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Equine Field Service on the Beat for Clydesdale Cops

By: Sacha Adorno Date: Dec 5, 2018
The New Castle County Mounted Patrol Unit getting into the holiday spirit. From left, Officer Annone on Warden, Officer Nicholson on Diesel, Corporal Shughart on Spartan, Officer Lockett on Seahawk, Sergeant Henasey on Elvis, and Corporal Crum on Wrangler
The New Castle County Mounted Patrol Unit getting into the holiday spirit. From left, Officer Annone on Warden, Officer Nicholson on Diesel, Corporal Shughart on Spartan, Officer Lockett on Seahawk, Sergeant Henasey on Elvis, and Corporal Crum on Wrangler

Clydesdale cops Spartan and Julio help keep the peace in northern Delaware, so the horses’ massive bodies must always be up to the task. With their human riders, the equine officers police parks, neighborhoods, and community events as members of the New Castle County (NCC) Mounted Patrol Unit.  When recent eye issues bothered both horses, their sergeant called New Bolton Center’s Equine Field Service.

“Penn Vet is on call for us for emergencies and regular care,” said Sergeant James Henasey, who leads the unit. “We’ve worked with the Equine Field Service for a long time – their veterinarians are on our speed dial. They get to know all of our horses really well.”

New Bolton Center’s fully-equipped ambulatory practice make house — or “farm” — calls across the region, taking primary and emergency clinical care to horses where the animals live or work. Services offered include vaccinations, diagnostics like radiography, dynamic endoscopy, and ultrasound, lameness evaluations, preventative medicine check-ups, dental care, and routine surgery.  

“Where people bring dogs and cats to a facility for care, in the horse world that care often takes place on the farm,” said Dr. Meagan Smith, Assistant Professor of Clinical Equine Field Service and Chief of Equine Service. “It’s easier for owners and animals to have us go to them than it is to transport the animal to us. Generally, people travel to New Bolton Center for more specialized care, specific equipment, or more complicated surgery.”

Junior, Zeep, and Julio out on a trail ride during training.
Junior, Zeep, and Julio out on a trail ride during training.

Spartan and Julio are perfect examples of how the field service staff responds to a call. Both horses recently developed eye inflammation. Smith evaluated the horses at their stable and diagnosed uveitis, a condition that can cause blindness if left untreated.  

“It’s a little unusual for two horses on the same farm to develop the condition, especially in a breed that’s not typically predisposed to it,” she explained. “We know a portion of uveitis cases are related to the infection leptospirosis. But both horses tested negative for the bacteria. The cause for the uveitis, as it often can be, remains elusive. We did successfully treat the symptoms.”

Smith also consulted with Penn Vet Ophthalmologist Dr. Nicole Scherrer, one of the many New Bolton Center equine specialists Field Service staff can bring in on cases. Scherrer helped rule out a leptospirosis infection.

Today, Spartan and Julio are fully recovered — though Spartan wears a new accessory. The horse’s uniform now includes a sun visor to protect his eyes from recurring inflammation.

Beyond providing patient consultations for individual horses and in-real-time education to Penn Vet students, the Field Service’s four veterinarians — Dr. Smith, Dr. Liz Arbittier, Dr. Ashley Boyle, and Dr. Jenn Linton — have become a vital resource in other ways for the NCC Mounted Patrol.

“Our police aren’t usually horse people when they start on the unit, and they have a lot to learn about the animals before going out on patrol with them,” Henasey said about his six-person and 11-horses strong department. “I’ve gone up to New Bolton Center for free seminars about horse behavior and health. And when Dr. Smith and Dr. Boyle come down, they’ll help new officers understand horses and how to administer medications and provide basic care. They’re always available for questions and have really become an extension of our unit.”

Although horses from other mounted police units travel to New Bolton Center for specialized care, the NCC Mounted Patrol were the Field Service’s first law enforcement client. Just this year, the service welcomed its second: the Philadelphia Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit. Twice a year, Field Service veterinarians will travel to Philadelphia to provide wellness care for the equine members of Philly’s finest. 

“Working with horses in different disciplines is really interesting, and police horses are a special group!,” said Smith. “It’s great to be able to work with the officers who care so much about the health of their horse partners. These animals do an important community service, and we are proud to keep them healthy, well, and ready to serve.” 

At left, Corporal Shughart on Spartan and, at right, Sergeant Henasey on Elvis, celebrate Halloween with Padmé Amidala and Darth Vader.

About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 34,600 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.