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The Boston Globe

Metro

State Police to patrol beaches and parks on horseback

As the weather heats up and state beaches and parks attract more visitors, the Massachusetts State Police will be patrolling those locations with the help of their “ultimate all-
terrain vehicles,” horses.

The Mounted Unit, which is the state’s only full-time unit of its kind, currently has 13 horses and six full-time troopers. For the summer months, which are the unit’s busiest, additional troopers are assigned on a part-time basis.

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“We are currently deployed to several parks and beaches across the state. We patrol Salisbury Beach on a daily, as well as a nightly, basis and we also patrol Walden Pond in Concord,” Trooper Dave McCann, who has more than a decade of service in the Mounted Unit, said at a press conference Thursday at Carson Beach in South Boston. “We can get called out to searches, crowd control situations, or any large-scale events.”

The horses are cared for and trained “from the ground up” by State Police personnel, McCann said, and are stabled at the Mounted Unit’s headquarters on Route 2 in Acton. Before saddling up, troopers have to undergo an 85-hour training program.

Though the unit does not patrol Boston’s beaches regularly, they could be called for special events and high-
volume weekends on an as-needed basis.

The job of a mounted trooper differs from that of a patrol trooper in more ways than the mode of transportation, said McCann.

“We’re at a much slower pace, so we have an opportunity to see a lot more things and process and evaluate them, whereas the troopers on the road may have to make much quicker snap decisions,” he said while sitting atop Scout, a 6-year-old Percheron thoroughbred that periodically interrupted McCann’s comments with its neighs. “It’s kind of a throwback to the old days.”

The Mounted Unit was an original unit of the State Police, which was founded in 1865. “Because there were no automobiles and there were no motorcycles, this was the patrol vehicle for every trooper on the job,” McCann said.

State Police spokesman David Procopio said that there is probably “no greener patrol unit” than the Mounted Unit.

“For such a large animal, they eat surprisingly little,” said McCann. “Their waste is biodegradable, good fertilizer. They are extremely easy on the environment. We can take them up to the beaches and they leave very little footprint, so it is a very green mode of transportation.”

Colin A. Young can be reached at colin.young@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ColinAYoung.

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