The Mounted Unit lost one of their own on Christmas Day, saying goodbye to a sturdy and reliable mount.
Viscount, an 18-year-old Black Percheron, who served with the unit for 14 years, was euthanized after suffering greatly with equine colic.
“He was one of our senior citizens,” said Staff Sergeant Graham Queen, who made the difficult decision along with Superintendent Bill Neadles and Training Sergeant Kristopher McCarthy, to euthanize the experienced horse.
“Because of his age and the seriousness of the colic, we didn’t want him to suffer,” said Queen.
Queen said Viscount was a reliable mount known for his temperament.
“A gentle giant with a very nice personality, he was one of the horses we used with our new recruits because he was so gentle and very safe.”
Viscount was euthanized on Christmas morning, about four hours after Constable David Moore found him in distress.
“It was very difficult for us not being able to help him,” said Moore, who knew something was wrong immediately after greeting the sturdy horse. “I had him for about 18 months and he was just a great friend and partner.”
Moore accompanied Viscount to the crematorium on December 26.
Equine colic is a relatively common disorder of the digestive system, in which horses are subjected to severe abdominal discomfort characterized by pawing, rolling and sometimes the inability to defecate.
Moore last patrol ride with Viscount, who stood 17 hands high and weighed almost 750 kilos, was on the night of the Justin Bieber concert at the Danforth Music Hall on December 7.
“We patrolled the concert area and we were there at the end just before Bieber and his entourage left,” said Moore. “We were just keeping some of the people back and standing by just in case. While the concert was on, we went to the Withrow Park neighbourhood, which was experiencing a rash of robberies. We also did some enforcement as there is a problem with drivers going through stop signs and speeding in the area. There was a woman that went through a stop sign on Carlaw Ave. and Viscount was able to canter for us to catch up with her and give her a ticket. That was the last time we gave out a ticket.
“It was such a joy patrolling all parts of the city with him and he will be missed. It was a highlight just working with him in a wide range of situations from searching for a missing person to being in a huge crowd at a Blue Jays game or dealing with the night club crowd in the Entertainment District.”
With Viscount approaching retirement, Moore – who was a park warden and artisan bread baker before becoming a police officer – planned to purchase the horse.
“If I was still his assigned rider, I would have done that and paid to have him stay at a horse farm,” Moore added.
Staff Sergeant Jim Patterson, who retired in May 2014 after 37 years on the job, was at the Horse Palace when Viscount joined the Service.
“He wasn’t the bravest police horse, but he was excellent in terms of the relationship he developed with riders,” said Patterson. “He was just a very comfortable, well-rounded, kind and excellent riding horse.”
Constable Greg John patrolled with Viscount during his 14 years at the Mounted Unit.
“He was reasonably sturdy and he had a good temperament and was reliable,” he noted.
Constable Caroline de Kloet enjoyed working with Viscount during her four years at the Mounted Unit.
“I have very fond memories riding Viscount around the streets of Toronto,” said de Kloet, who was reassigned to Corporate Communications last February. “He will be greatly missed by all of the mounted officers.”
Retired Superintendent Bill Wardle, a Mounted officer for nearly two decades, said Viscount was one of the barn’s steady veterans.
“He was a horse that you could trust and rely on,” said Wardle, who authored The Mounted Squad, An Illustrated History of The Toronto Mounted Police 1886-2000. “Everyone liked to ride him.”
The Mounted Unit celebrates its 130th anniversary next year.