Huntington Beach recently welcomed a new member to its police force – an 11-year-old American quarter horse named Guardian who was selected to serve in the department’s mounted police unit.
Guardian joins four other horses who work with MEU officers to help with surveillance and crowd control as well as during times of civil unrest or disorder. Together, teams may be called upon to serve at spontaneous and planned events at parks, beaches, and downtown Huntington Beach.
They can also be useful in responding to incidents and investigations that take place in hard-to-reach areas where large police vehicles may not be able to reach.
Huntington Beach Police spokeswoman Jessica Cuchilla said the department appealed to nearby towns with equestrian units and heard from Guardian. Due to the nature of their work, horses must possess certain qualities that will assist officers in their work.
The gelding was assessed and found to be a good fit.
“What we look for in a horse are its personality traits, its ability to interact with people and its response to stressful situations and noise,” Cuchilla explained Thursday.
Named in honor of deceased HBPD officer Nicholas Vella – a 14-year veteran of the department who died in a helicopter crash on February 19 while on duty – Guardian was associated with MEU officer Victor Ojeda. His first day on the job was July 29.
In addition to receiving regular training at the city’s Central Park Equestrian Center, where they board, MEU equines like Guardian engage in weekly training alongside their officer partners, going on trail rides together so the horses can adapt to their riders and vice versa.
Cuchilla said Guardian was purchased with donations made to the nonprofit Huntington Beach Police and Community Foundation, which provides supplies and equipment and also funds special programs.
Warden and Officer Ojeda, along with the rest of the HBPD Mounted Police Unit, can be seen on patrol at the upcoming Pacific Air Show, which runs from September 30 to October 2 above the pier from Huntington Beach.
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