Patrolling the Border on Horseback | The Daily Signal

Patrolling the Border on Horseback | The Daily Signal


We don’t do anything different than any other agent does while we’re going out and enforcing the immigration laws, except that we do it on horseback. The Border Patrol was born on the back of horses. In 1924, when the Border Patrol was established by Congress horse training was actually part of the curriculum. They would learn how to ride a horse and that’s how they would patrol, that was a mode of transportation. Our environment in San Diego, it’s very unique. We have beach, we have mountain, and we have desert. So our horses work in all three of those environments, and they learn them very well. But because of their senses being so keen, a horse can see, even at night, up to 2 miles on a clear night, so they know when there’s a natural hazard there that they can’t cross, or they need to stop because they may hurt themselves. The horses were with the agency until about 1959, and then the agency decided that horses were no longer needed. And then in 1979, the San Diego sector actually saw the need for us to bring the horses back. So the Border Patrol obtains their horses through a prison program in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management. We go to different prison facilities throughout the Southwest and we look at horses that have been trained in the prison programs and pick ones that may be suitable for our program. If we find one that’s suitable, we adopt that horse, we bring him back here, and we finish his training, and that’s where I come in, as a trainer for the Border Patrol. So I have to teach them not to be afraid of people that may be hiding in bushes and whatnot. And then eventually they’re assigned an agent, and that agent is responsible for that horse, his care, all of his gear. Every horse has their own gear, their own saddle. Currently our detail is three years, so each agent is partnered with their horse usually for the length of that detail. Horses are herd animals, so they look for an alpha. And once they establish that bond with their rider, their rider becomes their alpha, and when they’re together every day for the amount of time they are, the bond is pretty incredible. I was actually an agent on the unit for about five years. Sometimes our shift wouldn’t start until 10 at night, so our total shift was under the cover of darkness, so you learn to trust your horse. Their eyesight at night is actually excellent. A horse has a built-in radar for us. Being a prey animal, self-preservation is very high on the top of their list, and they’re going to keep you safe as well. They’re always alert and they’re ready, and sometimes they know that something’s coming our way, way before we do. Technology is great for us, but I think there will always be a place for an agent to patrol on horseback. The landowners really like us to go in there and patrol on horseback. We don’t destroy their land. I grew up riding horses, and actually when I joined the Border Patrol, I had no idea that they had horses until I came to San Diego sector. It is a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding. I get to help animals, and I get to help agents learn a skill that they will have for the rest of their life. I’m the luckiest Border Patrol agent in the country. Ranger is actually retiring this year. He is going to go home to one of his previous riders and finish his days as a happy, healthy, spoiled, retired Border Patrol horse.

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