Barnsley Football Club are and police officers are preparing to say farewell to ‘much-loved’ police horse Oakwell, who will be retiring this Spring after 17 years of service.
Oakwell, whose stable name is George, is the longest serving horse in the Mounted Section and will work his final shift on Saturday 27 April, at Oakwell, against Blackpool FC.
His story starts on a North Yorkshire farm where he was born on 8 May 1996, the sparky grey gelding arrived at South Yorkshire Police several years later on 6 November 2002 with the name George. Once horses arrive at the unit, it is tradition for them to be named after a local town, village or district – George was quickly christened Oakwell.
During his time with the force he has become a familiar face at football grounds across South Yorkshire and the UK, he also supported the policing of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Temporary Police Sergeant David Driver joined the Mounted Section in the same year as Oakwell and says his departure will leave a big hole: “Oakwell, or George as we call the old boy, is part of the furniture at Ring Farm. I arrived at the same time as him and we have worked closely together, as colleagues. That is what police horses are; they are your colleagues who you build trusting, working relationships with.
“He has been fantastic and deserves to hang up his horseshoes and have a happy retirement after 16 years of hard work and faithful service to the force. He hasn’t put a hoof wrong and has attended hundreds of events and incidents over the years, showing himself to be a first-rate police horse. He turns 23 shortly after he leaves us, so he’s definitely ready to retire!”
During his service, Oakwell has gone through 188 sets of horseshoes and eaten his way through 87,600kg of hay! He’s also taken part in 154 training sessions. Since he came into service, the Mounted Unit has bought 17 other horses, nine of which have retired before him.
OSU Inspector Alexandra Murthi explains what will happen to Oakwell once he has retired: “Police horses are retired to one of several charities, we gift the horses to them and they re-home them with continued support, so whilst the horse is alive, the charity are responsible for monitoring their welfare.
“The horses only go to selected people; they don’t just end up with anyone, which means we get to hear how they are doing well into their retirement.”
Oakwell’s last shift will be spent support policing of Barnsley v Blackpool at Oakwell Stadium. We hope all fans of both clubs can give him a friendly farewell to remember!