The iron fists in velvet gloves - meet South Yorkshire Police's latest recruits in fight against crime

They are described as "iron fists in velvet gloves" and are the latest recruits to help South Yorkshire Police tackle crime.

Sunday, 28th July 2019, 7:00 am
Chief Constable Stephen Watson with the South Yorkshire Police horses

After a three year vacation in West Yorkshire, the force's horses have returned to Ring Farm in Cudworth, Barnsley, where they will now be permanently homed.

The 10 horses, including latest recruit Bradfield, will attend various incidents and events across South Yorkshire after Chief Constable Stephen Watson announced 14 months ago he wanted the animals to be brought back home.

Not only are the horses used for community engagement events like public galas and school fetes, but they are also used in the search for missing people, helping to gather information and intelligence, and of course the South Yorkshire football derby matches where they are described as "extremely valuable".

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Chief Constable Stephen Watson with the South Yorkshire Police horses

Sergeant Clive Collings said: "Moving the horses back here demonstrates the force's commitment to the mounted unit and having that full spectrum of a police service.

"There is a limited number of forces in the country that still have horses so we are in a minority. It is also about us being in the county footprint and so we can deploy more quickly around the county and get to an urgent incident more quickly.

"The Chief Constable is keen to ensure his resources are within his control within the county and we can maximise the effectiveness of the policing that we do."

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South Yorkshire's police horses have returned to their home in Ring Farm, Barnsley.

Sgt Collings said: "We do this as it prepares them for normal police work, so they will hear air horns and loud bangs, as well as crowd noises to acclimatise to the kind of noises they will expect to hear as a police horse. This is so when we do deploy them out and about, we as the riders, and the public are safe."

Officers riding the horses have to take part in a 16-week training course before they are able to be deployed to the public.

Sgt Collings said:"It is like learning to drive a car. You learn to pass your test and then you actually learn the extras on top when you finish. It is now learning practically and going out and being deployed."

Police horses also have to have a certain profile.

After a three year vacation in West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire Police's horses have returned to Ring Farm in Cudworth, Barnsley, where they will now be permanently homed.

"We look for age brackets, particular height as they have to be quite big and certain characteristics," Sgt Collings said.

"They are reliable, they are friendly, but equally they are an iron fist in a velvet glove, which is a good way of describing them. They are warm and friendly but when they need to be they can be forceful and they have to switch quickly and these horses are symptomatic of that."

The Chief Constable described the return of the horses as a very "significant day".

He said: "South Yorkshire Police is one of only eight forces in the entire country which maintains a mounted branch and we are very proud of that.

"We are a full spectrum police force and mounted is part of the mix.

"Some years ago we took the decision for our horses to have shared accommodation off the patch and we have now reversed that and brought them back. I take the view that these are South Yorkshire horses and they should live in South Yorkshire.

"The public of South Yorkshire should be really pleased that their horses are back here."