Seattle Police Department horses' shoes a costly necessity

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by ALISON MORROW / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @AlisonMorrowTV

KING5.com

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 8:35 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 13 at 12:21 PM

Seattle's mounted patrol unit is as old as the police department. Necessary for crowd control, they have to be quick on their feet - and those feet aren't cheap.

The newest member of the mounted patrol, "Dozer's" still learning to behave.

"Unless he's being a little naughty, he's just not happy," said Sgt. Jim Scott. "Occasionally he'll try to nibble on hands or hats. he loves to take scarves off people."

Dozer and Sgt. Scott are partners, so they've gotten to know each other's personalities well. Except, on Thursday morning, Dozer behaved himself for an entire hour during one of the most important mornings of the year.

The day he got new shoes.

"As you can see, he's got a large foot," explained farrier Tom Wright.

Wright shoes Dozer every six weeks, along with six other horses on the Seattle Police Mounted Patrol Unit.

The seven horses' large size wins them power to control crowds.

"And nothing gets people moving faster than 1,600 pounds of horse coming at them," Sgt. Scott said.

However, Dozer's real strength weighs only 2 lbs.  It's technology that hasn't really changed in a hundred years.

"We've tried boots. We've tried rubber shoes. We've tried a series of different things," Wright said.

Nothing's worked as well as the oldest trick: borium. Heated to nearly 2,000 degrees, borium nuggets fix to the steel shoes.

"Put it down on the cement," Wright demonstrated. "You can see it doesn't slide like steel normally would going across concrete."

Toe clips also add extra grip to the hooves, and at 700 degrees, Dozer can't feel any of it. The Seattle Police Department's Mounted Patrol Unit spends about $30,000 on horse shoes every year. That's almost one-fifth of their entire budget.

"The saying is, 'No hoof, no horse,'" Sgt. Scott said. "We don't want our horses slipping or pulling ligaments or tendons, or, God forbid, falling on anybody. So, the shoes are very important."

So, even if Dozer hasn't mastered all his manners, at least for one hour he stood still. As if even he knows that he stands on shoes which cost $4,000 a year.

Learn about SPD's horses and check out their upcoming events on the Friends of Seattle Police Mounted Patrol Facebook page.

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