The Las Vegas
Metropolitan Police Mounted Unit employs eight horses of different
breeds and types, and in that group, Gryff stands out. He’s a
13-year-old Friesian gelding with the tall build, jet-black coat and
distinctive feathering that characterize his breed.
Vegas unit last winter to begin his training, but within days of his
arrival, he colicked. When he was treated for colic, it was
discovered that the cause was intestinal stones—big ones.
develop these stones, called enteroliths, and they often do lead to
serious problems. They’re caused when a horse swallows something
indigestible, like a small pebble or even just a grain of sand.
Calcium and other minerals build up on the object, increasing its
size. Sometimes these stones pass through, but if they grow large
enough or if multiple stones form at the same time, they can cause
blockages that lead to colic symptoms. In some cases, the stones can
cause a rupture in the horse’s colon, which can be fatal.
— Faith (@Faithjessietv) December 15, 2016
The treatment for
these intestinal stones is surgery to remove them, which is what
happened with Gryff. If he hadn’t received emergency surgery when
he did, he would have died that day, his caretakers say.
Gryff was cleared by
his vets for under saddle work back in June and is now helping to
patrol the neighborhoods. But the battle isn’t entirely
complete—colic surgery isn’t cheap, and like many mounted units,
the Las Vegas Metro unit relies on fundraising through its nonprofit Friends of
the Metro Mounted Unit to stay in operation. The organization
received large donations from area businesses and is still working to
raise funds to pay off the last of Gryff’s veterinary bill, which
came out to around $21,000.
When asked why Gryff
wasn’t simply retired instead of undergoing expensive treatments to
get him healthy enough to go to work, retired officer Kelly Korb of
the Metro Mounted Unit explained that a horse like Gryff doesn’t
show up every day.
“Only about one
out of ten horses that we bring here to train makes it through our
program,” Korb explained to News 3 in Las Vegas. Successful police
horses must be calm in chaotic situations as one of their primary
duties is crowd control. However, they’re also a method for public
outreach and so they need to be friendly and gentle with no
propensity to bite or kick. On top of that, they have to be sound and
fit enough to pound the pavement all day while on duty. It’s not a
job for every horse, but Gryff appears to have what it takes to excel
as a police horse.
You can find out
more about the Metro Mounted Unit on their Facebook page.
Leslie Potter is a
writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky.