After a long and rigorous search, the Marana Police Department has acquired three horses for the mounted patrol it's forming and hopes to have mounts and riders ready for a 50-hour training session with the Scottsdale Police Department next month.
Lt. Paul Ashcraft said MPD purchased two of the horses from a ranch outside Phoenix but received the third horse from a northwest couple who donated the animal after reading a story in the Northwest EXPLORER last month that detailed the department's search.
"We had a number of people respond to the article, but the horse that was eventually donated was just what we were looking for. He's really a fine animal and we're real thankful to have him. We're all set and looking forward to heading-up to Scottsdale," Ashcraft said.
MPD initially plans to use the mounted unit to patrol the 2,440-acre Tortolita Preserve desert park located in northeast Marana and the more than 60 miles of recreational trails the town is developing.
The department had inspected scores of horses looking for just the right temperament before settling on the three that were selected earlier this month.
The 7-year-old gelding named Cisco was donated to the department by Rhonda and Bob Barnes, owners of Old Pueblo Adobe, 9353 N. Casa Grande Highway.
The Barnes have owned Cisco all his life and Rhonda Barnes said she knew he would be perfect for the MPD after reading about the characteristics needed for a police department mounted patrol horse.
"We really weren't looking to sell him at all, he's a great horse, but he seemed just right for the program. He'll get a lot of attention and care, and he'll get a lot more exercise than just being taken out for a ride on Sunday," she said.
One of the primary qualities sought by the department was that a horse not be skittish or easily frightened by activity or loud noises.
"There's a term we use, that the horse needs to be bomb-proof, meaning you could practically set off a bomb next to it and not have it bolt," MPD Officer Dan Sample said in the Aug. 27 article.
Rhonda Barnes said she believes Cisco can be easily trained to the standard the department is looking for.
"He can be a handful at times. He's really athletic and spirited, but not skittish at all. He's more like a big dog. He isn't quite 'bombproof' as they say, but he's healthy and sound and I think with the police training, he'll work out great," she said.
The department has agreed that Cisco will return home to the Barnes - who also own Cisco's mother - whenever he retires from MPD, Ashcraft said.
Sample, a former motorcycle officer and Debra Kesterson, a patrol officer, are the first two members of MPD to begin training in the unit. One of the three horses will serve as a back-up mount for them until the department decides whether to add a third officer to the patrol.
The officers will be devoted to the horse patrol full time and be responsible for the animal's grooming and up-keep in addition to the the time spent patrolling the town's parks.
"We know he's going to get a lot of attention. He's got it made," said Rhonda Barnes. "It's just perfect for him. He's the kind of horse that was born to serve."