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Losing Police Horses Is Tough Adjustment For NJ Cops

Losing Police Horses Is Tough Adjustment For NJ Cops

The motto of the Newark Mount Police Department located in the entrance at the Newark stables. The department dates back to 1891. (Newark Mounted Police Photo)

The Star-Leger via YellowBrix

January 11, 2011

NEWARK — Mario Nodari, the 80-year-old farrier for the Newark Mounted Police, was getting Bold Ruler ready for transport. In his dusty work stall, with an anvil on the floor and a workboard of hammers both antique in age and ancient in design, Nodari gently bent back each of the horse’s legs, and pried off the shoes.

“When they’re out of duty, I have to pull the shoes and trim his feet,” Nodari said. “You can’t ship them with shoes, because if they kick the trailer, they do too much damage.”

The fact Nodari says “feet” rather than “hooves,” is an example of the how police horses, like police dogs, are seen as partners by the people who work with them, which is why these are sad times at Newark Mounted Police stables.

Because of budget cuts, the mounted patrol was suspended in the fall, and was scheduled to be disbanded at the end of January.

Five of Newark’s 18 horses have already been shipped to a farm in Allentown. There are empty stalls where "Chief"’ “Captain” and “Billy Club” once lived. Their names, painted into the Newark Mounted logo, remain, as if, someday, they might return.

Another four will be going to Philadelphia this week, where the mounted police unit is being revived six years after budget cuts did it in.

Of the 16 mounted officers, fourteen have been re-assigned to squad cars and other patrol duties.

“I feel bad for these kids,” Nodari said. “They love these horses, and they love their job.”

Garry McCarthy, the Newark police director, wants to save the proud, 120-year-old traditional unit, or at least part of it.

“We’re looking for ways to fund it,” he said Monday, before a meeting with Mayor Cory Booker.

“I spend about a quarter of my time raising money,” Booker said. “And when we talked about what to do with some potential, philanthropic funding, the police director said he wanted to use it for the mounted unit.”

Philadelphia has done just that. About $100,000 has been raised, with Comcast Corp., 7-Eleven Inc., and Verizon Wireless donated a total of $50,000.

Nodari says Newark’s horses and the stables are too good to dismantle. The mounts are former standard-bred racehorses. He pointed to Black Jack as an example.

“This horse won a race at the Meadowlands. He ran the track in 1:53.4,” he said. “But had to retire with a hindquarter injury, but he took to the street, no problem.”

As for Newark’s facility, “there is no better place,” Nodari said. This is a worthy opinion. Nodari is a third-generation blacksmith and farrier, who had a shop at Garden State Racetrack in Cherry Hill and the Meadowlands. He’s done work for NYPD, and been with the Newark Mounted Police for 45 years.

Newark’s police stables are in a large corrugated metal building between Orange Street and NJ Transit train tracks leading into Broad Street station. Outside, is a life-size horse statue. Inside, is an exercise ring for horses, with a sprinkler system to keep dust down, a tack room and Nodari’s shop.

A century’s worth of photographs on the “Wall of Honor, Est. 1891,” is evidence horses far pre-date squad cars and motorcycles in public peacekeeping.

On that wall are pictures of officers and mounts, long gone. There are grainy black-and-whites of parade details and other formations, some pictures show children petting police steeds. There are many from days when mounted police wore hats, not helmets. And while police uniforms changed over the years, the design of the blue saddle blankets with gold NPD lettering did not.

The tack room holds the saddles and stirrups and bridles, and each officers’ helmet and riding boots and gloves. It is a place of hardened leather, brass fasteners and a tradition as durable as both. Whether it can endure still, remains to be seen.


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