Police on horseback target busy Calgary parks, watch for physical distancing amid COVID-19

With so many kids out of school and people not going to work, Calgary parks are packed with strollers, bikes and dogs.

The Calgary Police Service Mounted Unit is keeping an eye on park users, ensuring the physical-distancing rules are followed.

“A lot of people are complying with the rules,” said Const. Tory Fassnidge, who was on a patrol of Bowness Park on Wednesday.

“In terms of offenders, it’s pretty quiet.”

In addition to park patrol, the Mounted Unit has been keeping watch in deserted downtown alleys, as business owners are forced to shut their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been able to focus on downtown a bit more because the residential neighbourhoods are kind of self-monitoring. Everybody is staying at home and doing their own security,” Fassnidge said.

“It’s a beautiful animal and it just adds to the beauty of this park. It’s really great to see that our police are out patrolling keeping everybody safe so we can still enjoy nature,” said park user Sue Robichaud.

The mounted patrol said farewell to a member with the recent retirement of Kelsey, a 20-year-old Canadian breed who served for 13 years.

Fassnidge says Kelsey was a critical part of searchesy, including the 2019 investigation into the deaths of Jasmine Lovett and her daughter in Kananaskis, west of Calgary.

“Our horses are a draft breed and with their strong joints, they can go up and down no problem.

“Kelsey was a purebred Canadian breed and is definitely meant for that job. So when we had him last year for that search, it was an absolute benefit for us,” Fassnidge said.

Horse trainer Robin Kotulsky says Kelsey had the characteristics needed in a police horse. People friendly, calm and sturdy.

“He was a good lead horse for teaching new horses how to patrol because he just had that bold forward personality,” Kotulsky said.

“He was just an all-around very bold horse as most of the Canadian horses are.

“They have that breed characteristic for being very bold and brave. That’s what made Kelsey a little extra special in our hearts.”

Kelsey is now spending his retirement years in a pasture south of Calgary.

There are currently five horses in the Calgary Police Service Mounted Unit.

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