- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Black Jack, the longest-serving police horse in St. Paul, has been a workhorse - in his 14 years with the department, he never once called in sick or missed a day of work, a senior police commander joked.

The 18-year-old horse will return to his owners, who’d donated him to the police department, and live out his remaining years in pasture, said officer Hank Price, the rider primarily assigned to Black Jack most recently.

“He’s done his duty, he deserves a good retirement,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1cVQiX8). “As far as we know, it’s the longest in the history of the department, at least in the modern era.”

There are five other St. Paul police horses - one has served 12 years and the rest have served 10 years or less, he said - and a new horse replacing Black Jack.

Black Jack, who is a mix of Arabian, Morgan and Holsteiner breeds, is a mischievous horse, Price said.

“He is a real character,” said Price, who has been paired with Black Jack since April. “He can tell if you know what you’re doing or not. He always tries to get away with things, as horses do, but when it comes down to something serious, he seems to know when it’s time to settle down and concentrate.”

The horse tested the officers riding him, said officer Gerry Johnson, a training officer for the mounted patrol.

“If you had a rookie rider on his back, he would take advantage of it,” Johnson said. “He might rear up and spin around. BJ’s always been kind of flashy, likes to dance and prance.”

But Black Jack, who every mounted patrol officer has ridden at some point, was excellent for training new riders, said Johnson, who is retiring soon himself. He leaves the department in May, after 25 years with the police force, the last decade spent on the mounted patrol.

Black Jack is also a gentle horse who did well at community events, said St. Paul police Senior Cmdr. Gene Polyak, who heads the department’s citywide services unit. The police department uses the mounted patrol for crowd control at large events and as a high-visibility presence to patrol all over the city, Polyak said. The horses are especially good for public relations - youth especially are drawn to them and that can be a way for officers to build bonds, Polyak said.

Black Jack was the riderless horse at the funerals for St. Paul police Sgt. Gerald Vick, who was murdered in 2005, and officer Kyle Kaszynski, who was killed in 2005 while providing security in Iraq. Kaszynski and Black Jack had been partners when the officer was in the mounted patrol unit.

In 2011, when concrete work was being done in the area of University and Snelling avenues, Black Jack was spooked when equipment dropped to the ground and made a loud noise. Black Jack spun around and his hindquarters struck a large window at Midway Rendezvous Coffee, shattering the window. The glass cut the horse and he needed treatment, but he was a durable horse who healed quickly, Johnson said.

Black Jack is retiring because of his age (a horse’s average life span is 25 to 30 years, Price said). When the weather is warmer, Black Jack will live with his owners in Inver Grove Heights, said Vance Grannis Jr., who owns the horse.

Because it can take a while to find a good police horse and get it trained, the mounted patrol worked to get a new horse ready before Black Jack retired, Price said.

Lisa Halvorson of Rogers heard the police department was looking for a new horse and offered to donate Rascal. The 10-year-old Oldenburg breed “has a ton of personality and is kind of a busy horse,” she said. “He thrives on things going on and it seemed like a perfect fit for him. … It’s really a good feeling that he can do something like this.”

The mounted patrol operates year-round and the horses wear special horseshoes with studs, so they have traction on the snow and ice, Price said. Black Jack’s horseshoes fit Rascal perfectly, Price said, and a farrier transferred them to the new horse. Rascal also got Black Jack’s police saddle at a recent ceremony.


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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