A 17-year-old police horse is in the finals for a national award.
Albert, a horse from Thames Valley Police’s mounted section, has been named as a finalist in the RSPCA and Daily Mirror’s Animal Hero Awards 2014 for his work during demonstrations, football matches and VIP visits to the UK.
The winner will be announced at a prestigious awards ceremony in London on Wednesday.
Albert was nominated for his bravery during his 10-year career, and particularly during an English Defence League (EDL) march in Brighton in 2012.
Members of the EDL and anti-fascist protestors had begun to throw smoke bombs, metal railings and glass bottles across the police line and towards each other.
The situation was getting progressively more dangerous when Albert led his eight-horse team into the fray to push apart the two groups.
But the horses became surrounded and the protestors started to pull at the reins, push the animals and attempt to pull the officers from their saddles, while at the same time bottles continued to rain down.
Despite all the unrest, Albert remained calm and used his body weight to push the protestors away.
For this incident and countless others during his 10-year career with the police force, Albert has now been named as one of three finalists in the public sector category of this year’s Animal Hero Awards.
The awards ceremony will be hosted by TV presenter Amanda Holden.
PC Kevin Simmons, from the mounted section, said: “We all got surrounded. People were grabbing us and bottles were bouncing off our helmets.
“It was one of the most extreme situations I have been in.
“The commendations afterwards stated that we were subjected to unprecedented levels of violence.
“I am not one to be scared easily, but that was a scary day.
“But through the good bond that we have with our horses and our trust for each other, we both looked after each other.
“All the horses, and especially Albert, did a great job.
“The commander said afterwards that if it was not for the horses they would have really struggled to reach their operational goals.”
Albert received the Chief Constable’s Commendation for his bravery during the 2012 EDL march.
The Irish draught cross, who is currently the longest-serving horse in the Force, has also worked at football matches – including in Southampton, Reading, Brighton and Portsmouth – anti-war, May Day and Gay Pride events, and during searches around the lake before the Olympic Games rowing events.
He has also worked to protect the Queen and other members of the Royal Family – including at the Royal Ascott – and VIP visitors to the UK, including leaders from Ireland, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar.
Albert’s mother was an Irish draught, while his father was a thoroughbred racehorse, Val de L’Orne, who won four of five races before being injured and put out to stud.
He was homebred in Herefordshire, but grew too large for his owner and was bought by TVP because of his size and good attitude.
PC Simmons said: “He’s a really good horse.
“He is one of those horses where he will see something once, realise it is not scary and then will not jump when he sees it again.
“But he can get a bit grumpy now and again, especially with drunk people waving their hands in his face all night.
“We are all ecstatic that he has been named as a finalist, and it is a real honour to have one of the horses recognised for the work that they do for us.
“I think he will be getting extra carrots and apples if he wins – but he will anyway for making the finalists.”
PC Simmons added: “Albert is getting a bit older now, so he has a few joint problems and gets a bit stiffer than he used to.
“He is probably the next one on to be retired, maybe in a year or two, but he will go to a good home when he does and spend the rest of his days in the field grazing.”
Retired police horses join those from the military and charities at The Horse Trust in Princes Risborough.
Get more information about the Animal Hero Awards 2014 here.