RPD Welcomes New Police Horse

Officer Byrd and Major
Earlier this month, the Mounted Unit officially welcomed a new police horse to the herd. On January 3, the Raleigh City Council voted to accept the donation of an eight-year-old gelding named Major, who will replace Cody as Senior Officer W.R. Byrd’s equine partner. Major was named in honor of Special Operations Major S.M. Deans, who played a significant role in acquiring the horse.

Major’s journey to the RPD began late last fall, when Officer Byrd began to seek a replacement for Cody, whose owner had asked that he be returned to her after several years of police service. Cody joined the Department in 2005 and had served for more than six years, and the unit agreed that it was time for him to return to his owner. After searching high and low for a horse that would suit the Department’s needs, Officer Byrd found Major, who was originally known as Parker. Major’s owner, Mrs. Martha Burke, had purchased the horse for her husband to ride, but soon found out that Major did not have much training as a saddle horse, and neither she nor her husband had the necessary knowledge and experience to train him. “She knew he had a great mind and could be a great horse; she just wasn’t sure what to do with him,” said Officer Byrd.
Special Operations Major Deans greets his namesake.

Mrs. Burke’s original intention was to sell Major, but after speaking to Officer Byrd about the Mounted Unit’s need for an intelligent and sound horse, she agreed to donate him to the Department after a 60-day trial period. In mid-October, Officer Byrd made the five-hour drive to the town of Upperville in rural northern Virginia to meet Major and bring him back to Raleigh to begin his new vocation. For the first few weeks, Major lived on Officer Byrd’s 16-acre farm, where Officer Byrd worked to gain his trust and understanding while leading him through groundwork exercises to prepare him for what he would be asked to do with a rider on his back. “A lot of the beginning work was getting him to trust me,” said Officer Byrd. “At that point, you could get on him, but he didn’t know what to do.”

Major was eager to learn, though, and it wasn’t long before Officer Byrd determined that he was ready to be ridden in an urban environment. His first day of exploring the city was November 1, and he met several members of the Department when he made an appearance at the Progress Energy Center during the promotional ceremony held that day. And just two and a half weeks after he made his downtown debut, Major marched alongside police horses Ike, Flash, and Blade as the Mounted Unit made its annual appearance in the Raleigh Christmas Parade, not so much as batting an eye at the crowds and noise at the event.

For several weeks, Officer Byrd continued to work on Major’s saddle skills while also exposing him to a variety of stimuli he might encounter as a police horse, including flares, fireworks, gunshots, and crime scene tape. After a few weeks of daytime training, Officer Byrd began bringing Major downtown during evening hours to acquaint him with the nighttime landscape and ensure that he was comfortable with police car lights, flashlights, and the general appearance of the city after dark.
Although many horses would turn and run upon encountering so many new and potentially frightening experiences, Major remains steadfast and is remarkably unfazed by most anything that crosses his path. “Everything we expose him to, even if it’s brand-new to him, he’ll go check it out,” said Officer Byrd. “He’s very curious and wants to learn.”

Now that Major is officially a member of the Mounted Unit, Officer Byrd has big plans for him. At 17.1 hands high (69 inches at the shoulder), Major is just three inches shorter than Ike, the RPD’s largest police horse, and his large stature makes him ideally suited for crowd control. Officer Byrd plans to bring Major to Mobile Field Force training days so that the horse can learn how to help the officers maintain order in situations when large groups become unruly. In addition to introducing Major to crowd-control techniques, Officer Byrd also plans to bring him to Charlotte to assist with the Democratic National Convention in September.
Officer Slocum and Byrd stroll down Fayetteville Street on police horses Ike and Major

Major’s intelligence and stature aren’t the only qualities that make him a good candidate for police service; his charming manner is also a considerable benefit in a line of work that involves a significant amount of interaction with the public. “He’s got a great personality; he’s really trusting and laid-back,” said Officer Byrd. “And he loves kids—when he sees kids, he puts his head down to their level so they can pet him.”


  1. Awesome! I love seeing the Raleigh Police mounted officers, it's so great for the city to have them, I think it is a good image for kids to see and increases the presence of the law... Welcome Major, good work Police Force, all of you!

  2. Howdy! Were you somehow able to execute all the options of this site on your own or you got professional help?