Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 8:06 pm | Overcast 65º

 
 
 
 

Local News

California Mounted Officers Association, County Sheriff’s Riders Train at Santa Barbara Fairgrounds

Law enforcement officers and their horses saddle up for a week of training at Earl Warren Showgrounds

 

A California Mounted Officers Association instructor placed a smoke bomb on the ground, lighted the fuse and it began spewing out bright orange smoke.

Some horses trotting around Santa Barbara's Earl Warren Showgrounds barely flinched while others were spooked and reluctant to move close.

The mounted unit officers stayed relaxed, and their four-legged teammates continued circling the arena.

The instructor lit another smoke bomb — this time it was closer to the group. 

The exercise was part of an extensive five-day, 40-hour training, getting the horses skilled and the riders state-certified to work. 

CMOA is approved for mounted patrol officers by the Police Officers Standards and Training — the commission that standardizes all California law enforcement training.

Seventy riders saddled up preparing their horses for the instruction this week.

“Horses learn by repetition,” said Rob Dawson, California Mounted Officers Association president and Santa Monica Police Department officer.

“We are introducing the horses to something that traditionally they would run away. We are trying to duplicate scenarios that would happen in real life. ”

The officers learn how to handle their horse properly, tackle obstacle courses, and patrol tactics on horseback. Instructors shot off fireworks to desensitize them to sudden, loud noises. 

“We want to get the rider and their horses acclimated to anything they may encounter,” said Eric Anderson, the class coordinated for the basic mounted patrol course and an Anaheim Police Department officer.

Anderson said horses are fight-or-flight response animals, meaning a simple object such as a plastic bag could be perceived as harmful.

Desensitization training builds both rider and horse confidence, he said.

“The relationship between the horse and the riders is about trust,” Anderson said.

A handful of Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Mounted Enforcement Unit officers participated in the training at Earl Warren Showgrounds on Wednesday. Click to view larger
A handful of Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Mounted Enforcement Unit officers participated in the training at Earl Warren Showgrounds on Wednesday.  (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The mounted unit has advantages other officers don’t, including height and added visibility.

The massive horses have also been successful in connecting with the public.

“People love animals,” Anderson said. “Especially now, with the negative light on law enforcement — a mounted unit is a positive perception and it’s a good positive tool to engage with the community.”

Fifteen agencies from across the California participated in the training, with agencies from Anaheim, Riverside to Sacramento and everywhere between.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office reached out to CMOA to host the mounted enforcement training in Santa Barbara.

It was the first time CMOA practiced in Santa Barbara.

The Sheriff’s Mounted Enforcement Unit specializes in crowd control, patrolling the county parks and has been seen representing the Sheriff’s Office at the El Desfile Histórico Parade for Old Spanish Days and the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.

“Law enforcement on horseback is a great way to interact with people and break down the stigma that law enforcement may have,” Lt. Erik Raney said. “The deputies on the team have other primary assignments. This is an additional duty.”  

Raney thanked the Earl Warren Showgrounds for accommodating the Sheriff’s Mounted Enforcement Unit and for allowing the officers train at the facility this week.

The 34-acre property is host to the Santa Barbara Fair & Expo.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Seventy mounted unit officers trained at the Earl Warren Showgrounds this week. Click to view larger
Seventy mounted unit officers trained at the Earl Warren Showgrounds this week. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

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