by Pauline E. Burnes, PLA

On May 21 I had the pleasure of organizing and participating in the Mounted Patrol Training Techniques Clinic on my big bay Tennessee Walker, Little Joe. Now 16 years old and 16 hands tall, Little Joe has grown out of his name. My personal interest in organizing the clinic was to provide mounted search and rescue training to civilians and learn other mounted patrol training techniques.

The head instructor, Sgt. Gary Cicoria (Ret.), is a nationally certified trainer of mounted police officers and their mounts. Cicoria, a former rodeo rider competing in saddle bronc and bull riding competitions, is an accomplished horseman and has trained mounted patrol units in the Empire State and across the nation, including the New York State Police Mounted Division.

Co-Instructor Sgt. Charlie Horst (Ret.) worked with Cicoria as a Rochester police officer when Cicoria approached the Rochester PD with the idea of starting the mounted unit. Both Cicoria (Mounted 1) and Horst (Mounted 10) were instrumental in demonstrating how mounted patrol officers can provide high visibility for specialized details and back-up for officers on regular patrol. Horst described his job as taking a trail ride on pavement every day as they rode throughout downtown and other Rochester neighborhoods. Important duties included leading parades and crowd control at city festivals, including the Fourth of July fireworks. From their position on top of a horse, these mounted patrol officers were able to spot problems and defuse situations.

The training clinic took place at the Hemlock Fairgrounds, home of the annual Mounted Patrol Obstacle Competition held each summer during the Hemlock Fair. The instructors were able to use two large outdoor rings for cavalry-type formation riding and obstacle training. The fairground outfield was a perfect location to accommodate a grid-type search and rescue scenario. Although the weather was hot for May, the instructors, participants and auditors were dedicated to completing the full course schedule.

Mounted patrol training techniques clinic for civilians

Writer Pauline Burnes (rear) on her mount Little Joe the Bay horse and another participant watch to join a formation. Photo courtesy of John Williams/JC’s Photography

Participants travelled with their horses from near and far to experience the mounted patrol training techniques offered. All were interested in bettering their mounts and learning the skills required to join a search and rescue effort. The horses varied from heavy draft, gaited, Arabian and thoroughbreds to Quarter horse, Dutch harness horse and mixed breeds.

Three mounted sheriff’s deputies from the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department joined the class of 15 riders to form a group of 18 horses and riders. It was extremely helpful to have the Livingston County mounted patrol officers join us, especially during the cavalry-type formation riding.

The clinic included safety inspection of horses, tack and riders; cavalry-type formation riding maneuvers; obstacle training; and a search and rescue scenario. The search consisted of looking for a lost boy, who had left clues in various places on the fairgrounds. The riders were trained to do a grid search, lining up to cover ground slowly in a horizontal line moving across the landscape. Being on a horse gives a person a great advantage in visually scanning a larger area. The “lost boy” left behind clues, such as a kerchief and football, items the riders were to look for. He was found due to the vantage point of a rider being on a tall horse.

The 15 riders received Certificates of Attendance for their participation in the clinic. To receive a Completion of Mounted Police Training would require many more hours of training. To accomplish full certification as a mounted patrol officer, a candidate must first be trained as a police officer. There are mounted patrol auxiliary units in some counties in New York State, including Wyoming County.

Special thanks goes to instructors Gary Cicora and Charlie Horst; New York State Horse Council (NYSHC) President Susan Knauer and NYSHC Finger Lakes Region Vice President Dru Malavese; the Hemlock Lake Agricultural Society for providing the venue; and many volunteers who helped both on horseback and on the ground.

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