A few years ago, the Northrhine-Westfalian police department sent several dozen uniformed police officers on foot and two officers on horseback patrolling Düsseldorf's prestigious shopping mile Königsallee to keep pickpockets at bay.
Later, they did a survey, asking passers-by if they'd noticed any police ... almost no one taken much notice of the officers on foot, whereas everyone remembered the horses. Likewise, if you ask soccer fans which they'd respect more, a police officer on a motocycle or one on a horse, the horses always win.
Yet, somehow, the mounted police keep being a subject of much discussion. Gone are the days when German state police departments rented their own stables in order to train their horses and riders thoroughly and give them a convenient home. Much further gone are the days when a German police officer named Klaus Balkenhol became the world's most successful dressage rider ... on two horses that did completely normal police duty when they weren't competing.
Even though public reaction clearly shows that police horses are perceived as a force to be reckoned with, the mounted police in Germany keeps being moved from stable to stable, horses are leased instead of bought, facilities reduced, hoping to cut the costs of something that is, in fact, invaluable.
The remaining horses and officers mostly do duty at Bundesliga soccer games and demonstrations, presenting an element of unpredictability that will give most hooligans pause. So it's easy to imagine that the two female mounted police officers who were dispatched to show police presence at the show grounds in Balve a couple of weeks ago almost felt like being on holiday.
They reveled in "a day when they don't spit at us or throw molotov cocktails between our horses' legs" but at the same time emphasized how much they love their job ... and how much horses unlike any other method at their disposal are "deescalation on four hooves". The horses seemed to like their outing, too, strolling through the crowds our watching the goins-on at the dressage warm-up.
Who knows, maybe one of them is secretly preparing to become the next Goldstern after all ...
Text and Photos © by Barbara Schnell
Klaus Balkenhol's Goldstern Passed Away
Klaus Balkenhol and Goldstern
Sir Moritz, Top Seller 2014 Hanoverian November Auction
Balagur, an Orlov Trotter in the Olympic Dressage Arena
Balkenhol Guest Speaker at 2010 British Dressage Convention