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In stride: Mounted posse still a part of Porter County Fair

July 25, 2012 Susan O’Leary Times Correspondent


If untrained, most horses would want nothing to do with the amount of people, noises and excitement of a county fair.

But the horses of the Porter County Sheriff’s Department mounted posse have become a familiar sight at the Porter County Fair during the past 10 years.

Posse commander Sue Baugher said the 12-member team and its 16 horses, all rider-owned, play a crucial role at fair and “go through a lot of desensitization training before they get out here.”

“They’ll walk into situations that most horses wouldn’t,” Baugher said.

Horses naturally run away from things that frighten them, Baugher said, but the posse’s horses are trained to take distractions – like baby strollers, flapping flags, balloons, and siren-blaring police and fire vehicles – in stride.

Besides training at the fairground’s horse arena twice a month from April to October, posse members travel to Indianapolis, Lexington, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tenn., to train with other police posses.

The posse first served a public relations role at parades and public appearances, but six members now have Department of Homeland Security search and rescue training. Baugher said the horses also must not bite or kick, must be used to being touched, and must remain under control in all circumstances.

Aside from PR, the posse is invaluable in helping fairgoers locate cars in a crowded parking lot, directing traffic, and even rounding up 4-H cattle escaped from the beef barn.

Perhaps most valuable is their ability to part a crowd to guide an ambulance down the midway for a medical emergency, Baugher said.

“It amazes me that people won’t move for an ambulance but they’ll move for a horse,” Baugher said. “We are so visible that we’re often the first contact with people who need help.”

Although posse members are not police officers, Baugher is a reserve officer who carries a firearm and has “limited arrest powers.”

This year’s triple digit temperatures have been a concern. Horses can drink up to 15 gallons of water during their 10- to 12-hour daily fair duty. It can also be inconvenient “when your horse poops unexpectedly in front of a kid in a stroller,” said Donna Nay, of Valparaiso.

“They’re not house-trained,” Baugher added.

Nay said it’s touching to see Dandy, her 20-year-old quarter horse, lower her head to be petted by kids.

“It’s like they know,” Nay said.

Kristi Crowe, of Portage, said she enjoys having something to do with her horse “besides feeding him and cleaning up after him," but ultimately, her “favorite thing” is interacting with the kids.

“We see a lot of kids from the city who have never seen a horse,” said Kristi Crowe, of Portage, astride C.B., her 17-year-old palomino. “When you see the joy on their faces because it’s the first time they’ve seen a horse ... I love that.”



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