It was a changing of the guard for the Mounted Unit as well as the Indigenous community as one warrior made way for a new one.
Tecumseh, a 13-year veteran horse, was officially retired after serving the city as a police horse and ambassador to the Indigenous community.
The horse was named after a Native American leader of the Shawnee and a large tribal confederacy seeking an independent nation for indigenous people, who was an ally of the British during the War of 1812. He died in October 1813 during the Battle of the Thames in southwestern Ontario.
At the start of 2005, retired Sergeant Jim Patterson approached Aboriginal Consultative Committee (ACC) members Constables Kim Turner and Monica Rutledge about assigning an Aboriginal name to one of the horses.
“Rather than just taking the name, Tecumseh, which they had come up with, they wanted us to go into the community and see if that would be OK,” said Turner, a retired Toronto police constable. “We took it to the schools and the ACC, which gave us their blessings. We felt honoured.”
Frances Sanderson, the co-chair of the Aboriginal Consultative Committee, who spoke at Tecumseh’s retirement, said horses have always been very close to Native People’s hearts.
“Long ago, a sign of your wealth was a strong bow, straight arrows and a mighty steed – a good horse – which we have been fortunate to have in Tecumseh,” she said. “What we can do is ask the creator and all the spirits of the warriors to watch over him as he jumps around, I am hoping, in a field somewhere, running free and having a good time. I am sure he had a good time here, but it’s time for him to take a rest.”
Tecumseh was honoured with a thank-you song and drumming from indigenous youth from Eastview Public School and First Nations School of Toronto.
Tecumseh, ridden by retired Superintendent Bill Wardle, represented the Service at former United States President Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington in January 2013.
Sergeant Kris McCarthy, who has been at the Mounted Unit since 2000 training the Service’s stable of horses, was emotional watching Tecumseh for the last time before he is retired to a Cambridge farm.
“It’s like watching your kid grow up and then having them leave home,” said McCarthy. “He was probably one of the best obstacle horses we have ever had.”
Assigned to Tecumseh for the past year, Sergeant Al Jenkins rode Tecumseh for the last time two weeks ago.
“When I got to this unit 12 years ago, he looked after me as I was trying to figure things out,” said Jenkins, who has been with the Service for 32 years. “He has been very quiet, consistent and just a strong horse. I am going to miss him.”
Tecumseh was the first horse that Staff Sergeant Graham Queen rode when he got to the Unit he’s now in charge of eight years ago.
“He’s probably one of the bravest horses we have ever had here,” he said. “For crowd management and control, he never hesitated to so what was necessary. That’s really the true test of a police horse.”
Queen is extremely happy that Tecumseh is going to a farm.
“For him, it’s like winning the horse lottery as he will be well taken care of for the rest of his life,” he added. “He has had a very good run. With the type of work we do, health problems could arise for our horses. Even though Tecumseh is still healthy, we like to have our horses retired when they could still enjoy the rest of their lives. Sometimes, police horses don’t work up to 19 years old, which is his age. Horses can live up to 40 years.”
Tecumseh’s replacement is a young Clydesdale – Monty – that will be renamed. Students from Eastview Public School and the First Nations School of Toronto will take part in a contest to come up with the new name.
The Service acquired the horse about a year ago.
“He is so calm and very good with kids,” said Queen.
Monty will represent the Service at the annual North American Police Equestrian Championship in Hamburg, New York, between October 15 and 18.
“This is unprecedented for a brand new horse that is so young,” said Queen. “He has, however, advanced very quickly since we have had him.”