The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News -

YOU can take the boy out of the bush but you can’t take him out of the sad­dle.

Chris Stiles has gone from stock rid­ing on his par­ents’ cat­tle and dairy farm to head of NSW’s “Moun­ties”, the world’s old­est con­tin­u­ous mounted po­lice unit.

“The rid­ing in­struc­tion in those days from my dad was ‘don’t fall off’, whereas to­day the rid­ers are highly trained and skilled,” Chief In­spec­tor Stiles, 61, said yes­ter­day. While the NSW Po­lice Force’s pa­trol cars are full of the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, walk­ing into the Mounted Unit’s sta­bles at Red­fern it is like en­ter­ing a zone where time has stood still. The only hi-tech things around here are body-worn video cam­eras and Mo­biPol, mo­bile phones with built-in GPS so the horses and rid­ers can be tracked dur­ing riot and crowd-con­trol op­er­a­tions. There’s still the groom­ing and muck­ing out to do by hand for the 34 horses. The iconic unit was formed in 1825 to hunt down bushrangers. It was founded three years be­fore the Lon­don met­ro­pol­i­tan po­lice launched its mounted branch, and 38 years be­fore the fa­mous Cana­dian Moun­ties sad­dled up for the first time. Be­ing its boss en­tails more than the day-to-day run­ning of the unit. There is also its legacy and leg­end to pro­tect. At its height, there were 800 Moun­ties with 900 horses sta­tioned across the state rid­ing out to cap­ture crooks like the in­fa­mous Cap­tain Moon­lite, aka An­drew Scott, who was caught af­ter a shootout that killed one Moun­tie. Cap­tain Moon­lite was hanged at Dar­linghurst Jail in 1880. Insp Stiles ad­mits he “ab­so­lutely” has a han­ker­ing for the ro­man­tic days when the Moun­ties went off with a pack sad­dle into the bush for a few days.

The last of­fi­cer to do that was Trooper Stew­art Thomp­son, sta­tioned at Bell­brook, who as late as 1961 was still head­ing out with his wife Joan and his dog to camp un­der the stars and search for miss­ing stock. Mr Thomp­son is still telling his tales of the bush as a vol­un­teer tak­ing tours around the Red­fern sta­bles. For Insp Stiles, it’s a dream job. He de­scribes him­self as a “shortie” as well as a “Moun­tie”.

Af­ter study­ing dairy farm­ing and horse man­age­ment at To­cal Agri­cul­tural Col­lege, he was only able to join the po­lice in 1987 — aged 29 — when the height restric­tion was re­duced from 178cm. He was 170cm.

“I had been work­ing on the fam­ily dairy farm but I al­ways had a de­sire to work in law en­force­ment,” Insp Stiles said.

His ca­reer took him from Suther­land to Waver­ley and Wal­gett to look­ing af­ter po­lice in wit­ness pro­tec­tion and back out to the bush at Moree where there were nine po­lice sta­tions in his re­gion in­clud­ing two of the most iso­lated, Garah and Boomi, which were still one-per­son sta­tions.

At Moree he was the first of­fi­cer to be given the Moree Murri Gaba Nginda Cor­ro­boree Award as the non-indige­nous com­mu­nity mem­ber of the year.

“I am only as good as the team,” he said.

At the Mounted Unit, he has the best of all worlds al­though he doesn’t get to ride out with the troops, just around the sta­bles.

The Moun­ties’ role was slowly re­duced when cars came along and they were re­duced to do­ing point duty.

To­day, the core func­tions car­ried out by mounted po­lice of­fi­cers in­clud­ing Chloe Green (pic­tured left) and Patrick Con­don, are crowd con­trol, cer­e­mo­nial du­ties and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment. His favourite horse, Rom­mel, 800kg and 17 hands high, is al­ways a crowd favourite.

“Peo­ple who wouldn’t talk to a po­lice of­fi­cer will pat a po­lice horse so they can break down bar­ri­ers.”

Most of the horses are now tough Cly­des­dale crosses but they used to be thor­ough­breds like 1978 Mel­bourne Cup win­ner Ar­won.

Insp Stiles said the Moun­ties do ev­ery­thing their fel­low of­fi­cers do, in­clud­ing stop­ping ve­hi­cles for RBTs — al­though they leave the chases to the pa­trol cars.

Among the civil­ians help­ing out at the sta­bles is Ed the cat, who was adopted as a stray.

“He earns his way by keep­ing the ro­dents at bay,” Insp Stiles said.

They are beloved through­out the force. Just ask Chris Stiles.

Mounted po­lice of­fi­cer Patrick Con­don and his horse Prince and (be­low left) fel­low of­fi­cer Chloe Green with An­gus at the unit’s Red­fern HQ. Pic­ture: Richard Dob­son

Mounted troop­ers who caught bushranger Cap­tain Moon­lite in 1879 (left), and (right) on pa­trol to­day.

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