NEW PORT RICHEY — How many Pasco residents would know that horses don’t care to be petted on their noses?
PACK summer campers now know that after the Pasco Sheriff’s Office Mounted Posse visited last week. Pasco Association for Challenged Kids puts on the three-week camp for youngsters with severe afflictions who need highly specialized care.
The horses “love to be petted,” Deputy John Bushell said, but they prefer to be touched along the sides of their necks rather than their faces. Bushell led the six posse members and their horses on the visit at the Genesis School on River Road in New Port Richey.
About 26 camp participants were eager to touch the horses. Ponytailed Sarah was captivated by Autumn, the horse of Kimberly Vowell. The shy girl touched the horse with one hand while using her other hand to clutch a camp counselor for security.
Angel and Kim were other intrigued campers who peppered Vowell with questions about her 12-year-old Tennessee walking horse.
State Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano also visited PACK the same day to speak with the children and pet horses with them.
The Pasco posse is the most active group in the state, Bushell emphasized, with some 50 members.
Posse members brought horses of all shapes and sizes. For example, Andy is a 15-year-old cross between a Clydesdale and thoroughbred. Dakota is a 5-year-old quarter horse.
Sampson, a draft horse, can weigh a couple of thousand pounds, Bushell explained. The huge steed might outweigh some compact cars, Bushell chuckled.
Quarter horses might achieve speeds up to 45 to 50 mph for short distances, Bushell observed. Sampson is slower, topping out at 35 mph, but he typically has greater endurance.
The oldest age ever recorded for a horse is 53 years old, Bushell also told the campers. Most horses typically live past 30 years old.
If a person gets lost in wooded areas, posse members often get called for search and rescue missions, Bushell added. K9 units usually hunt first for a missing person, but they usually last for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the heat. That’s when the posse often takes over.
If Sampson spots something of interest, the horse will pitch his ears straight forward, Bushell said.
The nonprofit posse also specializes in periodic neighborhood patrols to speak with residents concerned about problems such as drug hangouts or code enforcement violations.
The posse participates in parades throughout the county.
And, quite naturally, volunteers rotate on pooper scooper duty to clean up after the horses.
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office actually has two mounted units. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit is comprised of sworn deputies and the Pasco Sheriff’s Mounted Posse is comprised of civilian volunteers. Both units own their mounts.
All the members of the posse donate their time to provide services that benefit the community. To find out more, go online to www.pascoposse.com.
All riders and horses at the PACK camp were:
•Garey Wallace on Breeze, a buckskin American quarter horse, 8 years old.
•Deputy John Bushell on Samson, a gray Percheron draft horse, 13.
•Kim Vowell on Autumn, a spotted Tennessee walker, 12.
•Bob Carper on Dakota, a blue roan American Quarter Horse Mare, 5.
• Julie Inversso on Andy, black Clydesdale-thoroughbred cross, 18.
•Laura Willingham on T-Bone, a black Tennessee walker, 11.