Here’s one for trivia night: where will you find the oldest continuous Mounted Police Unit in the world?
If you answered New South Wales, Australia, you’d be right.
And that would mean you may have just been on the same tour that I have. A tour I’d recommend for those who love horses, police and / or history. If you love all three, you’ll really be in your element on this one.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the New South Wales Mounted Police, which was formed back on the 7th of September 1825 by Governor Brisbane.
For those thinking ‘but surely London was first? Or those Canadian Mounties?’, London’s Metropolitan Mounted Police came to life three years later in 1828 and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1863 (and watch out for you at Trivia Night with those fast facts).
Back in 1825 the unit was kept at the Belmore Barracks, but then a little structure called Central Railway Station had to be built there so they were forced to move.
In the early 1900s the NSW Mounted Police moved to Baptist Street, Redfern, just opposite what is now the Surry Hills Shopping Centre, and where they can still be found today.
For years I’d walked past the Mounted Police Unit’s home and wished I could peek behind those gates. Then one day I realised I could. In fact, anyone could. They offer free tours twice a week.
On Tuesdays and Thursday mornings, a guide takes curious folk like me through a small museum in the grounds, and then through the stables themselves to meet our heroes the horses.
As well as sharing interesting facts, like the way only black or bay horses can be part of the New South Wales force (no greys here, though you will see them in some other Australian states), we were able to watch the officers exercising their horses in the yard.
And then my favourite part… when they demonstrated how they arrest people.
I’ve often wondered how they caught the bad guys, and thought it may have been something along the lines of shouting “stop that!” and calling for back up. But no. It’s really quite clever.
After getting one of the other police officers to pretend to be doing a runner, they showed the two horse manoeuvre of going up on either side of him and using the horses in a pincer movement. They then grabbed the baddy’s arms and cuffed him. Yep, that would do it.
The Mounted Police work in pairs, but of course, there are times when they will get separated, perhaps if there’s two baddies running in opposite directions. So they also demonstrated how to do a single horse arrest.
That one involves using a wall, or a car, or a tree, or anything large and solid really, and sidestepping the horse up against the bad guy and holding him there. Again, something you really want to avoid in life.
At the moment, the NSW Mounted Police have 36 officers and approximately 38 horses. I’ll admit I was kind of hoping they might need someone to help exercise them, but unfortunately only members of the unit are allowed to saddle up.
But it was great to chat to the officers about their work, and their relationship with their horses. A relationship I loved having in my country days, and that I miss now that I live in an apartment in the big smoke.
Ah well… at least I can still see horses on the street, and hear them clip clopping past as I fall asleep at night. One of the many perks of living close by to this fascinating unit.
So how do I go meet the horses, I hear you ask? Easy…. the NSW Mounted Police Tours are held every Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10.30am.
The tours are free, but you need to book ahead by calling the museum on 02 9319 2154.
To find out more, the NSW Mounted Police website has lots of fascinating information.
Love horses? You may also want to check out the incredible Cavalia show and VIP tours of the stables.
Looking for more fun Sydney ideas? Check out my list of 20 great tours and things to do in Sydney for every budget.
Or you may want to try…