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Jack The Police Horse Retires To Greener Pastures

Officer Sandra Silva with Jack, a retiring Columbus Police horse.
Nick Evans
Officer Sandra Silva with Jack, a retiring Columbus Police horse.

“So Jack would be the dappled grey whose butt is to us right now,” Columbus Police officer Sandra Silva says.

We’re standing outside a pen at the old Columbus Police Academy just across the Scioto River - this is where the mounted unit keeps its stables.

Silva is Jack’s last partner and new owner, thanks to a 20-year-old Ohio statute giving law enforcement officers who work with an animal the right to purchase it when it retires. 

Lawmakers even set the price: whether it’s a dog or a horse, officers pay $1. 

While Jack munches away on a carrot, Silva explains he’s kind of a mutt. No one’s terribly sure what blend of breeds make up his background.

“He stands about 16 hands, which is the ground to his withers,” she says pointing to the ridge between Jack’s shoulder blades. “And each hand is 4 inches. So we always make the kids multiply that when they’re you know, a little bit older kids.”

Jack has been with the department since 2015 and Silva says those jobs, the ones interacting with kids or seniors, were Jack’s best. But he had problems with other duties. Silva notes he really hates flares, and he could become unpredictable and difficult to manage.

“What it looks like from my perspective is the horse is just, is high energy,” she explains. “You know, not relaxed, head up in the air bouncing. With him, he’s got a fancy footstep that he does.”

And that’s why he wound up on the Columbus City Council agenda with a dollar price tag.

Only one or two horses retire in a typical year. Jack was the first one for 2018.

“They’re the most expensive $1 horse you’re ever going to buy basically,” Silva says, with a laugh.

Credit Nick Evans / WOSU
Jack is one of three horses that Silva now owns on her farm.

She explains officers on the mounted unit tend to wind up buying farms.

“My partner and I, we bought a farm over a year ago in May for my other retired partner, Cody,” Silva says.

When I ask if that means Silva has two horses, she’s quick to correct me.

“I have three,” Silva says. “It’ll be three when Jack shows up. I bought his flunky friend too.”

That flunky friend is a horse named Scooby. Cody and Jack made it through enough training to do work with the mounted unit. Scooby wasn’t quite cut out for it. But Silva says he got along great with Cody, and once Cody retired he’d need some company.

Silva grows hay to cut down on feed costs and she sells some of the extra to her fellow mounted officers to defray costs further. She gives riding lessons, too, and she’s expecting Jack to be the next step for some her students.

“For regular riding and normal stuff, Jack will be a great a horse,” she says. “And he’s still very young, so being that young, he needs a job.”

Sergeant Robert Forsythe heads up the unit. In addition to Forsythe himself, there are six officers and about a dozen horses.

“All the horses that we have, they all mean something to us as a group and individually,” Forsythe says.

Most of the time, an officer takes home a retiring horse. But when none of the officers can, Forsythe says he has a list of people they trust to adopt and care for them. 

“We find them good homes,” he says. “There’s not any time since I’ve been here, or any time that I can remember, that they just get rid of the horse or put them down.”

With Jack retiring, Silva’s main horse is a mare named Annie, and yes, when Annie retires she’ll probably make her way out to the farm with Jack, Cody and Scooby. But Silva, already a 28-year veteran, says the officers themselves aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“All the officers here could retire,” she says. “Every one of us. Our least senior officer—you just saw carrying a bag by you—she has 25 years on and she’s of age. So she’s able to retire. We could all just drop paper and walk away, but we like our job a lot. Like it a lot.”