They are lawyers, homemakers, medical professionals, restaurant workers, and retirees, from their twenties to their eighties. Their common interest: combining a love of horses and riding with public service as members of the Lake Metroparks Volunteer Mounted Posse, based in Kirtland, Ohio.
Last year, Posse patrols helped the park system's mounted Rangers (the law-enforcement department with which they're affiliated) search for missing persons and animals. They reported suspicious or illegal activity in the parks and helped maintain trails. They educated schoolchildren and Scouts about park safety (and introduced them to horses). Special Posse units also strutted their stuff in local parades and other events. Competing against professional full-time units, they brought home first-, fourth-, and sixth-place equitation ribbons from the National Mounted Police Colloquium in Lexington, Kentucky. And through it all, they had fun-lots of it.
A "Total Horse Experience"
The Posse has grown steadily in size and scope since saddling up for the first time in 1989. Created by two Metropark Rangers at the suggestion of a park director who'd heard of similar organizations in the western United States, the startup Posse had seventeen volunteers, recruited by word of mouth. Public enthusiasm and increasing demand has since pushed membership up to its current level of fifty-six.
The need to recruit Posse riders is very much a thing of the past. Newer members are likely to have discovered and joined the group the way Michelle Canfield did: She saw the Posse perform a musical drill three years ago. Talking with riders after the performance, she learned that if she tried out successfully for the Posse, her lack of a horse would be no problem; she could ride one of several the Rangers own.
After passing her initial screening interviews, an excited Michelle went to the next Posse tryout. Her riding skills, learned as an adult in several years of local lessons-"I was in the low-intermediate range"-were enough to admit her to the six-month program that all new Posse members undergo.
This article originally appeared in Practical Horseman, August 2000.