South Australia’s police horses to be honored

Early mounted police in South Australia.
Early mounted police in South Australia. © SA Police Historical Society

Police horses in South Australia will be saluted for their service to the community next week in a special celebration.

Some 881 Police Horses who served the South Australian community over the last 175 years will be honored at A Celebration of the Police Horse on Wednesday, May 29. It is believed to be the first event of its kind ever held in Australia.

MC E.P. Ridge at Old Police Barracks, January 1917.
MC E.P. Ridge at Old Police Barracks, January 1917. © SA Police Historical Society

Horse SA has partnered with the South Australian Police to stage a re-enactment of an old photo (above) taken in front of the original barracks, located behind the Museum on North Terrace.

Starting at 1pm, the free event is open to the public as part of the About Time History Festival.

Police Mare Jade will be recognised as the oldest current serving police horse, with 26 years continuous service.

Poet Max Merckenschlager will recite an original poem about Police Mare Ariel, who was never broken in, but foaled 12 horses, all of whom went into public service.

Past and current serving Officers of the South Australian Police Mounted Operations Unit have been invited to attend.

The South Australian Police Force was established just 16 months after the proclamation of the colony.

Mounted Police were drafted to various parts of the colony under the command of Inspectors, who resided in their Divisions. Outstations were formed in the larger centres of population and the Constables were supplied with one or more horses or camels, depending upon the location of the outpost.

The Mounted Police were considered to be the elite branch of the Force, and its members were officially designated ‘Police Troopers’. This distinction led to friction with the Foot Police so in June 1880, the title was discontinued and members were known as “Mounted Constable” or “Foot Constable”.

Mounted Police were drilled in the simplest cavalry movements to enable them to work together in emergencies, and on such occasions discarded the sword and carried batons and revolvers. Handcuffs were carried in a saddle pouch.

When on bush patrol, the uniform was sometimes replaced by more practical bush dress, and broad brimmed hats were worn. Each man was expected to shoe his own horse whilst on patrol, and severe disciplinary action was taken against men who did not pay strict attention to the well-being of their mount. During long, arduous patrols through remote areas, the Mounted Police traversed territory never before seen by Europeans, and were the unsung explorers of much of South Australia and the Northern Territory.

A commemorative program will be available for download from

© SA Police Historical Society
© SA Police Historical Society

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