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‘Quirky’ cob gelding who excelled as a police horse retires aged 20

  • A “one of a kind” police horse, whose bravery was matched by his kindness and compassion towards the ill and elderly, has retired from duty aged 20.

    In 2012 cob gelding Parker went to Greater Manchester Police (GMP) on a five-year loan basis. When he returned to his owner in 2017, it was decided that domesticated life “was not for him” and he was given to the force.

    A GMP spokesman said although Parker was the smallest in the mounted unit at 16hh, he made up for this in his bravery and character.

    “From the start of his career it was obvious he was born to be a police horse and loved his job. He was an instant hit with all the officers and public alike due to his cheeky nature and eccentric squeal,” said the spokesman.

    “Parker has had an exceptional career being involved in most, if not all, of the notable events that have occurred within GMP over the past decade. He has served the city of Manchester for all the major football tournaments, Manchester derbies, homecoming parades and big Euro games. He has taken part in ‘ride safe’ campaigns and countless protests.”

    The spokesman said Parker chaperoned many new horses in training, and taught every new GMP mounted officer to ride during the last decade.

    “Parker is the most recognised horse on the unit, and the face and hooves of the unit,” he said.

    “He is full of character and charm. However, he is not without his quirks and is known among the officers as ‘Piggy’. He earned this title due to a particular noise he makes. If he is not in the mood for being groomed and wants to be left alone, or isn’t a fan of another horse, he will quickly let you know by squealing very loudly, which sounds just like a piglet.

    “His cheekiness doesn’t just stop with the officers and fellow horses, Parker has been known to steal chips from the forks of many a football fan when they have come too close bearing food. He also regularly likes to check people’s pockets for any forgotten sweets.”

    Officers had many memories of Parker, including his ‘great escapes’ from his stable to the hay barn, attempting to take his rider “swimming” in a lake, and when he ran away from a groom who was trying to bath him.

    “There are many Parker moments that all at the unit remember fondly,” said the spokesman.

    “Not only is Parker brave and able to confront any sort of disorder, he is also kind and empathetic to those who are more vulnerable or need some TLC. There have been many occasions where poorly children and adults have visited the unit. Parker is always the first horse to pop his nose over the stable door and give snuggles.

    “There have been occasions we have had visitors from The Christie (a cancer centre based in Manchester) or hospices turn up at feed time. Most horses would be more interested in their dinner. But Parker would leave his full bucket on the floor and walk over to be the most gentle, loving boy to frail and terminally ill people, every single time.”

    The spokesman said Parker had a “very special friendship” with a lady called Dorothy, who used to attend Old Trafford with her husband Dennis with carrots and Polos for Parker. When Dorothy was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a few years ago her husband arranged for her to visit the mounted unit.

    “When Dorothy arrived she was frail, tired and struggling. Parker was in the field and an officer asked the grooms if Parker could come in so that Dorothy could see him. Dorothy didn’t want to disrupt Parker’s day off and said she would attend the paddock herself, so an exception was made and Dorothy went and fed him carrots, sat with him, exhausted, but determined to see him and spend some time together,” said the spokesman.

    Dorothy and Dennis pictured with Parker

    The officer who had arranged the visit said she saw a “huge change” in Dorothy following the time with Parker.

    “She was totally different when she came away. She was happy and had some energy and spark that she hadn’t had when she first arrived,” she said.

    “Spending that time with Piggy meant so much to her. As much as Parker has done all the demonstrations, protests and footballs, and been the backbone of the unit for so long, I feel that is one of the most special things he has done”.

    The spokesman said Dorothy died around a month or so later, and Parker led her funeral procession.

    “Dennis had even brought mints and came over to feed him before the service. He hugged Parker and it was clear to see what it meant to have him there,” he said.

    “Dennis has continued to visit Parker since Dorothy died, both at Hough End and the football, and Parker has been a vital part of him coping without her. He may be the smallest horse on the unit, but he always makes the biggest impact. He’s one of a kind.”

    The spokesman added that the force would like to thank Parker for his “exceptional” service, and wish him a wonderful retirement at the Horse Trust.

    “Our cheeky, loving, steadfast, brave boy Parker. No quote rings more true than the words ‘horse of a lifetime’ when it comes to you. Not many horses have this kind of impact on people, but Piglet seems to and it is with a heavy heart that he will be said goodbye to, he is still as full of character as the first day he arrived,” said the spokesman.

    “There will never be another Parker, ever.”

    A Horse Trust spokesman said the charity is “honoured” to welcome Parker after his dedicated service.

    “We are thrilled he will be able to enjoy very happy and much deserved retirement with us,” said the spokesman.

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