The Madison Mounted Patrol is often asked why our horses don't wear anything on their feet. We choose to keep our horses barefoot because the natural hoof has superior shock absorption and traction as well as being quieter... that way, we can sneak up on the bad guys! Here's how and why...

Although a horse's hoof may look and feel rigid and inflexible, it is actually a very flexible structure which protects the joints of the leg by absorbing the shock of impact created each time one of our horses (weighing 1200lbs to 2000lbs) takes a step. Given that most of our day is spent on pavement, the dissipation of shock is crucial. There is optimum traction created when the frog (that large triangle on the bottom of the hoof) contacts the pavement providing a "grip" similar to an athletic shoe. Another consideration is that the hoof contains an enormous amount of nerves- when stimulated by pressure, this valuable nerve tissue lets the rest of the horse know that a surface may be slippery. This information gives the animal an opportunity to compensate for the changing surfaces that we frequently encounter and still remain sure-footed. As far as being quiet goes, it is always a treat to walk up behind someone in the street while riding a horse weighing almost a ton and have them turn and say "Hey, where did you come from!"

Keeping a police horse working barefoot requires a very healthy hoof that is well conditioned to stand up to harsh surfaces such as abrasive pavement, rocky railroad tracks and occasional broken glass and debris. The three factors that effect hoof quality are 1.) the horse's diet (nutrition) 2.) lifestyle and 3.) hoof care. The importance of a consistent diet that is low in sugar and starch is critical to growing a strong, well-connected hoof wall. A hoof wall that is straight and smooth (free of raised horizontal rings) allows the sole to build to optimum thickness. Our horses reside at a natural boarding facility (The Horse First Farm) where they live outside 24/7/365 in a small herd on a track system. They do not have access to pasture because of the ever changing sugar levels common in our cold weather grasses (see more info at www.safergrass.org). The bulk of their diet is hay that is tested for sugar, starch and protein as well as other minerals. They are fed a daily supplement that is customized based on the hay test results. The surface of their "track" consists of dirt and rocks which promote a dry hoof that is well stimulated. The hoof will respond to the increased stimulation by becoming tougher. We maintain the horse's hooves ourselves with regular trimming based on the "wild horse model".

Although we predominantly ride barefoot, we occasionally encounter situations that require us to consider the limitations of the natural hoof. The surfaces we work on are very abrasive and if extended periods of wetness soften the hoof, sometimes wear can out-pace new growth. We rotate horses to give them a break from the environmental stress but we also use hoof boots to protect the hooves while preserving all of the benefits that going barefoot allows.

The horse's hoof is a very well designed structure that has evolved over 60 million years. By understanding how the hoof works, we are able to maintain it in such a fashion as to maximize its ability to function.

Barefoot hooves of one the units' 2008
Percheron/Clydesdale geldings


A. Freeform All-Purpose Treeless Saddle

The Freeform treeless saddles are flexible in directions that allow the saddle to adjust immediately to the movements of the horse. The construction of these saddles allows for free and full extension of the horse’s shoulders.

B. Theraflex Self-Inflating Saddle Pad

State-of-the-art saddle pad eliminates all of the problems associated with saddles, including saddle slipping, dehydration, back strain, and pressure points.

C. Biothane Halter Bridle

The Military Halter/Bridle has uses one inch material for the browband, crown, and front noseband. Most popular version for horses over 16 Hands, where extra strength may be needed. Extra width compliments larger facial features.

D. Biothane Breastcollar

Durable, quick, and easy! All straps are adjustable. Snaps to pommel dee rings, and girth or cinch dee. Snap on neck strap allows quick removal without going over horse's head.


E. Reflective Breastcollar Cover

Bright yellow reflective material covers the Biothane Breastcollar to make the horse and rider mover visible at night.

F. Reflective Leg Wraps

The same reflective covering used on the breastcollar is also used as leg wraps to increase visibility.

G. Baton Holder

Custom leather holder for
36" hickory baton made by
Third St. Leather & Shoeworks.


Our mounted patrol unit has adopted a "natural horsemanship" philosophy of training. We use confidence based training, not fear based. We work to a level of horse and rider confidence built through time and patience. Competence on both the horse and rider's part builds towards extreme performance capabilities exceeding most equine disciplines.

We look for a good foundation of "police-horse" personality for each individual mount selected to go through training. The level of the horses abilities builds through time - we never push them further than they are ready and able to perform during training. Being a good leader (ie: the mounted patrol trainer) equals the ability to know when to push through a horses threshold and when to retreat and re-approach a situation - always letting the horse WIN. Winning equals confidence building!

With any performance level of horsemanship, inevitably, there are times of extreme sensory that a horse working in an urban environment must tolerate. It is with confidence and trust in the riders leadership that allows for a police horse to function - even during times where any normal "prey-animal" would retreat. A great bond forms between horse and rider to be able to handle such a job!

The Madison Police Mounted Patrol unit utilizes many training opportunities and often travels to training's out of state when an opportunity arises. During the season, the Unit trains once a month and during the off season, twice a month. The unit's horses live and train at The Horse First Farm in Brooklyn, WI.

Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol


There are many great ways to get involved with the Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol. Click on the button below to find out more or to make a cash donation.



The Madison Mounted Police Team was informally started in 1986 when six Madison Police Officers asked the Chief if they could ride their personal horses while in uniform in the November Annual Holiday Parade. The uniformed team was such a big hit ...


Friends of Madison Mounted Horse Patrol