Salisbury Beach, which was rather empty Friday after nearly a week of rain, can draw crowds of up to 10,000, McCann said.
On a hot Saturday several weeks ago, mounted troopers assisted on a medical call for a case of heat exhaustion and chest pain, and helped rescue a 9-year-old girl from the water after she suffered a seizure. Spotting people in the water or down the beach is a part of the job where being on horseback is a definite advantage.
“It’s a lot easier to see when you’re on the back of a horse,” McCann said. “You’re on a platform and you can see down the beach 100 yards, better than if you’re on foot. And people can see us a lot better than a guy on an ATV or on foot.”
Though they’re based in Acton, the horses are used around eastern Massachusetts often. They patrol festivals in Boston. They provide crowd control at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston and during Patriots games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
During the winter, all the horses are stabled at Acton, where the six year-round troopers, including McCann, work to keep up the stable, paddock and gear. The troopers are responsible for the care and upkeep of the animals.
McCann did not have any real experience with horses when he first volunteered for the mounted unit. In fact, he said, he had only ridden a horse maybe twice before. He volunteered because the unit was close to where he lived at the time on the South Coast.
But over those 14 years, he realized he wouldn’t be anywhere else. He said the troopers form bonds with the horses, similar to police K-9 units. But it’s a different relationship that often runs one-way because unlike the K-9 units, the horses don’t feel a dog-like sense of dedication or adoration toward people. “The horse couldn’t care whether you’re gone 12 minutes or 12 days,” McCann said.