It’s been over a century since the Vancouver Police Mounted Unit began patrolling the city. When not keeping watch over the 1000 acres and 125 miles of roads and trails in Stanley Park, you may spot officers on horseback throughout Vancouver.
In addition to the many community and ceremonial events they take part in, the Mounted Unit has taken on a much greater role in the management of crowds at demonstrations and large events.
Officers from the Unit offer guided tours of the stables and occasionally visit Vancouver-area schools.
There are nine horses of different breeds in the Unit, with draught horse crosses being the most successful, and they range in age four to 23. The stables are located in the service yards of Stanley Park near the Rose Gardens.
It was 1908 when the Vancouver Police Mounted Squad was first formed, with 11 officers and 12 horses. A year later, the first patrolman on horseback was assigned to patrol Stanley Park, a large, urban and heavily forested area now home to the Vancouver Aquarium, several restaurants and public recreation facilities.
The stables were at Cordova and Main, allowing easy access to other areas of the rapidly growing city. By 1911, the Squad was increased to 20 riders and a second stable was established close to the entrance of Stanley Park.
World War I placed heavy personnel demands on the police department, resulting in drastic cuts to the Mounted Squad, reduced to only two members by the end of 1916.
The 1920s and 1930s were a time of labour unrest, unemployment, demonstrations and riots, and the Mounted Squad began to rebuild. In 1939, they provided escort for the Royal Visit of King George V! and Queen Elizabeth on a Vancouver visit. By 1949, the Squad was disbanded after it was decided that it was no longer needed.
In 1951, the Squad was hastily and temporarily re-established in order to provide an escort for Princess Elizabeth and her husband Philip for their tour of Stanley Park.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Mounted Squad was again used in major crowd control situations, such as the Gastown Riot and numerous Grey Cup games.
Choosing and Training a VPD Horse
What makes a horse a potential VPD candidate?
- at least five years of age
- 16 hands high or better
- dark in colour
- of quiet disposition
Horses are brought in on a 60-day trial basis, during which the horse is subjected to nuisance training in the paddock, such as balloons, firecrackers, and obstacles. If the horse passes the tests, he is slowly introduced to the trails of Stanley Park, eventually moving to the more crowded areas, such as the Aquarium and the beaches.
If accepted, the horse is purchased and issued a badge number. A police officer is then assigned to complete the training of the new recruit.