LONG-serving mounted police officers have got in the saddle for the last time in Hartlepool after being forced into retirement.
PC John Barron and PC John Carter have patrolled the town together on horseback for six years.
But their partnership is being broken after Cleveland Police had to make budget cuts.
The duo’s 30 years’ service means police chiefs can trigger a clause as part of plans to cut 230 officer positions as they deal with a 20 per cent reduction in Government funding.
But both officers have raised concerns about the future of the mounted section.
The Mail spoke to the two riders as they got set to trot around Hartlepool on Reg and Alf for the last time before they are officially retired on Sunday.
PC Carter is the accredited instructor for the mounted section and the only one who can train horses and riders at the unit’s Ormesby Hall base, in Middlesbrough.
The 55-year-old, who lives in Marske and has served the section for the past 27 years, said: “I always wanted to be in the mounted section and never wanted to be promoted to anything else. It’s in my blood.
“I was on the first police horse, Albert, and the horse I am on now, Reg, is number 41. I have known them all.
“This has been a big blow personally. It is such a major part of my life and after my family it is the most important thing to me.”
PC Carter had hoped to go into a civilian stable management job with the service and work until he was 65.
But he was told that was no longer an option when both he and PC Barron were called in three months ago and told they had to retire. Their appeal was then turned down.
PC Carter added: “I have genuine concerns about the future of the section now, especially as I was the only trainer.
“There is now a sergeant and five PCs and that is not enough to cover all four districts. Police horses in places like Hartlepool will no longer be a common sight.” PC Barron, 50, from Marton, in Middlesbrough, said: “There is so much more to this job than people realise.
“A lot of it is about instinct, things that can’t be trained. There is a lot of experience being allowed to leave and that is something that can’t be replaced.
“You have to remember we make these horses do things they are not naturally inclined to do in situations like football matches.
“Not only does that take a lot of bottle, you have to know the horse and use all your experience to handle those situations.”
Both officers said they will be popping back to see the horses and their friends at the stables in the coming weeks.
PC Barron said: “The horses are not pets, they are working animals. But you develop a relationship over the years. It becomes a lifestyle, and one we will both sorely miss.”
Cleveland Police Chief Constable Sean Price has admitted that every part of the force is being looked at as budgets are balanced.
Further details of where savings will be made will be announced later in the year.