A police horse with the Wilmington Police Department in North Carolina was hit by a drunk driver for the second time in his 16-year career.
The horse, named Elton, is currently recovering from his injury.
Mounted Unit Officer Aaron Mininger, who has been riding Elton for the past five years, described the incident on social media.
“We were just patrolling downtown Wilmington (in North Carolina) as we usually do on a Friday night,” Mininger recalled. “A vehicle rear-ended me while I was riding my horse, and it took us both by surprise.”
Fortunately, neither the horse nor rider sustained serious injuries.
“Luckily, I was uninjured, and Elton the horse, he has very mild injuries, all things considered being struck by a drunk driver in a vehicle. As of now, we are just checking in on him and giving him some therapy and some medicine and, so far, it is a good prognosis, and there are not any major injuries.”
Wilmington Police Chief Donny Williams said that it wasn’t the first time the horse was hit by a drunk driver.
“This is his second time being struck by a drunk driver. One of his previous riders made us aware that a drunk driver clipped him with a mirror of a car when he was downtown on patrol.”
Williams said that although the horse is a bit beat up over the years, he is a “remarkable animal” and an important public relations and crowd control tool for the agency.
The North Carolina agency is one of the few in the state to maintain a full-time mounted unit.
“We just don’t pull these horses out for special events,” Williams said. “They work 40, 50 hours a week, sometimes with their handlers, and in addition to riding them, the handlers maintain care for these animals 24 hours a day pretty much.”
It’s not clear if Elton will return to the job. He is currently undergoing “hydrotherapy” to ease the pain.
“Hydrotherapy is a lot of using cold water to rinse the affected area, and it really just helps to move the fluid and swelling, and also getting him moving just like when a human has a strain or anything. It helps to keep moving to get the fluid out and the swelling,” Mininger explained.
To boost his emotional support, the department is holding a meet and greet so the public can give the horse the attention he needs.
“The love and support we have received have been incredible,” the invitation’s social media post read. “And now, Elton wants to meet you!”