Credit: ASPoliceHorses

Police horses have been targeted during violent protests in Bristol, with fireworks being launched at mounted officers and one horse covered in paint.

More than 1,000 people gathered in the city centre overnight on 26/27 March, and while most protested peacefully, a “minority showed hostility towards officers”.

This was the second violent protest the mounted officers attended that week.

“Items, including glass bottles and bricks were thrown at officers, fireworks were launched at our mounted section while one of our horses was also covered with paint,” said Superintendent Mark Runacres. “This violent conduct is not acceptable.

“Officers repeatedly encouraged people to disperse but once the atmosphere changed and people became physical it was necessary to take action.

“Ten people were arrested for offences including violent disorder, assaulting an emergency worker and possession of Class A drugs.

“Three of those arrested were also detained in connection with the violent disorder which took place in Bristol on Sunday.”

Avon and Somerset Constabulary mounted section confirmed that none of the horses were injured.

Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

“This evening officers have been targeted with further violence, some of which was directed towards our horses,” they tweeted.

“Thankfully none of them were injured. Yet again our boys did a tremendous job and have come away unfazed & are happily eating hay.”

On 22 March, six of the force’s horses and riders encountered some “very upsetting scenes” but escaped unscathed.

“After some very upsetting scenes in Bristol this evening all six horses and their riders are still on duty but safe,” they tweeted. “Thank you to everyone for your concern. It’s been a very long shift.”

Sergeant Hannah Clarke spoke about the experience on BBC Radio Somerset, and praised the behaviour of the horses.

“When we arrived, I was quite shocked at the scenes, the police vehicles that were well alight that had been set on fire,” she said. “You had people throwing objects from the top of the NCP car parks. The level of aggression was astonishing really. There were bricks, glass bottles, […] general street furniture, signs.”

She said she had never witnessed this level of violence in her experience as a mounted officer.

“We do deal with pockets of disorder […] it’s what we’re trained to do, but […] it’s probably the highest level of aggression that I’ve ever experienced.

“I’m amazed every single time how well [the horses] perform. Although we train for it day in day out, you cannot train for that level of violence, fireworks and things like that, we were stood next to vehicles that were exploding around us.

“It just goes to show the low-level training we do on a daily basis, it does work. [The horses] certainly take reassurance from each other.

“We had six horses there, so they look after each other and you get a couple of braver ones amongst them and they tend to follow along and they stood there and they were so resilient. They were just amazing.”