Oxford’s Mounted Police division has become a staple in the city’s brand while actively protecting the community, and it involves a lot of work.
Memphis native David Misenhelter heads the group working long shifts and late nights that involve horse health and stable management, training, and patrol. With the help of volunteers and the Ole Miss Equestrian Club, he cares for the horses. Volunteers regularly exercise the horses.
Taking care of the horses involves feeding, watering, and brushing daily. Stable management is also one of the not-so-glamorous parts of the job. Cleaning the stalls, replenishing fresh hay and water, and organizing the tack room are essential to making the Mounted Police an efficient operation.
Misenhelter conducts training sessions when a new horse joins the group. Because this job demands well-behaved horses, they must complete courses in which they are strategically placed around certain things they may encounter on duty.
Horses are easily spooked, so they must get used to loud noises, bright lights, and big crowds. “One can never know exactly how a horse will act until they are taken out on the job,” Misenhelter said. The more time they spend in public, the more comfortable they become.
While he does some office work during the week at the station, Misenhelter’s typical schedule is heavily concentrated on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights on the Square. After horses are fed and groomed, Misenhelter saddles up and leaves for the Square around 6 p.m.
As the Mounted PD arrives, they make a couple of rounds on major streets before stopping at the most crowded part of town. The horses provide a sense of security and authoritative presence amidst the chaotic crowds. Misenhelter said the horses are an effective method of transportation around town. Since Oxford has many one-way streets and alleys, horses can navigate them more easily than cars.
Though they do not hunt or chase down criminals, the Mounted PD maintains peace around the Square. Misenhelter and fellow officers must occasionally attend to people causing a public disturbance. Officers must be careful not to let any harm come to the horses.
“Sometimes we have to keep the horses away from the public because people will try to mess with them,” he said.
When people are respectful, they giddily approach the horses to greet, pet, and take pictures with them. Misenhelter said that’s his favorite part of the job – “seeing people interact with the horses and their positive reactions.”
The Mounted PD is also involved with social events like parades and festivals. They appear in the annual Oxford Christmas parade and the Ole Miss homecoming parade. They recently traveled to New Orleans to provide security for Mardi Gras weekend.
Tony Carleton, a fellow Oxford Mounted Police officer, said: “It is so unique to find an officer with his [Misenhelter’s] dedication to the mounted unit,” he said. “It’s nice to find someone with that passion to represent not only the Mounted Unit but also the city of Oxford.”
Misenhelter and his team serve locals and visitors offering a friendly and trustworthy community presence. He said the job is “dangerous, but fun,” and its purpose is to serve and protect. He said everyone can positively serve and impact in their daily lives.