Mag-neigh-ficent addition to Northumbria Police

Sergeant Stu Coates with Harrison, the seven-year-old shire horse.
Sergeant Stu Coates with Harrison, the seven-year-old shire horse.

The newest recruit at Northumbria Police is standing head and shoulders above his colleagues.

The mag-neigh-ficent Harrison is the first shire horse to join the team, being put through his paces to hopefully earn a space in the police stables.

Standing at 17’1 hands, and weighing three-quarters of a tonne, seven-year-old Harrison will spend three months on loan with the force before his fate is decided by Sergeant Stu Coates and his team of experienced riders.

Sgt Coates said: “He has a lovely temperament, is pure-bred, born in Suffolk, and everyone already loves him.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do as he was rarely ridden by his previous owners as he was a pet so we will be training him up to deal with everything he might experience during a public order offence.

“We need to make sure that horses are used to everything you could come across in a public order incident, like flares, flags or busy crowds. They need to be used to it because horses are the last line of defence.

“We do it to have an imposing presence and horses have to be able to carry riders for hours at a time so we are always looking for big, strong horses. We need to be high up to see the trouble before others can.

“They are really useful and if something goes wrong in a public order issue they can hold the line. There’s not a more versatile tool.

“The public like seeing the horses and are apparently six times more likely to speak to an officer on horse than foot.”

When he is not on horseback policing large public events, Sgt Coates is showing school pupils and visitors around the stables.

He said: “I love the relationship between the horses and the riders. They look after you and you really rely on them. I love coming to work and riding them.

“The stables are always busy with schools, Guides and Scouts, disabled groups, visitors, work experience, you name it. The diary is always full.”