North American Police Equestrian Championships 2016
North American Police Equestrian Championships 2016
Kingston Ontario – September 17-18, 2016
By: Tony Palermo
The Kingston Police celebrated their 175th anniversary in 2016 by hosting the annual NAPEC competition, which featured nearly 70 competitors from police agencies across North America. The competition was staged in the now decommissioned Kingston Penitentiary (opened in 1835) adding some historical character to the event.
There was fantastic support and attendance from the public on both days, with only the threatening weather on Saturday keeping the event from selling-out for the whole weekend.
An annual event that first took place in 1983 in Upper Marlborough, Maryland, NAPEC has evolved over the years to become a more practical—and one of the most regarded—law enforcement equestrian competitions.
While the equitation portion of the event is still relevant and important for demonstrating a rider’s ability, the competition now involves a number of practical tests which present some of the real challenges faced by mounted officers in today’s policing environment. These include navigating obstacles, manoeuvring through crowds, and maintaining control of their horse when it is faced with sudden loud noises and other disturbances. (A horse’s basic instinct is to flee anything frightening, and they need a great deal of trust and reassurance in their rider to remain obedient when facing perceived dangers.)
This year’s event saw the police equine and their human partners compete in several classes:
· Uniform class, which, using military parade standards, judges the officer’s dress uniform for cleanliness and a smart turn-out, and the horse’s overall body condition and presentation,
· Equitation class which evaluates the riding ability and horsemanship skills of the mounted officer,
· Western class which judges the gait of the horse and if the horse appeared to be a pleasure to ride comfortably for long distances and hours in the saddle,
· Obstacle course which tests how quiet and controlled the horse remained under pressure from things like sudden, loud noises and unstable ground,
· Team competition which saw teams of two riders try to achieve the highest cumulative scores.
The event also included several crowd management demonstrations by the Toronto Police Service Mounted Unit Drill Team, a performance by the world-famous Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride, a Kingston Police Canine demonstration and a Liberty demonstration by 3-star Parelli Professional rider Ron Pyne.
Boston Park Ranger Kevin Mendes was one of the participants. The 24-year-old officer has been a part of the mounted unit for just over a year and says participating in his first NAPEC competition was an extremely valuable, and unforgettable, experience. “It’s really the one time that we can have a week-long training session with various other departments around the United States and Canada, and it’s a great opportunity to compare what other departments do differently than us,” says Mendes, adding that the event also provides a great opportunity to network and make new contacts.
Mendes says he was well prepared and coached ahead of time by other officers which had competed in previous NAPEC events. This extra coaching, Mendes says, was invaluable because it not only made him a better competitor for NAPEC, but also a more skilled mounted officer in his day-to-day policing role.
Still, Mendes says he was a little nervous while he waited his turn to compete. “I felt a little nervous right before going into the ring for the competitions, but once you’re in there you just have to rely on your training and trust your mount to do what you guys have been practicing,” says Mendes. “I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait for next year’s event.”
Hosting NAPEC: No walk in the park
Kingston Police S/Sgt. Jody Armstrong says it took a lot of time and effort to organize NAPEC 2016, and involved a lot of community and policing partners, including Cst. Deb Wicklam, one of Kingston’s mounted unit officer’s, and retired constable and current NAPEC chair Brad Wicklam.
Armstrong says the biggest challenge with negotiating to use the decommissioned Kingston Penitentiary grounds was ensuring the safety of the participants, staff and spectators.
“As you can appreciate, Kingston Penitentiary is not a walk in the park,” explains Armstrong. “There were areas of concern that needed constant staffing presence to mitigate the risks of injury.”
Another of his biggest concerns was locking a spectator inside the penitentiary at the end of the day. He says it took a lot of volunteers and staff to make sure everything went according to plan, with out-of-bound areas clearly marked and staffed, and the use of detailed logs to keep track of the comings-and-goings of all staff and volunteers.
Armstrong says he was extremely pleased on how well everything came together, adding that his officers helped make this event a success while still maintaining their regular duties.
“We didn’t lose anyone to the pen and no one got injured,” says a smiling Armstrong. “That’s what I call a success.”
The next NAPEC competition is being held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dates and times have not yet been announced. Check the NAPEC site at: http://napecinc.org/ for more information.
Tony Palermo is freelance journalist and Blue Line Magazine’s Eastern Ontario correspondent. He is currently working on a book about Canada’s domestic sex trafficking problem and how we’re struggling to deal with it. Visit him online at www.tonypalermo.ca, follow him on Twitter @TCPalermo or email him at email@example.com.