The brand-new U.S. Park Police Horse Stables and Welcome Center opened its doors in June 2023. Should you visit? YES!
Remember dragging your children down the National Mall to see every monument and memorial? Your feet ache. You are not sure that you can even walk the return loop of the 5-mile walk from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
But then you spy a horse paddock on the horizon of the National Mall. Are you a victim of sunstroke?
Nope. Welcome to this surprising addition to the National Mall. The state-of-the-art and sustainable facility is located next to the Korean Veterans War Memorial. As you glide past the Wall of Remembrance, you will spy horses in the double-fenced viewing paddock.
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Meet the Horses
U.S. Park Police Horse Stables
My dog Parker was fascinated by the large limbed creatures staring at him through the fence. We met three horses (two chestnut and one cream-colored) that were members of the U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Patrol (HMP). I believe the brown horse’s name was Sibbell.
Feel free to say hello, sing a song to the horses, or just act silly. They may be the friendliest furry ambassadors that you’ll meet on the National Mall. Stare into the eyes of a horse and you won’t be able to turn away. The only thing you can’t do is pet the horses because they are on their “break” from work.
“I am still under the impression that there is nothing alive quite so beautiful as a horse.”John Galsworthy
If you arrive before 9 a.m., you can only visit with the horses outside. The Welcome Center opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m. Inside, you’ll get to see interpretative panels, video exhibits, and tactile displays featuring equipment and tack.
The stables are located on the National Mall on Independence Avenue, SW, her the intersection with West Basin Drive.
A Special Bond
My favorite exhibit was entitled “A Special Bond.” The two photos showed a closeup of a female park officer with a horse off-duty as well as a closeup of an officer racing his horse in Rock Creek Park.
The exhibit explains the partnership between the Park Police horses and their riders.
“After more than 400 hours of training, a horse understands a human’s intentions and commands.”U.S. Park Police Horse Stables and Welcome Center
During the officer’s training, they focus on riding skills and taking care of their mounts.
What I didn’t know is that the officer and horse work together as a team. “After being paired together, an officer and a horse are on the job for seven to eight hours a day, forming a special, lasting bond.”
Tour of Visitor Center
You definitely should try to find time to visit these horse stables on the National Mall.
New public features include:
- A welcoming education center with a self-guided tour, educational information on the horses and a history of horse-mounted patrol operations on the National Mall.
- Two public viewing paddocks with double fencing for visitors to safely observe horses.
- A new entrance and pedestrian path to enhance accessibility.
- A permanent and accessible pathway that replaces the former dirt path to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
The horse’s special gear, or tack, keeps both the horse and the rider comfortable during a long day at the job. Proper fitting tack also helps the horse interpret the rider’s commands. Children (and horse-loving adults) will love to stroke the “touchable” leather saddle.
There is also an exhibit on “Protective Gear” for the rider. It features the park policy’s horse riding helmet, ranger hat, leather jacket, and tall boots. The Mounted Patrol officers must wear specialized gear for riding. “Tall boots prevent leg chafing while helmets protect the head in case of a fall,” according to the plaque. “While parading, officers may sport wide-brimmed flat hats as a nod to the historical tradition of the U.S. Calvary.”
Caring For Horses
While visitors can only tour the Education Center, they can look through large windows into the grooming stall to see the officers groom their horses. They might see an officer brushing her horse’s mane or back.
Visitors can also watch videos about this elite equine Mount Patrol.
The facility features a total of 14 stalls, including a medical stall and a medical paddock, a heated wash and tack room, all built to ensure proper air flow and space for the horses housed onsite.
The horses now have their own private turnout, with proper space to exercise.
Oldest Equestrian Unit
The Mounted Unit is one of the oldest and most beloved equestrian units in the U.S. It all dates back to 1934 with just one horse rented from a local stable. Over the next 20-30 years, the unit expanded to provide a “friendly equine presence” on the National Mall.
The venue also is a touchpoint on the “Path of Hope,” to connect to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial directly to the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool.
U.S. Park Police Horse Stables Funding
This facility was built by the Trust for the National Mall in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Park Police. It replaces the original horse stables that date back to 1976 for the bicentennial. The new facility was built as part of the Trust and NPS preparations for the semi-quincentennial—the celebration of America’s 250th anniversary—where the National Mall will play center stage.
The venue is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. It is staffed with volunteers from the NPS and the Trust for the National Mall.
I love that the hard-working members of the U.S. Park Police horse troop now have such a fine home on the National Mall. They deserve it. Like the hard-working shepherd dog, the horse does its duty without complaint.
I think of the beloved book which I read to my children when they were little. In Black Beauty, Anna Sewell describes the horse who reaches his “retirement”:
“My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple trees.”Black Beauty
Well done Sally, George, or John Boy. You deserve a rest in this well-appointed horse stable on the National Mall.