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Calgary Police Service Horse heads for greener pastures after an accomplished career

After a 13-year gig as a Police Service Horse, PSH Kelsey retired his cavalry saddle pads this week.

Kelsey, approaching his 20th birthday (May), will be spending his retirement happily grazing in a large pasture belonging to a Calgary Police Service member.

This retired gelding will retire among a band of mares, which is new for him. The Calgary Police Service Mounted Unit only trains geldings (males) for policing.

Kelsey was the last of the Mounted Unit’s hard-working purebred Canadians.

This is a rare breed of horse that typically stands at 14 – 16hh (hands high). At 16hh, he’s on the larger end for his breed.

“This is a real tough breed with strong joints, thick legs, and a hardy coat for Canadian winters. They were bred to live in Canada,” Mounted Unit Constable Tory Fassnidge said.

Const. Fassnidge said that Kelsey hadn’t been assigned a rider in the last few months as he prepared for his big retirement.

The CPS Mounted Unit – A brief history

Kelsey, with Const. Fassnidge. COURTESY CPS.

There are five horses in the Calgary Police Service Mounted Unit, and it operates out of a stable near the airport. The first recorded mention of the CPS steeds is back in 1910, according to their website, and they operated until 1939. The unit started back up in 1979 and went through a transformation once again in 2016.

The units support all eight CPS Districts in Calgary. They provide routine patrols in different urban environments: residential, commercial and industrial.

The unit is especially adept at reaching difficult terrain like riverbanks, secluded parks and pathways – anywhere a vehicle or mountain bike can’t go.  The CPS Mounted Units are also used in missing persons or search and rescue efforts and for crowd control at large events.

The horses also continue a regular public relations and ceremonial role for the Calgary police.

The Canadian breed almost extinct, says trainer

Kelsey’s civilian equine trainer, Robin Koltusky, also knows him and his breed well.

“They are extinct, almost. Canadians are becoming more and more rare. If we could find another big gelding like him, we would, because he does the job so well,” she said.

Koltusky added that another term for the Canadian breed is “Little Iron Horse” because they’re so well-known for their strength and abilities.

Since 2016, the Mounted Unit has named its horses after Canadian-fought battles. Kelsey is the second last of the horses to have a non-battle name. Maverick, a little Alberta Quarter Horse with a big attitude, is officially the only remaining one.

All of the Mounted Unit’s remaining equine “officers” are a mix of heavier types of draft horses. That includes Clydesdales, an Andalusian-Belgian cross, and thoroughbred Percherons.

Being unique in breed didn’t stop Kelsey from making friends during his time on the force. His best friend is his ex-herd mate, Vimy, who is also his bigger buddy.

Kelsey has a lot of human friends as well, and he loves to share gala apples with them.

In training, Kelsey enjoyed gaming and competitive racing, though his favourite of all was the search-and-rescue activities.

Though he enjoys rural terrain and has a fun and willing attitude, he also enjoyed his urban outings, particularly for public relations purposes.

“He likes to keep moving. He likes to be forward and tackle obstacles: he would go over bridges, clear water – really anything,” said Koltusky.

Constable Fassnidge said that because Kelsey is so talented at navigating all kinds of terrain, he has been involved with most high-profile search-and-rescues. That included the 2019 search for the Jasmine Lovett and Aliyah Sanderson.