If you’ve been to BreyerFest in the past four years, you may have already met Oliver. The handsome black-and-white pinto has been on patrol with the Kentucky Horse Park’s mounted police unit since 2014.
Oliver is half Shire, one-quarter Thoroughbred and one-quarter Paint. His flashy black-and-white coat pattern makes him stand out in a crowd, which was a problem early in his career.
“The police departments wanted solid colors at that time,” says Capt. Rakes. “Everyone wanted black or dark bay. Then it slowly evolved to where some police departments wanted gray horses. But they wanted solid colors for uniformity.”
Even though Oliver had some basic police-horse training, he spent a few years hanging out in a pasture in his home in Maryland because of his color.
A New Job
“[His owner] thought, ‘well, he needs a job,’” says Capt. Rakes. “She knew me through a friend and thought it would be a perfect job for him here at the Horse Park. A [pinto] would be perfect, because we’re here to show all the different breeds anyway. A good horse is a good horse—it doesn’t matter the color.”
The arrangement has worked out perfectly. Oliver’s good looks and friendly personality have made him the perfect greeter for visitors to the Kentucky Horse Park, and his laid-back demeanor means he’s a reliable officer when police-horse duties arise.
On an average day, Oliver and Capt. Rakes will patrol the park for a total of three to four hours in two different shifts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. During their patrol, they’ll visit any horse shows or events taking place at the park’s show grounds and meet with visitors at the park’s different attractions. If they have extra time, they’ll head out to the cross-country course to work on their fitness with trot and canter sets.
Like most horses, Oliver loves snacks and will eat just about any treat he can get. One of his favorite snacks is to share a banana with Capt. Rakes—Oliver likes to eat the peel! However, after a bout with laminitis last year, Oliver’s caretakers are very careful about making sure he doesn’t get too many treats. Fortunately, he likes getting attention in the form of pats and grooming almost as much as he likes eating.
“He’s probably the best horse I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding for police work, and I’ve been doing police work since 1996,” says Capt. Rakes. “If he trusts you, he’ll give his heart and try so hard for you. He does everything I ask. I don’t worry about him. He goes with the flow.”
Training the Next Generation
Oliver is helping to teach a new generation of police horses to be as reliable and easygoing as he is. The Kentucky Horse Park adopted three foals a few years ago to be trained as police horses. Those foals are now 4 years old.
“Oliver started out ponying them—we’d put the little one beside him and pony them around to get them used to things,” says Rakes. “He’d get turned out with them because he’s the most laid-back.”
Want to meet Oliver in person? He’ll be doing daily demos and autograph sessions at BreyerFest, which takes place from July 12-14 in Lexington, Ky.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!