On gamedays, Ohio State fans might see an unexpected visitor in the crowd: the horse of Officer Regina Shoopman from the OSU Police Mounted Unit.
Shoopman and her horses, Red and Orion, have been at OSU since 2012, when the Mounted Unit first began as a pilot program.
When crowds gather for the game, Shoopman has a wide view from atop her horse.
“Horses have an advantage when it comes to height, the high platform it puts the officer at gives us an advantage,” Shoopman said. “Also, it gives people on campus an advantage because they can see the officer on the horse in the area.”
The horses can also strengthen the connection between police and the public, Shoopman said, because a police horse can be a conversation starter.
“A lot of people want to come up and pet the horse, so it lets us be able to start a conversation with people,” Shoopman said.
She said another advantage of the unit is that horses can go to parts of campus that cruisers can’t get to, like the Olentangy River Trail.
“If we get a call of a suspicious package on gameday, it might take a person in a cruiser or on a bike several minutes to clear the parking lot looking for the subject, where we can see the entire parking lot from the horse in just a few seconds,” Shoopman said.
Currently, Shoopman, Red and Orion make up the entire unit.
Administration and Planning spokesman Justin Moss said in an email that there are no plans to expand the OSU Mounted Unit.
Shoopman said she trained her own horses to become police horses and occasionally trains with other units. She started training her police horses in 1997 at Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, and worked for the university from 2005 to 2008.
Red and Orion are on campus only three days a week and return to Shoopman’s farm when they’re not working, she said. The two are herd buddies and hang out together when they are in their pasture.
“You can see them standing in a natural herd position sometimes, nose to tail, and side by side and doing the things that horses do,” Shoopman said.
Khalid Moalim contributed to this story.