We venture inside the historic building where the Toronto Police force’s four-legged friends shack up after a night on the town.
Earlier this month, one of the Toronto Police Service Mounted Unit’s horses cleaned up at the North American Police Equestrian Championship in Richmond, Virginia, as Trooper and his rider, Constable Gregg John, won gold in every event. (In your face, Kalamazoo County Sherriff’s Mounted Division!) Their day-to-day routine might be a little less glorious, but Trooper still gets to sleep in a palace. We took a look at where the TPSMU’s horses shack-up after a long day of patrolling the city.
Putting the house before the horse.
True to its name, the Horse Palace is the current home of Toronto Police’s mounted unit. The building, located on the CNE grounds, just steps away from the Exhibition GO Station, was constructed in 1931, in an effort to attract the prestigious Royal Winter Fair. With Hamilton as its major rival to host, the City of Toronto spent $1 million in Depression-era dollars to build the Horse Palace and woo the Royal to town.
Started from the bottom, now we here.
The horses of the TPSMU took up permanent residence in the Palace starting in 1968, over 80 years after the unit was first established with just two horses. From there, the size of the unit ballooned to 60 horses, enough to merit seven different facilities. By 2000, the unit had been downsized and was consolidated into the then-newly renovated Horse Palace. Currently, there are 27 horses on the force.
Riding on horses instead of in cruisers is not the only way the mounted unit tries to be green. The roof of the Horse Palace is home to the largest singular solar energy-generating installation in Canada, and even the waste treatment at the Horse Palace is pretty eco-friendly. With over two-dozen horses, each consuming 15 pounds of hay and around two gallons of water every day, the unit has to deal with a lot of animal redundancies (read: poo). The waste is handled by a company that repurposes it instead of dumping it in landfills. (Alas, its duties do not extend to all those number twos lining King West.)
The long faces of the law.
According to Staff Inspector William Wardle, the purpose of the mounted unit is to “enhance police presence” in some areas, to provide crowd management at protests or civic and sporting events, and to serve as “great icebreakers for community relations in the city.” Horses and their officers work nine-hour shifts each day (six of which are spent on patrol), and, on Fridays and weekends, night shifts have them out until four in the morning in order to keep the peace in the Entertainment District. Anyone detained by these officers shouldn’t expect to be brought to the police station on horseback, however. As with bike cops, Wardle says cruisers are called in to haul away any lawbreakers the mounted police might come across.
Did you know?
- The Horse Palace can accommodate around 600 horses, but is only close to capacity during the Royal Winter Fair or the CNE.
- The TPSMU will often lend horses to the RCMP when they operate in Toronto.
- During the Second World War, the Horse Palace was used as a barracks and manning depot, housing soldiers in the roughly 10-by-10-foot stalls before they shipped off on assignment.
Un-stable homes—a list of all the former stables used by the TPSMU:
- Sunnybrook Park Stable (closed in 2000)
- 41 Division Stable in Scarborough (closed in 1993)
- 22 Division Stable in Etobicoke (closed in 1993)
- High Park Stable, which was only by officers on lunch breaks (closed in 1990)
- Toronto Zoo Stable (closed 1981)
- Toronto Island Stable (closed 1981)