Reagan was a bit of a rogue when he was a youngster. In fact, he was more than a handful — when you could get your hands on him.
As a 2-year-old he was huge — and he hadn’t been taught anything. Although he didn’t have a mean bone in his body, he was a free spirit and full of himself. Proud, determined, beautiful and hard to keep inside of a fence.
That’s when he came to live with Officer Norman Schubert.
Schubert didn’t pick Reagan out. He was away from home serving with the military when his wife Arlene spotted an advertisement for the Percheron-cross gelding and made a snap decision to buy him as a Father’s Day gift for Schubert, just as he was due home.
Arlene planned to wait until their boys were home from school to introduce Reagan to Schubert, but it didn’t work out that way.
“Actually, Reagan got out and he was up on the neighbor’s lawn,” Arlene recalls with a laugh. At that point they didn’t have time to wait for the boys, they needed to round Reagan up and get him back to his new home.
And so the relationship began.
“He’s always been kind of a hard-headed mule,” Schubert says. “We have a lot of gates at home that will attest to the fact that he does what he wants because of his size. He’ll push on the gate until it bends or the chain breaks and then he and his friends go down the road.”
“Originally I wanted to use him to work under harness in the woods retrieving firewood,” Schubert said. “When he was three we put a saddle on him and we were able to trail ride him, but he was very rough and because of his size he basically did whatever he wanted to do.”
Then, as luck would have it, Schubert met an Amish man at an auction and they exchanged horse stories. Schubert was impressed with the man and a deal was made for Reagan to go with the Amish family and see if he would work out for them.
Then 4 years old, Reagan was put to work plowing in the spring and haying.
“That seemed to bring him around,” Schubert says.
Reagan worked out well under harness and the Amish man offered to buy him. But Schubert declined, deciding to keep the gelding and hopefully team up with him to pursue his dream of becoming a Mounted Police Officer.
“I knew Reagan and I would make a good team,” Schubert said. “He’s always been a gentle giant, but knew that he could throw his weight around and intimidate people… I wasn’t exactly sure how he would work out.”
When SUNY Delhi’s University Police Chief Perri DeFreece heard about Schubert’s interest, he gave him his full support.
“A mounted officer is much more approachable and I see the Mounted Patrol as a great way to increase communication with our students and campus visitors,” DeFreece explained. “From a law enforcement perspective, the officer and his mounted are a crime deterrent because of their increased visibility. An officer on horseback can cover difficult terrain more quickly and easily compared to police officers in cars, on bicycles or on foot. Also, it has been shown that a mounted officer is as effective as 10 to 12 police officers on the ground at major events.”
So, off Reagan went to Mounted Patrol school.
“After the first two days of school he started to figure out what I wanted from him and he responded well,” reports Schubert. “The instructors nicknamed him ‘The Rock’ because he was unflappable. He would not even flinch when firecrackers were thrown under him or flags waved in his face. During the drill when smoke was deployed he walked right into it and was a calming influence on the other horses. If he could not step over an obstacle he stepped on it. He was hit with objects and wasn’t fazed by any of it. That is when I realized he had a calling for this job: Police Horse.”
One of the skills practiced in Patrol Horse class is gently moving into and dispersing large crowds.
“During the crowd drills there was a simulated fight in the middle of a crowd of 30 or more people, who were screaming and waving flags,” Schubert stated. “Reagan went right into the crowd. They called him ‘The Rock’ because he’s fearless!”
Officer John Bagdovitz, a long time friend of Schubert’s and instructor at the class, reported on other skills practiced during the Patrol Horse Class.
“Officers are trained heavily in things that would happen out on the street that the average trail rider would not come into contact with.”
Horses were subjected to honking horns, fireworks, crowds screaming, smoke bombs and firing a starting pistol from the horse’s back.
“Reagan was the star of the mounted police class!” Bagdovitz declared. “We were all incredibly impressed with his behavior in the situations that we threw at him! He was fantastic! All of the instructors were extremely impressed with him!”
Bagdovitz knew what Reagan’s behavior had been as a youngster and was amazed at the difference. “When we finally got him to the patrol school we found out what Reagan was made for!” said Bagdovitz. “We found Reagan’s life work. It was a tremendous thing to watch!”
“Overall he is a gentle giant with a calm demeanor,” commented Schubert. “He is just as happy standing in one spot for over an hour and being petted or moving a crowd of rowdy people. He’s big and beautiful and when I drive him through the center of a crowd, people move!”
Schubert says the trend with police departments is to go with draft horses for mounted patrols. “It’s their size and disposition. Draft horses are perfectly suited for police work because of their traits.”
Reagan will be used to provide demonstrations for schools and community organizations showing how mounted patrols are able enhance law enforcement efforts. In addition to patrolling the campus, Schubert and Reagan will be used to represent the Delhi University in the six parades the village has each year, at the County Fair and other at other special events.
Now 7-year-old Reagan has come a long way since his rambunctious youth, surprising many people and making Schubert’s dream a reality.
“We are all very proud of Reagan,” Schubert said. “He loves to work and show off!”