NYPD Mounted Unit graduates horses named for fallen officers

Eight horses that graduated as part of the 2018 NYPD Mounted Unit class on Thursday, June 6, 2018, were renamed in honor of fallen officers.
Eight horses that graduated as part of the 2018 NYPD Mounted Unit class on Thursday, June 6, 2018, were renamed in honor of fallen officers. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

Ralphy, Joe, Compassion, and Bri’s Legacy are all horses in the NYPD’s Mounted Unit, newly renamed to honor fallen officers Rafael Ramos, Wenjian Liu, Randolph Holder and Brian Moore, respectively.

They were among the eight horses — all of whom had already been working in the Mounted Unit — ceremoniously renamed in the NYPD’s Bronx facility on Thursday afternoon. They also received badges for the first time ever, fitted into their harnesses and minting them NYPD officers in their own right.

The dedication took place as eight new officers and a sergeant graduated the Mounted Unit’s three-month training program, ready to join the 70-officer and 50-horse citywide unit.

“It’s a great honor to have [Ramos] remembered throughout the almost three-and-a-half years that he’s been gone — and days like this, it puts a smile on your face,” said Maritza Ramos, Rafael Ramos’ wife. “I think he would be super pleased. That’s a good-looking horse and he was a good-looking guy.”

Ramos was ambushed and killed along with his partner, Liu, as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn in December 2014.

“The love and support from the NYPD is always amazing,” Maritza Ramos said as she met her husband’s namesake. “It warms your heart.”

Another horse, Compassion, was renamed for Randolph Holder. Holder was fatally shot during a foot pursuit along the FDR Drive promenade in East Harlem in October 2015 after and another officer witnessed a shooting from the roof of a nearby building.

Randolph Holder Sr., Holder’s father, said Thursday’s dedication “fills my heart with joy” and that his son’s name will live on.

“No matter if you walk, ride, or be on a horse, his name lives on,” he said. “He was a man of great compassion … He will be glad knowing that this is taking place, and that his name will be living on by so many folks of the NYPD.”

The horses had not been renamed after fallen officers in several years, said Deputy Inspector Barry Gelbman, commanding officer of the Mounted Unit.

“The naming of the horses in honor of our fallen heroes is so we never forget, and that’s the department’s commitment is to never forget the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of the city of New York,” Gelbman said. “It’s priceless when you see the emotion and the happiness and the recognition.”

Thursday’s ceremony also saw eight officers and one sergeant graduate the department’s Remount School of Horsemanship. The NYPD averages about one graduation each year, and can include as many as 15 officers.

“Horses are very approachable,” he said. “Putting an officer on horseback shows the fact that we are human and we can be approached and spoken to.”

Gelbman said the horses live in four stables in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn, and generally serve about 10 years on the job. Horses eventually retire to one of three retirement farms where they remain owned by the city and no longer have to work.

Police Officer Alban Kalaj has served seven years with the NYPD and graduated the Remount school on Thursday, having worked previously in a Bronx precinct. While an expert rider now, before his training Kalaj said he hadn’t ridden a horse since his honeymoon in Hawaii.

“This is, to me, one of the most prestigious units,” said Kalaj as he fed carrots to his happy horse, surrounded by his family and 2-month-old son. “These animals are beautiful and I wanted the opportunity just to be near them.”