by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Flapjack Attack — or “Jack” as he is known around the SUNY Cobleskill campus — was a champion trotter at Saratoga’s Harness Track, breaking the track record in 2004 and winning the honor of being named Horse of the Year, as well as Top Aged Trotter and Trotter of the Year.
He gave up his racing career in December of 2005 and soon began a new career to partner with Officer John Bagdovitz as the first and only mounted patrol horse in NY State’s University system when his owners Michael Riggi of Clifton Park, NY and John Mongeon, Jr., of Ballston Spa, NY donated him to the college.
“The owners gave him to SUNY Cobleskill for the express purpose of doing mounted patrol,” reports Bagdovitz. “And I have to say that he is truly a great mounted patrol horse!”
Bagdovitz, who was then in his late 40’s, had never ridden horseback before. However, he accepted the challenge to accompany Jack to a mounted police training program in 2008 and spent seven weeks learning to ride — and to train Jack.
“When we went to mounted patrol school, they taught us to control the horse,” remarks Bagdovitz. “It was us that received the training! It was about my confidence, my ability; I am the trainer now.”
Bagdovitz said the program taught him to be able to keep the horse under control — no matter what the situation might be.
Although he said he enjoys the aspect of being a horseman and riding, Bagdovitz believes the most important thing about having Jack is the “barrier” that his presence has broken down between students and the campus police.
“Having Jack on campus is important, I’ve been a policeman for 27 years and no one has gravitated to me naturally. But once I’m on Jack, people want to talk to me one-on-one, as a person. Students will come up and ask me questions, talk to me, and really, it’s a great way to break down barriers between college students and University police. It’s a great tool! Traditionally, college students don’t like authority. But, people like the horse and so they like you.”
Bagdovitz says being a mounted patrol has been a good way to form positive relationships not just with students, but all of the local people who come into contact with him and Jack.
“People will come up and talk to me and stop and take my picture. It’s good because they get to know and trust their police department. And the better they know their police department, the more likely it is that they will call them when they are in need.”
Bagdovitz credits SUNY Cobleskill’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Steve Ackerknecht for making the mounted police patrol at the college a reality.
Ackerknecht, as an owner and breeder of Standardbred racehorses with ties to the harness racing industry, says, “It was a goal of mine to establish the first SUNY system-wide campus Mounted Police Department.”
“There is a serious issue in the horse race industry regarding what to do with races horses once they can no longer race and earn their owners, trainers and drivers income,” remarked Ackerknecht. “While very few equine athletes go on to the breeding shed or the safe comforts of a horse farm to enjoy a long comfortable retirement, the large majority are transported out of the country to become slaughtered for human and animal consumption. The opportunity to have a Mounted Police horse maintained by the college’s equine students and stabled at the College’s Equine Center was a natural link and would be an asset to the entire campus community.”
Ackerknecht said he worked closely with the University Police Department, Chief Frank Lawrence and former trainers Scott and John Mongeon, as well as Flapjack Attack’s owners Mike Riggi and John Mongeon, to acquire Jack for SUNY Cobleskill.
Ackerknecht acknowledges that the horse has formed a wonderful partnership with the University Police department. “This partnership works to break down barriers and build relationships between students, University Police and the college equine program. A true win-win for all!”
Jack is used for university-mounted patrol and classroom situations including grooming, trail riding and driving. He also leads the annual Student Cancer Awareness March and participates in community parades with Bagdovitz.
SUNY Cobleskill University Mounted Police Officer John Bagdovitz will be holding a week long Mounted Police class at SUNY Cobleskill’s Equine Barn in Cobleskill, NY beginning June 9.
“This class has been approved by NY State Dept. of Criminal Justice Services and upon successful completion of the course, each officer will be able to ride Mounted Patrol for their departments,” reports Bagdovitz.
The class is restricted to Dept. of Criminal Justice Services Certified Police/Peace Officers only.
For more information contact Bagdovitz at Bagdovje@Cobleskill.edu or 518-255-5555.
Officer John Bagdovitz and Flapjack Attack bring Mounted Patrol to SUNY Cobleskill
by Elizabeth A. Tomlin