Once steps from slaughterhouse, Clyde now rocks it as a member of OCSD mounted unit
It was his “kind eye.”
That’s what got the attention of Lt. Doug Williams, a member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Mounted Enforcement Unit, when he first met “Clyde,” an emaciated, injured 12-year old gelding, who was waiting his turn to be slaughtered after working as an Amish plow horse for 10 years.
Williams, an OCSD reserve deputy, was trying to earn a spot on the unit and had been practicing with an excitable quarter horse.
That wasn’t going very well.
Williams, a reserve deputy for 16 years, began looking for a mount whose demeanor was more suited to the triggers that confront horses in law enforcement such as the sound of gunfire and raucous crowds.
Williams watched a video of Clyde, a Percheron draft horse, on the website of a Pennsylvania horse rescue group called Horses Deserve a Second Chance.
Williams, 59, learned that after Clyde worked as a plow horse for a decade, he was turned out for a winter.
“He lived off of tree bark and chewed on fence posts and ate his own poop,” Williams said. “When I got him, he was kind of skinny and kind of neglected and obviously needed a lot of work.”
The gelding had scars on parts of his face and back, remnants of plow harness hardware and chains he’d been wearing for years.
“The most important thing is that they have a mind that is capable of learning,” Williams said.
Before training could even begin, Williams took the time to get Clyde healthy.
Then he exposed the horse to noises and objects he’d likely come across as an OCSD mount.
The next step was actual mounted patrol training, where Clyde would have to demonstrate the ability to interact with other horses in formation, have endurance and stay calm amid loud protestors, the sounds of flags fluttering and booming noises.
“Doug has done a lot of work with him,” said Sgt. Dee Dee Kurimay, OCSD Mounted Enforcement Unit supervisor. “He has been a great asset to our community.”
Clyde, who is now 16 and weighs 1,500 pounds, has been a full-fledged member of the mounted unit for nearly four years.
Williams and Clyde have been part of OCSD teams that keep order for concerts, ball games and Supercross shows at a crowd-filled Angel Stadium and the annual San Juan Capistrano Swallows Day Parade.
“People love horses,” Kurimay said. “People will come up and talk to you. It’s a lot of positive reinforcement.”
The unit also does contract work for The Transportation Corridor Agencies and the Orange County Transportation Authority.
In recent months, the unit has been a preventive presence at local political rallies, including the April 28 Trump Rally in Costa Mesa where Clyde was struck by an object on the top of his head when the rally erupted into a mini riot.
“He actually took a step back, pinned his ears back, snorted and then he moved forward,” Williams said.
The following month, Clyde was among dozens of mounts on hand at the Trump rally in Anaheim, which went a lot smoother.
But it is not always about police work for Clyde, who represents the OCSD at various community events.
Clyde also brings comfort at grief camps to children who’ve been traumatized by tragedies.
Despite being warned against partnering with a former work horse or buying a horse over the Internet, Williams was willing to take a chance on Clyde, in part, because he wanted to save a horse from being euthanized.
“By saving Clyde, I didn’t save the world,” Williams said. “But I saved his world.”