Max, once an Amish cart horse in Pennsylvania, now roams the trails and canyons of the Irvine Open Space Preserve.
He is one of four horses in the Irvine Police Department’s mounted unit, founded in 2017 to help patrol the city’s 16,500 acres of open space.
“This is the greatest job,” says Patrol Officer Brad Boyer, atop his black Percheron draft horse in Bommer Canyon.
Beside him, Patrol Officer Kendra McLoud rides her quarter horse, Lucky, past swaths of wildflowers and sage, nodding and saying hello to hikers and bikers on the trail.
“Horses are our passion,” McLoud says. “Getting to mix our passion with our work, it’s the best combo.”
It also helps Irvine remain America’s safest city.
Horses are a perfect fit in Irvine, which, unlike most cities, has permanently preserved one-third of its land for parks, trails and open space.
The horses patrol areas that are difficult to cover by car – from canyons to parklands to hiking trails – ensuring public safety in a city known for its safety.
“People love animals,” says Sgt. Mike Meyers, who leads the mounted unit. “They want to know about these horses and come up and ask questions. Cops on horses are less intimidating, and people want to be a part of it.”
This connection between citizens and police plays a vital role in Irvine’s track record as America’s safest city for 13 straight years.
“They’re a good bridge,” adds McCloud, from the saddle. “Kids love them. Adults love them. Officers on horses are a lot more approachable.”
See for yourself
As McCloud and Boyer pass by the old Irvine Ranch Cattle Camp in Bommer Canyon – reins in hand, cowboy hats on head – it feels a lot like the Old West.
But they also attend public events like outdoor concerts, city festivals and the upcoming National Night Out, which gives residents a chance to meet the horses and riders.
The unit plays a crucial role in the Police Department’s mission to work “in partnership with the community.”
“This program draws people in,” Meyers says. “It lets them know that this is your Police Department and we are about serving you.”