Monday, October 30, 2006

Montana and Susie, the horsies who saved Halloween

Although the Madison Police Department's Halloween flyers specifically said, "Please don't pet the horsies," horsie-petting seemed to be exactly what it took to defuse a volatile situation near the end of the celebration early Sunday morning, according to the Capital Times.
But in that tense moment, the mounted Capitol Police officers returned, and this time instead of striding through the crowd, they stopped midway through and stood there. People came up against the animals, felt their fur, touched their noses.

Officer Joseph Volz, atop a horse named Montana, caught a string of beads, several of which had been flying through the air. He put them on, and the crowd roared its approval.

A new chant began: "Susie! Susie! Susie!" That's the name of the horse ridden by Capitol Police Officer Penny Lepak. The crowd also began to chant Lepak's first name.

A crowd that had been acting juvenile all of a sudden started to act even younger. They took the kind of cards that the officers might hand out to an elementary school classroom, with pictures of the horses on the front and statistics on the back. Susie, for example, is a 17-year-old mare that stands 16.1 hands tall and has been involved in 16 State Fairs. Some of those who got the cards asked for autographs. One young man asked Lepak if she rode the horse every day to work.

Groups of up to six people would be petting a horse at a time, and they visibly mellowed. Twenty minutes after the horses stood among the crowd, there was no more chanting, no more jumping around and no more signs of mob mentality. The last knot in the crowd began to break up and leave even before the bars completely let out.

"That's what changed Halloween," Ben Feldman, a UW freshman said as State Street essentially cleared out even before the bars were required to close. "Those officers on horses were really nice."
Madison is grateful to Montana and Susie, the horsies who did the meet and greet thing with the Halloween crowd in the interest of public safety. They seem to have dressed up for the event, too. Apparently they didn't wear their regular, everyday horse coats, but special coats made of fur.

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