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Rescued horse to protect and serve for sheriff's department

Posted: March 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 18, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Sgt. John Hargraves grooms Lady Bug, a thoroughbred mare, at his home in Leona Valley on Thursday.

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Above a vertical scar running up The Dude’s back leg is a scab 6 inches in diameter.

They are lasting reminders of the condition in which the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control found the 7-year-old Palomino horse more than a year ago: starving and trapped under a fence in the city of Downey.

The horse left for dead eventually will patrol parks and keep large crowds of people in check as part of the department’s Mounted Enforcement Detail.

Horses are useful for patrolling county parks, since they can walk narrow trails and get to areas that can’t be reached by foot, according to Sgt. John Hargraves of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Parks Bureau said Friday at his home in the Leona Valley.

It’s there that The Dude now prepares for his next line of work, undergoing a regimen that will help The Dude recover, add 100 pounds of muscle and complete 80 hours of training needed. 

“If an animal has been abused, it always remembers it,” Hargraves said.

A majority of training involves desensitizing horses to loud or sudden noises so they don’t become scared during patrols, Hargraves said.

“We teach them to walk over objects without hesitation, (and we) light off fireworks and road flares,” Hargraves said. “Any distraction that might coming up during a crowd-control situation, we need to desensitize them.”

Hargraves praised the unique usefulness of having mounted deputies, citing a recent arrest a few weeks ago, when deputies needed their horses to reach three naked people filming a pornographic movie in Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce.

But he added that after 30 years of service calls, it became clear his old horse needed to retire.

That’s when he adopted The Dude from a Castaic equine shelter.

Deputies need laid-back, easygoing horses that don’t scare easily. The Dude could be perfect for the job, Hargraves said.

The Dude is an easygoing horse that needs to be whipped into shape, much like his namesake, the human protagonist in the movie “The Big Lebowski.”

“The Dude is a laid-back kind of guy,” Hargraves said, guiding the Palomino around his yard. “He’s not afraid of anything. But he doesn’t want to work hard, either. He likes to play.”

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