CLARK AB, Philippines — The only existing horse patrol in the United States Air Force is located here at Clark AB, and though the program has been in existence since 1958, it's not covered by any military job description or regulation.
Staff Sgt. Robert Thompson, noncommissioned officer in charge of the 3rd Security Police Mounted Patrol, is in charge of the only training program in the United States Air Force that teaches man and horse to work together as a team.
"We are always upgrading our program in accordance to our needs," said Thompson. "Right now we are in the process of adding an extra week to include jumping, for example, because many times when we are in pursuit of an individual there will be a ditch or a bush in the way. In the past, because horse and rider were not trained in jumping, they would have to go around the obstacle and lose valuable time."
Thompson says, "We are never short of volunteers. Our people all come from either the law enforcement or security police fields. Because of our high visibility and the small number of individuals needed, we are very selective. All are volunteers, with top performance reports, and come well recommended."
"Our first consideration in matching a rider and horse together," said Thompson, "is weight. Then during the course we watch to see if the horse and rider match in personality. If they don't, we try with another horse that can handle the individuals weight."
"We have a little private joke that we pull on the students during the training phase," said Thompson. "For bareback riding the student must jump up on the horse from the side. We have one really big horse that stands about 16 and a half hands (about five and a half feet), which is the way they measure the height of horses. During a course we collect a dollar from each student that falls off a horse. Very few of the students can jump up on this horse without falling off, so at the end of the course we have a pretty good party."
"Since our horses may be exposed to any type of situation from gun shots to screaming kids, both the rider and horse must be ready. It's important that the rider knows how his horse will react, and that the horse has trust in the direction of his rider. This is another reason we keep the rider and horse together," said Thompson.
Thompson also said that night riding is an important part of the course. "We get our horses from the riding stables, and most of• them are not used to riding during the night.
"By the time we are through, both horse and rider are ready for any possible working condition that might come up."
"It's sometimes funny to see them get off the horse, so sore in the bottom that they walk funny, but they don't seem to give up. At the end (of the course) both the horses and the riders feel a bit higher than their counterparts," said Thompson. "It's strange to see the horses in the same field with the riding horses from the stables. Our police horses won't even associate with the stable horses. They will stay in their own separate groups, and our riders, well, they share a common interest that they don't have with the rest of the squadron, so they tend to be closer together, too."