The former trainer of the Mounted Patrol horses got to each one arrive ... and then leave.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER MACK - Portland Police Mounted Patrol Unit's former full-time trainer, Jennifer Mack, rides Red next to an officer from the Seattle Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit during a joint agency training. 
Red was the first to leave. He cried and nickered at everyone one last time from inside the horse trailer.

"It hit home when Red left" said Jennifer Mack, his trainer. "That solidified it."

As the Portland Police Mounted Patrol Unit's former full-time trainer, Mack had handpicked each horse.

"They're like kids, you find them when they're young," she said.

With 20 horses that came and went from when she was hired in 1998 to 2017, she said "I still remember them all. I can remember what they looked like. I remember what we fed them and what size shoes they wore."

The mounted patrol unit worked in the city through the 1940s, then was disbanded. In 1979, a sergeant and two officers got the unit up and running again, before being disbanded once more in 2017.

Last year, when the unit was finally cut from the budget, Mack said the whole team was devastated.

"It was an overwhelming feeling of 'is this really happening?'" Mack said. "We'd been thrown on the chopping block for years, and then it was real."

Even though she has friends living in the city, Mack said she remembers her years there with the horses so vividly that she can't bear to visit Portland anymore.

"Honestly, it's sad for me to go there," she said. "I mean I look around every corner and remember when a horse was walking there."

And she still wonders, she said, why the unit was disbanded yet again.

"It's pretty hazy to me as to why, after 20 years of blood, sweat and tears, I was told it was a budget issue when it didn't appear to be a budget issue."

She said they were told the mounted patrol would be replaced by community service officers, but she never saw that happen.

"There's all this talk about community policing," Mack said. "Well, you cut the best community policing tool you ever had."

During the final years, Mack said the unit was slowly cut from seven officers to five, then from five to three, and weren't allowed to work crowd control. "They kind of whittled away at us," Mack said. And once they had so few officers, she said, they became "a victim of circumstance."

Even if she never gets her position back, she hopes the unit will reform and that the horses will stay in the public's hearts. She said they aided many issues and bridged the gap between the people and the police.

But they also brought character, she said.

When Zeus was new and out on the street, she said, he always noodled his head into people's conversations, as if he had a story to tell. And then there were his adventures at Union Station, she said, when he would follow people getting on the train and sniff their luggage as it rolled behind them. "Everybody just laughed because he was this giant horse … and he just wanted to know what was in your luggage. You know, like 'what kind of socks are you wearing?'" Mack said.

But that was all "before the band broke up," she said.

Saying goodbye was hard.

"The first one to leave and the last one were the hardest," Mack said. After Red left first, it was a slow unravel of calling the horses original owners and sending them to their new homes.

When they drove Diesel to Kathryn Kleinwatcher, Mack said it seemed like just yesterday that they'd first picked him up. Mack met Kleinwatcher outside where she was crying and saying "this shouldn't be happening," but simultaneously feeling happy to have him back home.

And then the last horse, Monty, left.

Every stall was finally vacant.

"After Monty left it was weird," Mack said. "It was empty."

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