March 31 2015 Latest news:
Monday, April 7, 2014
A long-serving police horse who was decorated for bravery after being stabbed during the Bradford Riots has returned home to Norfolk to enjoy a well-earned retirement.
In his youth, he was so down-trodden and hopeless he was just days away from the slaughterhouse.
But after his rescuer found him a new calling, he went on to a glittering career stamping out crime on the streets of West Yorkshire – even earning a bravery award after being stabbed during the Bradford Riots.
And now, after serving the police force with distinction, Wilson the 19-year-old horse has returned home for a well-earned retirement in his quiet Norfolk paddock.
The kind and calm Irish draught came to the county after Kristine Wilson, from Mattishall Road, Dereham, had a big win at the Cheltenham Races.
At their first meeting, Wilson didn’t leave his would-be owner’s side, with overgrown feet and burrs in his mane, he was begging her to take him home.
So she did. And after three years of love and confidence-building, a friend suggested Mrs Wilson should enrol her name-sake in the mounted section of the police.
Wilson was loaned to the force for as long as he was needed and now, 15 years later, he is returning to his owner with a long list of achievements to his name.
From patrolling English Defence League rallies and football matches at Leeds United’s Elland Road, to Leeds city centre and the fraught Bradford Riots, it is no surprise Wilson is the only police horse in the West Yorkshire Police to have ever been decorated for his bravery.
“I feel really proud of Wilson,” his 53-year-old owner said.
“He’s been though an awful lot, so it’s a really wonderful thing to have him back after so long.
“It was terrifying to see the pictures of the riots. The sheer hatred in those people’s faces, it is chilling to even look at.
“So for Wilson to have been there and to have been through what he did, it’s amazing.
“He’s kept people safe, searched for missing people and got into places police officers can’t. It’s a big ask of an animal, so now he deserves to relax – he’s earned his retirement.”
Tania Bullard, 58, from Gressenhall, said she was overwhelmed to see Wilson after so many years since she went to Dereham Police Station to ask about the Mounted Section.
She said: “When you think Wilson was going to be put down, he has had a lovely life and has really done his country proud.”
Back in Norfolk Wilson will have a much quieter life away from the intensive weekly training and standing guard.
Now his week will include enjoying his favourite tipple of Woodredding sweet cider in a village pub garden.
“I just want to spend some time getting to know him again, and make sure he has a really great retirement,” Mrs Wilson added.
A letter written to Kristine Wilson, from Neil Foster, from the Mounted Section of West Yorkshire Police:
“On behalf of West Yorkshire Police, may I express the gratitude we, and the public of both West Yorkshire and the UK, owe you for the gift you made to us of Wilson in 1999.
“Throughout his time with us, Wilson has worked tirelessly to keep the public safe, and has shown immense courage throughout his service, in particular throughout the serious disorder experienced in Bradford in 2001.
“We cannot express enough our gratitude.”