HAPPY TRAILS: NYC Parks says farewell to two retiring PEP Mounted Unit horses  

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Atlas and Apollo who have served in the NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol Mounted Unit for more than 10 years have retired.
Photo courtesy NYC Parks

NYC Parks announced Tuesday the retirement of Atlas and Apollo, two North American Spotted Draft Horses who have served in the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Mounted Unit for 10-plus years. Hardworking and beloved by New Yorkers and parkies alike, the 2,000-pound horses have had storied careers patrolling New York City’s parks and engaging with the public. Both horses have been adopted and will spend their golden years at a horse farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey.

“As Atlas and Apollo leave the agency for greener pastures, we sincerely thank them for their service,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “While working with PEP Mounted Unit Officers to ensure that our parks are safe and welcoming, these gentle giants have also served as friendly faces, posed for photos, and impacted the lives of countless children and adults across the city. We wish both horses a restful and well-deserved retirement.”

Since joining the NYC Parks Mounted Unit in 2012, Atlas has served in all three commands in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, and visited most parks throughout the five boroughs. The 14-year-old horse is known for his humor, intelligence and striking black and white coat that makes him stand out in a crowd.

Atlas on patrol in Staten Island. Photo courtesy NYC Parks

Apollo first joined the Mounted Unit in 2008. With his unusual tri-color mane and tail, he is known for his friendliness and patience, and is widely regarded as the bravest horse anyone has ever met. When Apollo was inducted into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame in 2020, the EQUUS Foundation and U.S. Equestrian Federation described him as “a service animal in the very deepest and truest sense” who has impacted tens of thousands of people over the years.

“I have known Atlas and Apollo since they first joined the Mounted Unit, and both horses mean a lot to me,” said NYC Parks Staten Island PEP Capt. Robin Wickert. “Our horses are important members of the Parks Enforcement Patrol because they help with crowd control, access places that vehicles can’t, and serve as ice breakers when engaging with New Yorkers. They also help the public learn about  how to connect with, care for, and respect horses. We will miss these two, but we’re happy they get to enjoy their retirement and grateful that we had the chance to work with them.”

As with many older horses, both Apollo and Atlas have developed osteoarthritis, and Atlas has hoof conditions that make continuing patrol work impossible. Two new recruits have been chosen to join the PEP Mounted Unit based on their calm and easygoing demeanors. The mixed breed horses will undergo a 90-day training and assessment period with the Staten Island Mounted team. Their names will be bestowed once staff have gotten to know their personalities.

Apollo and Atlas in the Bronx. Photo courtesy NYC Parks

The PEP is a team of dedicated officers who preserve and protect parks and public facilities. Mounted Unit officers are specialized equestrians trained in equine care and stable management who patrol New York City parks on horseback. All PEP officers enforce rules and regulations, educate the public, respond to the concerns of park patrons, and ensure that parks and public spaces are safe and welcoming to all visitors.

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