Retired officer Karen (Kay) Lenyk recalls her life on the Force Mounted Police Section:
‘I joined the West Midlands Police on the 10th March 1980 and my collar number was 8710.
My birth name is Karen, but I have always been called Kay and my maiden name was Weale but it’s now Lenyk.
I initially worked on the ‘L1’ Solihull Division, a large, mostly rural area, dealing mostly with burglaries and shoplifters’ so moving to Park Lane was a big change!
I did my ten week mounted riding course at ‘Tally Ho’ Police Training Centre from October until just before Christmas of 1984, then went back to the ‘L’ Division as practically all of the male officers were sent up to Yorkshire regarding the miner’s strike.
We worked twelve-hour shifts for quite some time and surprisingly enough the ‘wheel did not come off’!
In June of 1985 I transferred to the ‘A’ Division and was based at Park Lane as the first female officer on the Mounted Branch.
The press came and did some photos when I took up my post – my only ever ‘claim to fame’! The day after they were taken they were published in the newspapers and shortly afterwards I was riding up Ladywood Middleway when a car passed and a little girl who was leaning out of the window started yelling “Hello Kay!”
Over the years I also worked from stables at West Bromwich, Chase Avenue and Tally Ho, but most of my service was at Park Lane.
The initial Mounted Course was hard work but great fun. There were four of us, myself, Steve Tolley, Simon Kirby and Mick Wakeman. The then Sergeant Fitzmaurice was our trainer.
The horses were ‘Daisy’, the most uncomfortable, ‘Hertford’ the largest, ‘Javelin’ the laziest and ‘Jemedar’ the craziest!
We had to groom the horses, learn how to ‘tack up’ then strip and clean all the kit, then every afternoon was class-work. We had to pass both the riding-test and the written-exam.
My first ever ‘dunk’ in the water trough occurred after our last ride on the course. I was chucked in so ran upstairs to change into dry clothes, leaving my wet stuff in my locker. I then rushed back down to see to my horse.
As I was then a few minutes behind the lads they took the opportunity to ransack my locker. You can imagine my horror when I went back upstairs to find my wet underwear on full display – I was speechless with embarrassment but it was part of the banter that went on at the time.
Each horse had a stable name, a number, and an official name – alphabetically named for the year they started. They all had their own personality. At the start of each shift we would look at the board to see which horse(s) we were riding and the Division to patrol. Some days you smiled – others you didn’t!
‘Javelin’ would NOT walk past the abattoir, ‘Paragon’ wanted to eat you, ‘Polo’ hated milk-floats, ‘Hidalgo’ knew every tea-stop on the patch, whether you wanted to go there or not! ‘Limber Gunner’ could not be stopped if his feet touched grass, ‘Olympic’ would have liked to kill you, ‘Merlin’ enjoyed a bucket of tea – they all had their peculiarities.
My first allocated horse was 389 ‘Hidalgo’ known as ‘David’. He was an ex-race horse and very small for a police horse. He had a wonderful nature and taught me a lot. He got loads of cards and presents from the public when he was injured at a violent football match.
He enjoyed the attention of being an invalid and tried to stretch it out for as long as he could. Once when he was coming back into light work he would pretend to be lame, but got caught out because he held up the wrong hoof. He was very clever!
The grey horse 428 ‘Polo’ was very special to me and I adored her. I bought her when she was due to be retired and she lived out her retirement with me in Wales. I used to give her a bath and take her out for a nibble of grass whilst being sun-dried. The police horses were looked after very well but ‘Polo’ was kept in a stall so whenever the opportunity arose I took her outside so she could have a roll.
The Mounted Branch was an enormous part of my life and I have many great memories. We were kept fit as we ‘mucked out’, groomed the horses, unloaded and loaded hay and straw deliveries, cleaned the kit and stables etc. Gradually more civilian grooms were employed and we spent more time out on the streets. Changes were obviously afoot! …’ #wmp #police #history #onefamily