Luxurious Digs Almost Done for Park Police Horses

It was a hot morning on Aug. 26, and Chief uncharacteristically tossed his black mane and stomped the ground with his forefoot. He was getting impatient even though he and his some 18 companions of the U.S. Park Service’s National Mall Mounted Police Patrol Unit had been specifically vetted for — and were known above all else for — their patience and calmness dealing with human beings. But Chief just had had a wonderful visit with his beloved former owner Sheila Johnson, founder of Salamander — the luxurious stables and resort in Middleburg, Virginia, where he had lived before being recruited for park police duty.

He had munched happily on the peppermints she had given him, and she had just finished what seemed to be a well-received talk (the 50 or so humans gathered round were clapping their hands and smiling) at the podium where the words “campaign chair” and “grateful for donated funds” were repeated enough that even he recognized the words (although they were not associated with any order to action — at least for horses — that he could tell).

Now, Chief really wanted to be able to move, get some action, and to see the people standing around him move on themselves, perhaps to walk around the white building that was behind him that seemed to be the center of their attention for the moment. It was an almost finished construction that he was beginning to understand would be his new home on the mall.

Friday morning was the”topping off” event and donor preview of the nearly completed U.S. Park Service National Mall horse stables, situated between the Korean War and WWII Memorials on Ohio Drive, with a new pathway alongside connecting to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It includes 14 extra-large stalls with big windows; a heated area to wash down the horses after duty; two paddocks with double fencing — one devoted to medical services — and, of course, a large tack room to keep the mounts equipment, saddles, bridles and the like in shiny soft perfect condition. It includes a permanent headquarters office for the U.S. Park Police officers assigned to the facility, as well as a locker room and showers for their use. The large entrance will be accessible to mall visitors from around the world as a visitor education center with presentations about the horses (average age about 11 years old) and their history on the National Mall.

The new stables will provide a much needed headquarters for the horses and their officers who are highly trained in crowd control and children patting their noses and giving them candy (the horses, that is). “This beautiful stables is the result of over a decade of planning and hoping and being near the bottom of the waitlist,” Catherine Townsend, President and  CEO of the Trust for the National Mall told The Georgetowner. “Finally, a private donor funding campaign was put together by Sheila Johnson that made it happen,” added Virginia’s first lady Suzanne Youngkin, whose Phos Foundation was a major donor.

The mounted Park Police and their mounts are a good diverse mix of size, age, color and experience. Their rigorous training program takes place at the Rock Creek Park stables, about two miles away, and pairs and officers and their mounts for years (the officers are the grooms and muck up stable hands as well). “Control in highly noisy and crowded encounters with people are part of the training  — some of it involving huge balls placed as obstacles in the paddock  — as are encounters with gun violence and the like.”

The stables are expected to open in early spring 2023.

Other leadership donors include Wells Fargo and various family foundations, such as the Sachiko Kuno Foundation of Georgetown, Dr. Scholl, the Mars Family, Taylor & Brant Foundation and Jean and Ric Edelman.

The interior of the under-construction U.S. Park Police Horse Stables and Education Center on the National Mall. Photo by Stephen Bobb for the Trust for the National Mall.


The exterior of the under-construction U.S. Park Police Horse Stables and Education Center on the National Mall. Photo by Stephen Bobb for the Trust for the National Mall.



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