Horses sometimes are assigned to concerts, where crowd control is most important. McCann and Linquata said a horse can motivate a large group of people much better than any other vehicle in the fleet.
“For crowd control, there’s no better piece of equipment,” Linquata said. “One horse can do the work of 20 troopers. They can move so many people.”
During the winter, all the horses are stabled at Acton, where the six year-round troopers, including McCann, work to keep up the stable, paddock and gear. The troopers are responsible for the care and upkeep of the animals.
McCann did not have any real experience with horses when he first volunteered for the mounted unit. In fact, he said, he had only ridden a horse maybe twice before. He volunteered because the unit was close to where he lived at the time on the South Coast.
But over those 14 years, he realized he wouldn’t be anywhere else. He said the troopers form bonds with the horses, similar to police K9 units. But it’s a different relationship that often runs one-way because unlike the K9 units, the horses don’t feel a dog-like sense of dedication or adoration toward people. “The horse couldn’t care whether you’re gone 12 minutes or 12 days,” McCann said.
The mounted unit is a holdover from the days when horses were the only mode of transportation, Linquata said. As cars and motorcycles became more popular, the State Police felt the horses were still useful because of several advantages, like crowd control or searches for missing people in wooded areas outside the cities or in Western Massachusetts.
McCann said maintaining the mounted unit is more than a hearts-and-minds gesture. It’s a source of pride. “It’s a tradition in a very tradition-oriented organization,” he said.