Devoted police horses awarded 'animal OBE’

Karen Last with Grace (left) and PC Helen Ridge with Tempest (right).jpg

Yesterday two Metropolitan Police horses were honoured for their outstanding devotion and service to society by leading vet charity, PDSA.

Grace and Keston, who have served the force for 15 and 12 years respectively, performing a host of public order and specialist operational tasks, received the PDSA Order of Merit – the animal equivalent of the OBE.

Keston’s PDSA Order of Merit was awarded posthumously, as he sadly passed away in January 2019. Police Horse Tempest received the PDSA Medal on his behalf.

The equine duo’s former riders; police constable Helen Ridge and police sergeant Craig Richards, formally received the prestigious medals at Hampton Court Palace.

Commenting on the awards, PDSA director general, Jan McLoughlin, said: “It is with great pride that we award Grace and Keston with the PDSA Order of Merit. They both had long, exemplary careers, giving tireless devotion and outstanding service to society.

“Through the PDSA Animal Awards programme we seek to raise the status of animals in society and honour the incredible contribution they make to our lives. Grace and Keston’s extraordinary work warrants the highest recognition, making them worthy recipients of the PDSA Order of Merit.” 

Grace and Keston’s careers

Grace and Keston joined the Metropolitan Police in 2004 and 2007 respectively, and were trained to perform a host of public order and specialist roles.

Horses used for such duties must have a unique set of skills. They must be unwavering when surrounded by other horses, able to cope with the most extreme nuisance and noise, fit and willing to react without question to their riders and, hardest of all, possess the ability to work independently of other horses.

Grace and Keston performed their role impeccably, year in, year out, for over a decade. 

After completing her training in 2004, Grace was posted to Lewisham Police Stables. She carried out various duties, including escorting the military, public order policing at football matches and other sporting events, crime patrols and public disorder incidents – including providing support during the London riots in 2011.

Grace also carried out reassurance patrols and school visits and was a huge fan with children that she met.

She retired from regular patrols in 2019 but continues to be stabled at Imber Court, where she provides training and support to the younger horses.

Keston was posted to Hammersmith Stables following his training and took part in high profile public order policing, including the London Olympics, Notting Hill Carnival and numerous high profile football matches.

He was involved in the serious disorder at a Millwall versus Birmingham football match, where the Mounted Unit went in to support and protect foot duty officers. His rider received a commendation for his actions.

He was also present at the Million Mask March, where a number of horses and officers were seriously injured.

The two horses also worked together during the Gaza demonstrations in Kensington High Street in 2009, where barriers and other objects were thrown at the horses.

Keston sadly passed away in January 2019, shortly after being retired from regular patrols.

Perfect police horses

Craig Richards, who nominated Grace and Keston for their awards, said: “Grace and Keston were the perfect police horses, performing impeccably during their lengthy careers.

“It is a huge honour for Grace and Keston to be awarded the PDSA Order of Merit. I’m incredibly sad that Keston is no longer with us to receive his honour, but having their actions recognised in this way is truly fantastic and I am immensely proud of everything they both achieved.” 

 Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here