LMPD Mounted Patrol a crucial part of Kentucky Derby security

"We on the mounted patrol look forward to this time of the year every year, because we're showcasing what our city has."
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 3:17 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kentucky Derby 148 will be an event fit for a crowd, and the Louisville Metro Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit is a group fit for Derby.

While the spectators set their sights on the racehorses, a different team of horses will set their sights on the spectators.

“We on the mounted patrol look forward to this time of the year every year, because we’re showcasing what our city has,” LMPD Officer Justin Hardy said.

Hardy is the man responsible for leading the charge. The officers, both four-legged and two-legged, are constantly training, partly at a private farm in Oldham County.

“We actually prepare for the first Saturday in May 365 days a year,” Hardy said.

With 12 years on the team, Hardy is the most experienced mounted officer, despite not being the unit’s commander. He’s in charge of guaranteeing that everyone is on the same page and that every horse is up to the task at hand. He teaches them how to gallop together, form proper formations, and handle large-scale events such as the Kentucky Derby, which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators.

“(Horses) are a naturally preyed-upon animal in the wild,” Hardy said. “So when you take a horse and you put it in an element such as traffic, a lot of people, large-scaled events, we have to tailor them to be able to handle that. So even though it’s Derby, they’ll just think it’s another day at the office.”

Despite the pressures to perform, riding in the Mounted Unit is not like regular police work. It’s naturally social, allowing human officers to form genuine connections with the people they serve.

Sgt. Brandon Savage, the unit’s commander, said it’s been a life-changing adjustment. After nearly 16 years on patrol, Savage was promoted to the job less than a year ago.

“To put smiles on people’s faces, to see people come up and pet a horse for the first time, to break down those barriers between citizens and the police department,” Savage said. “After 16 years of seeing the total opposite of that it’s been real refreshing for me. It’s just fun to come to work every day.”

This portion of the department gets a bird’s-eye perspective of police activity and plays a critical role for the department during some of Louisville’s most spectacular events.

“To have seen Mounted Patrol in years past and wish that I was the one riding the horse in the (Pegasus) Parade or at Oaks or at Derby, and just feel what everybody else has gotten to feel over the years that go out to those events and experience what Derby is in Kentucky,” Savage said.

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