After two years without a home for their horses, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office acquired a new addition to its mounted enforcement unit.
When Sheriff Bill Brown expressed the need for a facility, the nonprofit organization quickly responded, said Richard Kline, the president of the Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse.
“The barn is important for deputies to train together, have meetings and it’s a central facility,” Kline said. “The Mounted Unit plays a significant role in the community and it’s heartwarming and gratifying that we can give them a new home.”
Located at North Refugio Road in Santa Ynez, the unit’s barn reunites rider and horse after the Mounted Unit’s lease at a federal government-owned facility in Lompoc was not renewed.
“Suddenly this group of individuals, who provide exceptionally important service to the citizens of Santa Barbara County, were without a home,” Kline said. “Deputies in the department had to find additional homes.”
One Benevolent Posse member offered a short-term solution, by housing eight horses at her ranch for free.
Earlier this year, the equestrian center agreed to a long-term lease and an anonymous donor from Montecito offered the barn, Kline said.
“It was a lightly-used barn and they asked us if we wanted it,” Kline said. “This is important because it provides a space for members that didn’t have the ability to keep their horses at their home.”
The gift was accepted by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 13.
Numerous donations from Santa Barbara-based nonprofits allowed the Posse to repair the seven stalls, and add a conference and tack room.
Deputies with the unit are glad to be back in one place, said sheriff’s Lt. Erik Raney.
The Mounted Unit assists with the high-season patrol of Lake Cachuma, search and rescue, patrol in rural areas, crowd control, and appear ins parades.
The horses are trained to become desensitized to noise, cars and people, and each horse and rider team have 50 hours of training before being deployed in the field.
Ten deputies are certified in the unit and the horses are owned by the rider.
The large animals help increase the effectiveness of a situation, Raney said.
“We can display a solid show of force if needed,” he said. “You can use one horse in place of three deputies on foot regarding the size of the animal and space occupied.”
The unit dates back more than 25 years and teams are sometimes assigned to out-of-area duties. Earlier this year, the members were requested to deploy the crowd at a Donald Trump rally in Anaheim. The equestrian unit also plans to attend the Rose Parade in Pasadena.
The Mounted Unit and Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse celebrated the new facility with a fundraiser held at the barn on Sunday. The event raised additional funds necessary for the Mounted Unit as well as a list of other Sheriff’s Office needs.
Kline said his organization has a list of items it wants to give the Sheriff’s Office, including protective vests, funds for a drug detection K-9 and new equipment.
“We have a long list of needs for the department,” he said. “We call it our wish list. Some elements aren’t getting replaced with the modern equipment that would help to serve the public better due to constrained county budget.”
More than $40,000 was raised at the event, according to sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.
“The generosity of these two community-spirited foundations and individuals should be recognized and applauded by every resident of Santa Barbara County,” Kline said.