Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rescued Horse Sworn in as Sheriff Deputy

Straight from the Horse's Heart

By Noelle Phillips – McClatchy Newspapers

A GOOD NEWS Horse Story

Reserve Sheriff's Deputy Clifford Fisher talks about how Scout came back from near starvation to become a good horse who passed vigorous training. Scout, a horse who was once malnourished and sick, was sworn in as a member of the Richland County Sheriff's Department Friday.

Myrtle Beach, SC -Two years ago, Scout, an American paint horse, was so weak from starvation he barely could walk into a trailer.After months of care, he’s now strong and healthy. And he’s the latest deputy in the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s mounted patrol.

The 5-year-old Scout was sworn in Friday by Chief Deputy Wash James, and his first official duty will be patrolling today around USC’s Williams-Brice Stadium and the State Fairgrounds.

“It pretty much proves you can come from tough times and make something of yourself,” said Reserve Deputy Clifford Fisher, one of Scout’s owners.

When Scout was 2 years old he went to live on a farm in Lexington County with two other horses. The family had intended to ride the horse, but a year later, the Humane Society found the three suffering from starvation, Fisher said. One of the horses was in such bad shape it had to be euthanized. The other two were taken to Broad River Correctional Institute, which has a program that allows inmates to raise horses. The inmates fed, groomed and rode Scout to get him back to full health.

A year ago, Fisher and his wife, Margaret Fisher, bought Scout after identifying him as a horse that would fit into a mounted patrol unit.

When the couple was searching for a horse to train, they would shoot fireworks and launch balloons in the pasture. Horses that ran were not suited for the job, Clifford Fisher said.

Nothing bothered Scout.

The Fishers bought him and started training. The couple lives on a farm in Lexington County with a menagerie of animals, including a camel. Clifford Fisher owns a construction company, and Margaret Fisher is a full-time deputy at the sheriff’s department.

The mounted patrol unit has six horses, and all of their riders are deputies who volunteer their time. They donate their horses’ services to the county.

The test that must be taken to join the mounted patrol is grueling for both horse and handler, and few horses pass on the first try, said veterinarian Michael Privett, who leads the unit.

“Every horse that goes through the test has his nerves rattled,” Privett said. “It’s easy when life is all lovely. When it hits the fan is when you’re going to find out how well trained your horse is.”

The test includes 13 obstacles and challenges, such as pushing back a crowd that is throwing bags and cans at the horse and rider and walking through a narrow path while fireworks and other noises are ringing in the area.

Scout passed on the first try, Privett said.

So Scout should not flinch today when fireworks blast off at the stadium for Gamecock touchdowns. And the thousands of happy tailgaters should not bother him, either. In fact, he won’t mind a soft pat on the neck or nose.

“He has to be tolerant of being petted, too,” Privett said.

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