“It has been a staple in our operation for years,” Whetsel said. “We have a lot of use for our mounted. They come exceptionally handy.”
Most people see the deputies on horseback at Stockyards City, during the Oklahoma State Fair or at parades.
“We usually have the mounted out every week,” Whetsel said. “They oftentimes will be working on the weekends in the stockyards area. The stockyard businesses love to have the horses out there because of the nature of the area. Stockyards, horseback — I mean, they kind of go hand-in-hand. People are able to see a throwback in history with the mounted horses on patrol.”
It takes a very special horse to work in the mounted patrol unit, because the horses are around children for special events, Garner said.
“We have to have the ability to, one minute, be PR (public relations), where people are petting the horses and they are talking to the officers. Then, five minutes later, we need to go into a crowd control situation and have to disperse the crowd,” Garner said, “and then we have to go right back to PR with people petting the horses again.”
Owning a horse and being a deputy for the sheriff's department aren't the only requirements for being a part of the mounted patrol.
“It's a big responsibility when you walk into a crowd of thousands of people with a 1,200-pound animal,” Garner said. “It's like I said, sometimes the horses don't meet the requirements, and sometimes for the deputies, it's hard for them, too.”
Because the deputies own the horses, the expense for the sheriff's office is minimal.
“It's all on their dollar,” Whetsel said.
The sheriff's office provides equipment, such as saddle blankets and protective gear, but the vast majority of the cost falls upon the reserve deputies.
“These are dedicated citizens,” Whetsel said.