Barn Raising

After 50 years, a new home is on the horizon for Richmond’s police horses.

Photo by Mark Edward Atkinson

It’s no secret that the Richmond unit’s barn on Brook Road is not the best facility for police horses. 

After work, the horses get a short amount of turn out time in the small, grassless space the facility occupies adjacent to rumbling train tracks, but they spend the majority of their off-duty hours in their stalls with concrete floors. The current barn—which was condemned in 2004 due to storm and flooding damage—was never built with horses in mind, so despite the layer of pine shavings lining each stall, there is little relief from the physical stress of standing on concrete around the clock.

Leslie Buck, president of the Friends of the Richmond Mounted Squad, a non-profit founded to provide support and resources to the unit, has been a vocal advocate for a new barn, appearing before Richmond City Council multiple times to request funding for a new training facility. Retired Richmond police officer Glenwood Burley has also been instrumental in efforts to make a new barn a reality. 

Last year, the council allocated $778,721 for the project, and in March, approved a site for the proposed Richmond Police Department Equestrian Center—the new home for the mounted unit—at 3900 Crestview Road, near Gillies Creek, in the east end of the city. A request for fiscal year 2019 is currently before the council for an additional $716,838 that, if approved, would bring the total for city support of the project to nearly $1.5 million. 

Buck’s group has raised about $80,000 so far for the new facility via private donations, special events—including the popular Richmond Ride in which community members join the unit for a family fun run at Belmead—local business charity nights and by selling Richmond Mounted Police merchandise. In 2017, Walmart donated $25,000. The group also runs an Adopt-A-Horse program, which supplements funding for extras not covered by the budget. 

Sgt. Nierman’s eyes light up when he talks about his dream for the new facility: 10 acres with turnout, a training ring on-site, a barn with 10 stalls, windows for cross-ventilation (the current barn on Brook Road has no cross-ventilation), stalls with drainage, crush-and-run and stall mats, a wash stall (there is no wash stall in the current barn), hot water and heat. The RPD will add two horses and two mounted officers when the new facility is ready.

Says Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham, “Thanks to the support of Mayor Stoney, city council and others, we are poised to give the horses and officers their first new home in more than 50 years.”

The department hopes to break ground on the project later this year.

This article originally appeared in our June 2018 issue. Click here to read more about Virginia’s Mounted Police units in our feature story.

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