One of the most respected animals in Turkish culture, horses are helping to maintain order and safety of the city of Antalya as part of their mounted police unit and have become a fixture of the beaches and prominent events in the area. There are 10 police officers and 10 horses in the unit. Patrolling Antalya's beaches to ensure people's safety, the mounted police unit has been active for 10 years in the southern city. The unit has received significant attention from tourists at world-renowned Konyaaltı Beach, which is inaccessible for police vehicles and motorbikes. The horses are conditioned for the noisy beach environment through training that exposes them to loud noises, such as police sirens and drums.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Nevzat Budak, the deputy chief of the mounted police unit, said the unit performs its duties not only in parks, gardens or beaches where police vehicles cannot go, but also in sport events. "People do not consider us policemen when they first see us. First, they approach, then they touch the horse and they are shocked when they learn we are actually police officers. The children's interest in our unit makes us very happy and is especially rewarding," he said.
Budak said compliance with regulations is required to be a mounted police officer, such as: Being shorter than 1.80 meters (5 feet 9 inches), weighing less than 80 kilograms (176 pounds) and being 28 years old or younger. He added that the most important requirement for working with this unit is to have a strong love for animals. "If one doesn't love horses, then it is impossible for them to work for this unit," he said.
Police officer Ali Damarcan said he has been working in the unit for 10 years, and that they take the horses out to train them in accordance to the duties they will perform.
Damarcan said his love for horses originates from his grandfather and that he has been interested in horses since he was a boy. He said he has been working with his horse "Sakarya" for 10 years. "I have a strong connection with him. I can feel when he is angry at me or I know he can feel when I am angry at him. He is like a member of the family. I miss him when I don't see him for a while. When I am on leave, I constantly ask for updates on how he is doing," he said.
Damarcan also said people show great interest in their unit. "The children's interest in our unit is the most important because they are our future," he said.
Police officer Erdal Akgül also said he started to work for the unit in Antalya 10 years ago, and that he had worked in another mounted police unit in Erzurum.
Akgül said they train the horses in order to use them in social events, football matches or for patrolling.
"We can use a horse as a means to communicate with our citizens. We approach them politely. Thanks to our unit, people also show more interest and passion for animals and communicate with our police officers more comfortably,"he said.
Akgül also emphasized that horses are one of the most important symbols of Turkish culture. "Horse breeding is also one of our ancestral sport branches, like wrestling. While performing our duties, we instill the love of horses in people. Horses are emotional animals, and they can sense the love and interest coming from other people," he said.