Mounted patrol horses find new home

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Scooter and Lady have found a new home next to 4,000 acres of the Arapaho National Forest just outside Evergreen. Already their new owner, Cameron Fleet, 11, has discovered they are fond of apples and mints.

Scooter and Lady are the two registered quarterhorse mares that recently went up for bid when the city of Steamboat Springs police regretfully decided it was time to disband their mounted patrol. The successful bidder was Fleet's mother, Kathy.

Anne Small, procurement officer for the city, confirmed that Kathy Fleet bid $5,020 for the two horses, together with their saddles, tack and a horse trailer. The city had sought at least a minimum bid of $2,300.

"We're thrilled," Kathy Fleet said. "Cameron grew up with horses. We pretty much treat them like pets."

Kathy Fleet is a veteran horsewoman who has purchased and gentled a half-dozen wild mustangs through the Bureau of Land Management. She said she was tired of getting beat up by the mustangs and was looking for a couple of gentle saddle horses to pamper and take on trail rides in the National Forest near her home.

The original plan was for Cameron to ride the 23-year-old Scooter and for the spirited ex-roper, Lady, to become Kathy's saddle horse, she said. But Lady and Cameron quickly formed a special bond, and she has become his horse.

"Lady is very sensitive," Cameron said.

Steamboat police Detective Bob Del Valle, the last regular member of the Steamboat Mounted Patrol, said he had mixed emotions about seeing Lady and Scooter leave Steamboat. But his goal of seeing them go to new owners who would care properly for them was realized. He was particularly concerned that Scooter gets the gentle retirement she had earned.

"It turned out really good," Del Valle said. "(Kathy) was so happy, she was practically in tears," when the Fleets picked up the horses, Del Valle said.

Del Valle was one of the original members of the mounted patrol when former Sgt. Bob Belknap established it in the late 1980s. The new officers coming onto the police force don't have a background in riding, and there's almost no one to share the horse patrol shifts with. Captain Joel Rae occasionally rode with Del Valle.

During its heyday, the mounted patrol could be seen at large public events such as the free summer concerts, parades and weekly rodeos.

Del Valle said he thought the greatest benefit of the mounted patrol was not crowd control but in community relations.

"People were always happy to see the horses, and once they approached them, they would talk to us," Del Valle said.

Del Valle said Steamboat's community service officers do a good job of improving community relations by greeting residents and visitors along the Yampa River Core Trail and at outdoor events. The police department will continue to look for new ways to interact with the public, he said.

Small said she had received four bids for the mounted patrol items. Two of the bidders sought only a portion of the tack. In addition to the bid from the Fleets, there was one other bid for both horses and all of the equipment.

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