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RGV Sector Horse Patrol Unit
published in the August 2015 issue

Horses have always been an integral part of the US Border Patrol since its beginning in 1924. By 1935, the Border Patrol began using motorized vehicles with radios to patrol the US/Mexico border, but rugged terrain and the need for quick and quiet transportation guaranteed that horses would remain essential to the Patrol.

In 2012 the RGV Sector of Border Patrol established a Horse Border Patrol Unit beginning with 8 horses and 8 riders. Initially the horses were commercially boarded at taxpayer expense. Soon the BP HPU was able to make a usage agreement with US Fish and Wildlife to utilize acreage south of Mission, Texas which is a part of a USFW refuge. This was a win-win situation all around. US Fish and Wildlife appreciated the increased presence of BP on the refuge without the environmental impact brought on by motorized vehicles.

Border Patrol Horse Patrol Unit now has its own compound where horse and rider can both receive thorough training. A goal was set by BP HPU to increase its regiment to 40 horses and riders which was met in July, 2015.

About The Horses
There is scientific evidence of horses in North America during prehistoric times, however they went extinct here over 11,000 years ago. The horse was reintroduced to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. These were domesticated animals which were left to run wild. Soon there were herds of feral horses, commonly referred to as mustangs, roaming freely across much of the Western United States. As of March 1, 2015 it is estimated that the wild horse and burro population on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the West is 58,150. Appropriate Management Level (AML), defined by BLM as the number of wild horses and burros that can exist in balance with other public land resources and uses is only 26,688. This overpopulation of feral horses is managed by BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program. Since 1971 more than 230,000 wild horses and burros have been placed into private care. Horses and burros are rounded up and taken to various correctional facilities where inmates have received the training to bring the horses to "green broke" status.

Forty of these horses originating from Kansas' Hutchinson Correctional Facility have been hand-picked and are now an integral part of the Border Patrol RGV Sector. At the Horse Patrol Unit facility in Mission these horses receive an additional 60 - 90 days of training under the supervision of BP HPU Training Supervisor Manuel Torresmutt.

Why BLM Adopted Horses?
Horses are a prey animal and have a keen sense of awareness which protects them from becoming a predator's meal. By utilizing BLM's wild horse adoption program, BP HPU is starting with a horse whose natural, wild instinct to survive provides the rider with a unique set of tools. The horse will sense the presence of potential danger long before a human would realize it is there. The agent becomes alerted by the horse's body language such as cropped forward ears, flared nostrils and an increased heart rate. As the threat of danger gets closer the horse will become a bit restless as if ready to take flight. Another advantage that the horse provides is silence and the ability to cover a large area in a short amount of time. Here along the TX/MX border BP agents often times are fulfilling their duties in thick brush. Motorized vehicles are noisy and cannot cover some of the terrain necessary to traverse. Horses on the other hand are quiet and very adept at maneuvering among the thick mesquite and scrub brush. A bond is formed between horse and the rider which makes them an invaluable asset. Preferably, agents and horses are paired during training giving them the opportunity to gain each others trust and develop communication through body language. This extensive training received by horse and rider allows them to function as a singular unit.

Training Supervisor Manuel "Manny" Torresmutt tells the story of one incident which occurred while out on patrol that accurately depicts the true advantage and nature of the team work between horse and rider in the BP HPU.

"We were on duty waiting to receive word from our remote spotters of aliens in our area. My horse, Smokey, began to signal to me that something was up. His ears pointed forward and I could feel his heart rate increase. I radioed to our spotters and asked if they saw any activity in our area. The reply came back 'all clear'. As the moments passed, Smokey continued to tell me someone was out there. He started moving his feet restlessly as if he anticipated that we would soon be giving chase. I radioed again, and again the reply came back 'all clear'. Within a few moments our spotter radioed back and verified that they had now indeed spotted a group coming our way. There were two forward scouts and a group of a dozen or so several yards behind. Smokey was ready to go, however I held back on the reins allowing the two forward scouts to pass by knowing that they would be apprehended by the spotters. Smokey simply could not understand what I was doing, weren't we going to go get those guys? He became a bit fidgety and finally turned his head looking me straight in the eyes as if to say, Come On! Lets GO! And so we did, rounding up the main group."

Public Appearances
The Border Patrol Horse Patrol Unit proudly participates in parades and public events in the RGV. Most recently they were a part of the Fourth of July Parade in McAllen, TX.