The streets of New York City are a far different environment than the surroundings 9-year-old Gomez was born into.
Gomez was once a wild mustang roaming free on the plains of southern Wyoming as part of the Salt Wells Creek Herd near Green River.
Now the majestic horse lives a much different life, in canyons made of brick and steel and with a new purpose – helping maintain law and order in the heart of New York City.
“We walk straight from the barn, straight to Times Square,” said Officer Jessica Olivieri, who has been partnered with Gomez for the last two years.
Mounted Unit Troop B
Gomez is one of 20 horses at Mounted Unit Troop B in Manhattan, stabled on 53rd Street just a few blocks from Times Square. Troop B is the largest of the horse units in New York City, with smaller units in each of the other boroughs (with the exception of Staten Island).
Each of the horses – all geldings – has his own badge number (Gomez’s is 1904, as the fourth horse to come into the unit in 2019), his own uniform and is as important to the unit as is his human partner.
“He’s also considered a police officer himself,” said Olivieri. “So anything that’s done to him, it’s the same as doing that to a police officer.”
But it took some training for Gomez to become acclimated to his new surroundings. The mustang gelding, who stands 15.3 hands tall, was captured by the Bureau of Land Management when he was 2 years old and gentled in a Nevada’s correctional prison program before being transferred to New York’s Pelham Bay Park training facilities.
There the mustang was immersed in the sights and sounds of the city for two years, to be sure he was cut out for his new assignment.
Gomez’s New York home is at the stables on 53rd Street in Manhattan, where he is fed, exercised and cared for. The building is outfitted with wash bays, a hay loft and stalls for the 20 horses that maintain permanent residence at Troop B, as well as a round pen for indoor exercise. A team of three farriers sees to the horses in all of the boroughs, making sure their shoes are changed every six to eight weeks.
Each horse and his partner will patrol their assigned beats five to six hours at a time, four to five days a week – which isn’t necessarily limited to the borough of Manhattan.
“The mounted unit is citywide, so I can be put anywhere in the city, I can be in any borough,” said Officer Olivieri. “We just put them in the trailer and we’ll go to a different borough that day.”
She said their primary purpose is patrol, not making arrests.
“Every day is different,” she said. “You meet a lot of people.
She said the mounted unit officers are well-received by the public and provide a valuable service for law enforcement.
“They love us out there, they really do,” Olivieri said about the public’s reaction to the mounted patrol. “And you know, we can see above everyone else, so it’s a huge positive to the community.”
Horsewoman In New York City
Officer Olivieri said she is living her dream. Growing up with her own horses on Long Island, she was thrilled to discover that she could combine her two worlds – her chosen career as a law enforcement officer and a love for horses.
“Since before I could walk, my mom had me on her horse,” said Officer Olivieri, who still has a horse of her own at home. “I knew i had to be in the mounted unit eventually. Since I was a kid I always pictured myself being in this huge city, helping people. It’s what I wanted to do.
“And when I found out they had a mounted unit, I thought, this is it. I could be a cop, my favorite profession, and I could be riding horses at the same time.”
Olivieri pointed out that because Gomez is a mustang, he needed to be partnered with an experienced rider.
“I had never ridden a mustang before coming to the mounted unit,” she said. “Just his personality, and even out on the street, it’s completely different from your average horse. He’s definitely more stubborn.”
Their first few months together were all about gaining each others’ trust.
“Once he started trusting me, he responded to everything that I asked,” she said, adding that she enjoys the fact that the stables are very removed from the hustle and bustle of the city outside.
“You can come here and say, ‘Ah, I’m not actually in New York City,’” she said. “I’m surrounded by horses.”
But a trip to Wyoming is definitely on her list.
“I want to go to Wyoming so bad,” said Officer Olivieri. “Knowing there are acres and acres of wild horses there – I have to visit.”