Two Metropolitan Police Horses were honoured this week for their outstanding devotion and service to society by leading vet charity, PDSA.
Grace and Keston, who have served the Force for 15 and 12 years respectively, performing a host of public order and specialist operational tasks, received the PDSA Order of Merit* – the animal equivalent of the OBE.
The equine duo** were joined by their former riders; Police Constable Helen Ridge and Police Sergeant Craig Richards, at Hampton Court Palace, to formally receive their prestigious Medals.
Commenting on the awards, PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “It is with great pride that we award Grace and Keston with the PDSA Order of Merit today.
“They both had long, exemplary careers, giving tireless devotion and outstanding service to society.
“Through the PDSA Animal Awards programme we seek to raise the status of animals in society and honour the incredible contribution they make to our lives. Grace and Keston’s extraordinary work warrants the highest recognition, making them worthy recipients of the PDSA Order of Merit.”
Grace and Keston’s careers
Grace and Keston joined the Metropolitan Police in 2004 and 2007 respectively, and were trained to perform a host of public order and specialist roles.
Horses used for such duties must have a unique set of skills. They must be unwavering when surrounded by other horses, able to cope with the most extreme nuisance and noise, fit and willing to react without question to their riders and, hardest of all, possess the ability to work independently of other horses.
Many horses have been tested and found to be unsuitable for such roles, but Grace and Keston were unique in that they performed impeccably, year in, year out, for over a decade.
After completing her training in 2004, Grace was posted to Lewisham Police Stables. She carried out various duties, including escorting the military, public order policing at football matches and other sporting events, crime patrols and public disorder incidents – including providing support during the London riots in 2011. Grace also carried out reassurance patrols and school visits and was a huge fan with children that she met.
She retired from regular patrols in 2019 but continues to be stabled at Imber Court, where she provides training and support to the younger horses.
Keston was posted to Hammersmith Stables following his training and took part in high profile public order policing, including the London Olympics, Notting Hill Carnival and numerous high profile football matches.
He was involved in the serious disorder at a Millwall versus Birmingham football match, where the Mounted Unit went in to support and protect foot duty officers. His rider received a commendation for his actions.
He was also present at the Million Mask March, where a number of horses and officers were seriously injured. Keston behaved honourably throughout the incident, despite the chaos, and was a rock to the other horses.
The two horses also worked together during the Gaza demonstrations in Kensington High Street in 2009, where barriers and other objects were thrown at the horses.
Keston sadly passed away in January 2019, shortly after being retired from regular patrols.