Shamrock the horse is nursing a scrape on the knee after being attacked by a rowdy reveler during All-Star Weekend activities, officials said.
Officers on horseback were clearing pedestrian traffic early Monday, and Josue Emanuel Santana, 30, grabbed an Orlando police horse named Captain by the reins and pushed it in the face, a police report states.
Santana then turned on Osceola County Deputy Nicole Olesen’s horse, Shamrock, as Olesen arrived to help, striking the horse in the face and causing it to lose its balance and fall to its knees.
Osceola sheriff’s spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain said Shamrock — one of 13 horses on the sheriff’s mounted patrol — has shown no signs of serious injury, she said.
Mounted units are critical tools for law enforcement, particularly when managing crowds where control can quickly disintegrate into chaos, said Mark Newby, president of Suncoast Equine, which sponsors the Florida Association of Mounted Patrols.
A horse’s commanding presence benefits the officer — but horses, too, require protection while on the job, Newby said.
Horses wear gear such as eye shields, kneepads and bullet-resistant coats or blankets when deployed during riots or other violent situations. They also assist in search-and-rescue operations through wooded areas difficult to traverse. But the equine officers’ greatest advantage is their charm.
“There is no better tool for public relations than police horses,” Newby said. “…I’ve never had anyone ask to pet my police car before, but my horse always gets that kind of attention.”
Lt. Victor Payne of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office joined the mounted patrol in January 2011 after undergoing grueling training and feeling sore for weeks.
“I can’t be the bad guy on a horse,” Payne said. “When I’m up there, it’s totally different than anything I’ve experienced as a law-enforcement officer.”
But messing with a mounted officer is no joke. Teasing, harassing or interfering with a police horse is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, according to state statute.
“It’s like punching an police officer in the face,” said Tater Porter, an Osceola County cattle rancher and member of the Sheriff’s Office volunteer posse of civilians. “They are a part of the team.”
Santana was charged with two crimes: harassing or teasing a police animal and intentionally injuring a police horse.