) was trying to do," Noonan said. "But he understood enough that we saw the horse had great potential."
They brought Ace back with them the following month, and were happy to find that he was basically healthy.
"He didn't have any major health issues," Noonan said. "Very often, neglected horses have terrible feet -- and his feet were awesome."
Though he was underweight at the time of the rescue, he has been getting back in shape.
"We're trying to fill him out a little bit more. We don't want him overeating and getting fat; we need to put muscle on him. So when the spring rolls around, we have a 140 acres here and we'll be riding him up and down the hills."
Like all of the unit's horses, Ace will be undergoing extensive training for his new job. The Albany mounted unit works with their horses until they are "bomb-proof."
"That means he doesn't frighten easily. He needs to be able to go out on the street and have cars and trucks and police sirens and jackhammers and the occasional gunshots and fireworks. Every noise, every distraction you can think of, he needs to be able to handle it and have it not even faze him. The other horses we have, they'll fall asleep on the Fourth of July during the fireworks."
The training can seem strange to the uneducated eye, as horses are swatted with pool noodles, ridden through shopping carts, sirens and introduced to the sounds of gunfire. They also have to learn how to move people -- one of many times when Ace's size will be a real benefit.
"It's a lot easier to move a crowd of people with horses that weigh almost 2,000 pounds than with horses that weigh 1,100 pounds," Noonan said. "You're taller. You can see over the crowd better. The draft horses just tend to be better police horses."
While horses will naturally walk around a person, police horses are trained to walk into them if asked. The horses practice this first with a sled made out of 55-gallon plastic feed barrels, and then with SWAT officers.
"They'll gear up and be the agitators," Noonan said. "They will be on foot, yelling at the horses, and we'll train the horses to go through them."
The end result is a horse who can gently move a crowd, nudge angry people out of the way, or shove someone who tries to pull an officer out of the saddle.
Ace -- who Noonan said will soon be renamed something more "human" -- will eventually be able to do all of this. Though the formerly neglected horse will begin serving on the city streets this summer, his training will be far from over.
"We're never done training," Noonan said. "Every time we go out on the street we try and do something (new) with the horse."
What do you think of Ace's story? Share your thoughts below.
Photos by Paul Buckowski via Times Union
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