The United States Park Police (USPP) Horse Mounted Patrol recently presented an Award of Excellence to Virginia Tech's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center “for the truly exceptional veterinary services received from this nationally-recognized equine health care facility.”
The award further states that, “for decades, this premier equine hospital has provided both intensive and critical equine health care services for the U.S. Park Police horses.”
As a dedicated agency within the U.S. Department of Interior's National Park Service, the USPP Horse Mounted Patrol (HMP) is one of the oldest law enforcement equestrian units in the country. Initially established with just one rented horse in 1934, the purpose and mission of the mounted patrol has expanded from patrolling local equestrian trails to performing high-level security details for presidential inaugurations, escorting foreign dignitaries during diplomatic events, and providing crowd control during demonstrations that involve thousands of participants.
The fully-staffed HMP also maintains a visible daily presence in the nation's capital, protecting monuments on the National Mall and patrolling Rock Creek Park’s 1,700 acres.
“It takes a lot of support — both from individuals and from entities — to keep a horse mounted patrol such as ours running effectively,” said Officer Barbara M. Blendy, who has served in the HMP for more than 15 years. “We simply cannot afford to have horses that are not healthy and happy. The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center has been a major contributor to the well-being of our horses and, subsequently, to the success of the unit.”
In conjunction with her service as a patrolling mounted officer, Blendy was an instructor for six years at the U.S. Park Police Edgewater Horse Training Facility in Washington, D.C. There, she and other instructors provided training for mounted units from the U.S. Army, Secret Service, the U.S. Capitol Police, and other mounted units from across the country.
“I recall two specific occasions from my time as an instructor when veterinarians at the [equine medical center] saved our horses,” Blendy said. “Each time, there was a horse at risk of being euthanized, based on prior recommendations. When I arrived at the center's facility in Leesburg, the veterinarian there diagnosed the situation and recommended surgery rather than euthanasia. After a relatively short recuperation time, each horse was able to return to the unit and continue its duties in excellent health.”
Blendy noted that the police horses are very popular with children and families. The U.S. Park Police makes every effort to take advantage of this popularity by participating in several community outreach programs, particularly with the recuperating wounded warriors and their families living on campus at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The equine medical center is acutely aware of the unique service provided by the USPP. “While every equine patient we treat here is extremely important to us, the horses that serve the public in this way are very special,” said Dr. Nat White, Jean Ellen Shehan Professor and director of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. “These are magnificent animals, and they provide a very valuable service in their work. It's an honor to treat them.”
Amy Troppmann, director of development for the center, accepted the award on behalf of the center. Troppmann has spent the last two years as a volunteer with the USPP Horse Mounted Patrol, assisting with stall duty and barn management at the Rock Creek Park stables, which are located just a few miles north of the Edgewater training facility.
“We are extremely grateful for Amy's weekly visits to the barn,” said Blendy. “It’s not an exaggeration to state that her assistance is invaluable. She really represents the same caliber of care and professionalism that we continually experience with the team at the [equine medical center].”