first published in the June 2019 Equiery
by Katherine O. Rizzo
Janet Pflaum of La Plata and her daughter Amie had just gotten back from Virginia Equine Imaging where they had received some disappointing news about their seven-year-old Oldenburg gelding Grand Adventure. “Guy” had been Amie’s Pony Club mount for three years and was having soundness issues. The scans from VEI revealed low-grade micro fractures in both his hocks and the recommendation from Dr. Kent Allen and VEI was that Guy should be retired from jumping.
“If Amie had wanted to do just dressage, we would have kept Guy,” Pflaum said. “It was best for him to not jump anymore and we wanted to do right by him.” While flipping through the April 2000 issue of The Equiery, Pflaum spotted an ad from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Division, Special Operations Section, in search of new police horses.
“The ad said they were looking for geldings that were 16 hands or higher and at least four years old,” Pflaum remembered. “It went on to say that a horse with basic training was preferred but not necessary. I called right away and spoke with Officer Rick Pelicano.”
Nineteen years later, a happy and sound Guy officially retired from the police force.
A Pony Club Beginning
Guy joined the Pflaum family in 1997 when he was just four years old. A registered Oldenburg, Guy was Amie’s first horse after graduating from ponies. “He has a huge personality and we learned quickly that he could be quirky,” Pflaum explained that Guy sometimes just took off across the fields. Amie and Guy eventually formed a partnership and competed in many Pony Club rallies as members of De La Brooke Pony Club. They showed in classical dressage through Potomac Valley Dressage Association. “Amie was a C2 and they competed together primarily in dressage and show jumping in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia,” Pflaum added.
Amie was also young at the time and Pflaum said they learned a great deal from each other. “Amie’s early love of horses helped influence her future,” Pflaum said. Amie enlisted in the U.S. Army, attending ROTC at Wake Forest University before heading abroad on various tours of duty. “Currently she is a fourth year veterinary student at North Carolina State University. Upon graduation next May, she will finish her career in the U.S. Army as a doctor in the Veterinary Corps.”
Becoming a Police Horse
Guy was first accepted into the M-NCPPC special mounted unit on a 60-day trial. During the trial the then head training officer Captain (retired) Rick Pelicano worked with Guy in ring exercises, teaching him patrol skills, and basic obstacle work. His initial report showed that Guy excelled in the equitation skills but was very afraid of flares, smoke and fireworks.
With that in mind, the Unit decided to take Guy on and teach him the ropes of being a police horse. Guy quickly found his stride and settled into police horse life. “He really is a happy-go-lucky type of horse,” said Corporal Megan Lau. Lau had just started with the unit around the same time as Guy’s donation and is now the Unit’s lead mounted training officer for horses and riders. “He’s so laid back but walks on a mission,” she added.
Over the next 19 years, Guy became the “go to” horse for new riders and new horses. “His greatest value is that he is the steadiest horse in the Unit and a great baby sitter to people and other horses,” Lau said. This steadiness is what made Guy such a perfect police mount.
The initial spookiness around flares and smoke turned out to only be an issue during training sessions at the barn. “Anything in ‘his’ ring that shouldn’t be there is not cool with Guy,” said M-NCPPC barn manager Heather Dunkin. “But out on the roads, he is just fine with all of it.”
Guy served the Unit in all aspects of a police horse. He would go to downtown Silver Spring, patrol the Lake Forest Mall parking lot during the holidays, and was effective at crowd control after University of Maryland College Park football games. “One of his bigger missions downtown in DC was during the McPherson Square occupancy,” said Pelicano. “There was a lot of commotion but Guy basically fell asleep while standing at his post.”
Guy’s ability to stand perfectly still, relaxed and with ears practically flopping caused many officers in the Unit to joke that he was narcoleptic. “You’d park him and he’d fall asleep,” said Pelicano.
Guy also worked every Presidential Inauguration during his time with the Unit and attended Washington International Horse Show as part of the Color Guard each year. “Guy was truly versatile,” said Lau. “His ability to transition from one environment to the next was a big strength of his. He’s also an amazing community ambassador.” Parades, fairs and school meet and greets were all part of Guy’s assignments.
Retirement of a Legend
Even as Guy entered his 20s, his need to work continued. “We retire horses when the horse tells us to,” said Dunkin. Sometimes this is because a horse has started to develop physical issues or mentally cannot hold up to the job any longer. “But Guy just kept going. He’s happy to work and healthy,” she added.
According to Pelicano, Guy has had such a successful career as a police horse because of several traits. “First of all, he has the mindset for a police horse,” Pelicano said. “Secondly, he’s chill on the road, which is very important.” Pelicano continued to explain that Guy has always been extremely healthy and sound and is valuable to the Unit in so many ways. “He’s good to keep other horses calm and can teach less experienced riders as well.”
In order to preserve Guy’s soundness as he aged, Dunkin started scheduling him as an alternate for the last few years and his role as “baby sitter” to new police horses continued as needed. “We have been so hesitant to retire him because he’s still so sound and we did not want him to be overworked in a new home,” Lau said.
Just a few months ago, a suitable retirement situation became available. In May, Guy headed to a private farm in Boyds to be a pasture mate for another horse.
“This past year we were excited to hear that Guy has become the longest serving mount for the Park Police,” said Pflaum. “We knew he would receive excellent care with them and he would do a great job on the force.”
That he did! Happy retirement Guy!