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Stable setting

Tampa police horses get partial care at city stables, a practice that will continue after a barn is built in the country.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 22, 2002


Randy, Rough Rider and Dartanion have the best of both worlds.

Half of the week, they play in the country. The rest of the time, they work in the city.

As members of the Tampa Police Department's mounted patrol unit, the horses split their time between Hunter Oaks Stable in Ballast Point and city-owned land near Thonotosassa.

The arrangement began about seven years ago and works well for both parties. The police get good facilities to board their horses. The stable gets around-the-clock security.

"It's a nice, convenient spot for us," said Officer Dale Frix, a member of the mounted patrol unit for 11/2 years. "We can walk downtown."

The department keeps about three of its seven horses at Hunter Oaks at any given time. On work days, they patrol downtown, the Channel District and Ybor City. On off days, they go to the country to rest for their next assignment.

Officers say the urban quarters reduce the time spent transporting their equine partners. They also like the location across the street from Ballast Point park, where officers give demonstrations to community groups.

Cpl. Mike Morrow, who heads the mounted patrol unit, said the department will continue using the stable even after the city builds a barn on its land off McIntosh Road. The city recently set aside about 30 acres for the mounted patrol and canine units.

Police have raised about $70,000 for the barn, including $11,000 from the Ybor City Rotary Club. They need $80,000 more to start construction.

The department plans to build a 140-by-40-foot barn for up to 10 horses and 12 dogs. Officers will use the rest of the land for grazing and training.

Morrow said having their own site will help officers acclimate the animals to the sights and sounds of patrolling in the city. They will set up obstacles, simulate crime scenes and blast gunfire -- things they can't do at a busy, public stable.

Hunter Oaks offers riding lessons, horse training and boarding. Manager Jimmy Rivett leases the land from the adjacent Tampa Bay Yacht Club, but riders don't have to be members.

A Ballast Point institution, the stable is one of the few located in the middle of a city. The main barn dates back nearly 50 years, although the stable has trophies from the 1920s. Riding instructor Trish Vogel calls it an oasis.

The location on Interbay Boulevard poses unique challenges. Horses must have a calm disposition to handle the sporadic sounds of cars, boats and people. Limited space prohibits trail riding.

"It's kind of an unusual setting for horses," Rivett said. "On weekends, you get people having picnics across the street and people starting up their boats."

The stable attends several shows throughout the state every year. It also hosts a benefit event for the Children's Cancer Center.

On March 30, proceeds from the American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium will go toward the police department mounted patrol. For information on the annual, horse jumping event, call toll-free 1-800-237-8924.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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