Saturday, April 1, 2023

VIDEO >> Oxford Mounted Patrol Undergoes Training

Oxford Mounted Patrol (OMP) hosted the National Mounted Patrol, Inc. this past week. Bill Richey, founder and CEO of the organization, trained the OMP by teaching the unit to work together through dire situations such as loud noises, unfamiliar objects and limited space. This training began last Tuesday and Richey will leave Oxford tomorrow.
The training sessions took place in late afternoon at Nancy Dabney’s residence. Dabney is the treasurer at Friends of Mounted Patrol, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for the OMP. This year Friends of Mounted Patrol were able to obtain Richey’s services for a week-long training for OMP in preparation for the football season.
Officer David Misenhelter said, “We are definitely ready for the football season. The horses will be more familiar with loud, unexpected noises during the games and at the Square post-games.”
The training wasn’t only for the Mounted Patrol. It was open to interested citizens, too. One of those civilians is Tanya Thweatt who competes with her quarter horse, Dakota, in barrel-racing tournaments in the north Mississippi area.
Thweatt said, “I wanted Dakota to be used to the crowds and some sounds during these tournaments.”

Dakota waits outside the OMP stables pre-training.
Dakota waits outside the OMP stables pre-training.

Dakota, a short brown quarter horse, wore an bridle emblazoned “Kudzu Klassic Open Barrel Racing 3-D Second Place.” Her mane was styled in a row of ponytails. During the training she shied away from a grey tarp on the ground. She did not like the crinkling sensation and avoided it despite Thweatt’s urging. Richey walked over and instructed Thweatt to keep pushing Dakota to face her fear of the tarp by walking through it as much as possible until she was able to walk on the tarp finally. At the end of the training Dakota walked through the tarp and passed between two large orange traffic barrels with a learned ease.
Richey watched Dakota’s success with a ready eye. He said, “You have to keep pushing them until they learn to face it. It’s not rocket science, y’all.”
Dabney, who watched the training in her backyard, chuckled and said, “Well it’s not rocket science to you.”
Richey prepares for the training with police sirens in hand.
Richey prepares for the training with police sirens in hand.

Richey has a vision in his training: the connection between the horse and its rider. He said, “I first teach the riders about what spooks the horses and how to understand that. Horse vision is not like human vision at all, so it’s not about them being spooked but rather what spooked them. Once the rider understands this we can train the horse to go past its fears.”
Richey has had “33 years of experience of serving on mounted patrol for Mardi Gras parades,” by his estimate. He believes the mounted patrol is effective in crowd control by being more approachable to civilians than a patrol car as well as increased vision and speediness by the riding officers.
Richey said, “I believe with what happened in Ferguson that the police should have used the mounted patrol. I know St. Louis has a mounted patrol unit and that should have been effective in crowd control. The mounted patrol pays for itself because they prevent damage that would’ve resulted in costly processing on both sides.”
Officer Misenhelter strapped up his horse Reggie, the 12 year old quarter horse and self-appointed leader of the mounted patrol steeds, this past Saturday late afternoon. Reggie was tolerant of the heat but he disliked walking across the old mattress Richey placed in the obstacle course. Richey explained that Reggie, like Dakota, had to learn to confront his discomfort.
Richey said, “I don’t believe in giving treats to horses immediately after doing an action. This training is to get horses to where they expect the obstacle and not be discomforted by it.”
Reggie eventually stepped on the old mattress then continued through the rest of the obstacles amid balloons, waving tarps and orange smoke bombs. A retired Crown Victoria blasted its sirens as Richey’s 10 year old German Sheperd “PPD” barked at the horses from the car’s windows. A handful of people came out to volunteer as a drunken crowd or to watch the mounted patrol go through the obstacle courses.
OMP face the orange smoke.
OMP face the orange smoke.

Richey explained his process as increasing the obstacles the horses do not like in order for them to ultimately become accustomed to the unpredictability of crowds at the football games, town festivities and the Square at night. He said, “If I got a horse to cross the bridge, that’s good but then I’ll bring out a car with sirens to see if it can cross the bridge with that distraction. If he did then out comes the smoke bombs. After that I’ll keep it going until the horse can get through it all.”
Officer Misenhelter was happy to have Richey help the mounted patrol and civilians train their horses. Officer Misenhelter said, “I feel the mounted patrol’s luck has snowballed. There were generous people who gave us a lot of opportunities and here we are in Oxford being recognized.”
To help the OMP, one can contact Friends of Mounted Patrol. The nonprofit can accept monetary donations. The mounted patrol will be at the games and the Square this fall.
Callie Daniels is a reporter for Shoot her an email at for questions, feedback and/or story ideas.