Monday, June 8, 2009

Orlando Police Department Mounted Unit

Karen Cali is a volunteer for the OPD mounted unit. Volunteers have to pass a horse riding test, a lie detector test, and a background check before being allowed to train the horses. She allowed me to sketch her as she got ready to take Peanut out for a training ride. Security at the barn is tight. Peanut came to Orlando from the police horse breeding program at Angola Prison Farm in Louisiana. Peanut has a brand that reads L267. The police horses are huge. When KC rode out to the dressage area, she showed me an obstacle course which is used to get the horses used to objects in the urban environment. She rode Peanut around newspaper boxes, tires, garbage cans, over mattresses, a narrow foot bridge, and near a 4 foot alligator from a parade float. KC rode him up and over a seesaw, then just like a football lineman Peanut pushed a huge sled forward with his powerful chest. The horses also receive training in tolerating fireworks and gunfire at close proximity.
I sat on a park bench beside the riding area and watched as Karen effortlessly cantered Peanut around the dirt field. I took the time to apply more washes to this sketch and I was surprised when all the horses who had been eating grass became curious and wandered over to look at what I was doing. A small crowd of horses surrounded me. Karen said this was very odd since the horses typically ignore people when working and might be slightly more curious when loose, but they were very interested in me. Even Denise an old time veteran and the units groom in the barn was surprised. He claimed I might be something of a horse whisperer. I think the horses just like to see equestrian art.
KC said that the city of Orlando may be considering selling off the plot of land next to the Citrus Bowl that the Mounted Unit barn is located on. Several plans have been put forth before with no results. With tightening city budgets the entire future of the mounted unit may be at stake.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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