Above, Lyndon and Duke may have four feet but their noses are to the grindstone as they help keep Texas State University students safe. Left, Duke and Texas State Police Department Cpl. Haley McClaren.
Photos provided by TXST University Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit
Above, Texas State Police Department Cpl. Aleysha Ortiz and Lyndon. Duke and Lyndon with Cpls. McClaren and Ortiz. Photos provided by TXST University Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit San Marcos Daily Record Print - 5.417' x 10.5 full color
Texas State welcomes new mounted patrol units
The Texas State Police Department has two new staff members; Lyndon and Duke are covered in fur, have hooves and if students break the rules they might protest with a “neighhhhh.” Horse patrol, also known as mounted patrol, will be added to the department’s daily rounds and will be spearheaded by Cpl. Aleysha Ortiz and Cpl. Haley McClaran.
“It’s a lot of work,” Ortiz said. “Building a program from the ground up.”
So far, the horses have only been on campus for a few hours to get them used to crowds. Ortiz said Lyndon and Duke have attended a few university events to desensitize them, including the homecoming football game. She said they were a bit nervous during the cannon but did well overall. Part of the training the horses are receiving teaches them to stay in place when they are frightened so that they don’t run off with the officers on top of them. Lyndon and Duke also did a meet and greet in the quad with the students on Nov. 8.
“All of the students during class change would come up and take selfies with them and talk to us,” Ortiz said.
The horses are currently completing training at the Mounted Patrol International LLC in Manor. Ortiz said the training time is different depending on the horse and when it reaches its training goals. Duke is ten years old and Lyndon is four years old, but McClaran said that the horses' personalities play more of a factor in their training than their ages.
“You would think mine [Duke] would be a lot more relaxed,” McClaran said. “He’s 10 and he acts like he’s never walked outside before when he’s somewhere new. … Her’s [Lyndon]– he’s cool. He does not care. He’s a veteran. He wasn’t nervous at all.” She added that despite their large stature, the horses are more fearful of people than the other way around.
Once the horses complete training, Ortiz and McClaran will also have to finish training, which will be a week and requires a passing grade at the end. When the official patrol begins, Ortiz said a typical day will start by feeding and giving water to the horses before bringing them from Freeman Ranch to Texas State via trailer. When the horses get to campus the corporals will warm them up before starting patrol. The majority of patrol time will be spent in the quad and the area near Alkek Library where the largest concentration of students will be. She added that this would be difficult terrain for a police vehicle with all of the stairs on the campus.
Ortiz said approximately a year ago, Chief Matthew Carmichael said they were looking for officers that would be interested in mounted patrol, and Ortiz saw it as a way to break down barriers between officers and the students.
“I like communicating … with the students,” Ortiz said, noting that many people are now avoidant of police. “I think this will be a huge way to get that communication back.”
McClaran agreed and said that people are more intimidated by officers in uniform but horses provide a comforting factor to the encounters.
“We’re talking to so many people just the few times they’ve been here already. It’s hours of people coming up to us not being afraid,” McClaran said. “It usually takes time [until] they’re like, ‘oh, y'all aren’t that bad.’ But that’s an immediate thing. It just makes it easier to talk to people.”
McClaran was also interested in joining mounted patrol because she was no stranger to horseback riding.
“When I was younger, I raised horses,” McClaran said. “Once I went to school and became an adult, that kind of went away. It’s been about five years. It’s crazy how it makes a full circle around, and now I’m getting paid to do what I used to do for fun.”
Ortiz, who is short in stature, joked that she was also excited to be able to see what is “up there,” since her views are usually limited to things you can see from a lower angle.
'I get to see what everyone else is seeing,” Ortiz said, with a giggle.
If students are interested in signing up for the student worker position– Student Scoopers–with the mounted patrol go to this link txstate.joinhandshake. com/jobs/8430976/ share_preview. Follow the Texas State University Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit on instagram @ txst_mpu for updates to see where Lyndon and Duke will be.