Recently I watched the movie “War Horse”, the story of a farm boy in England just before World War I. His drunken father brings home a thoroughbred race horse from a horse auction instead of the plow horse he had set off to buy. As a result of the father’s poor decision, the family fears they will lose the farm because everyone knows a thoroughbred can’t be harnessed to pull a plow, any more than a plow horse could be saddled to race.
As the story goes, the boy patiently trains the amazingly adaptable horse to be an exceptional plow horse. When the plowing is done the boy saddles his thoroughbred, and together they race through the lush, green English countryside.
As the Great War engulfs Europe, conditions are so harsh the boy’s father is compelled to sell the horse to a cavalry officer. The heartbroken boy pledges to find his horse and the viewer somehow senses that in return, the horse pledges to survive the war to return home.
The cavalry officer eventually takes part in one of the rare mounted cavalry charges of that new-age war. The officer is cut down along with the rest of the cavalry officers by massed German machine guns.
After the battle, the horse is captured by the Germans, but is not butchered for meat like the rest of the now useless thoroughbreds because he is adaptable. The horse’s trainer had developed in him not only the speed of the thoroughbred, but also the ability to take to the harness as well the strength and endurance to weather the years of hard labor ahead. The horse survives the war by pulling artillery. Later, when presented with the opportunity, the horse uses his greatest asset - his speed - to escape.
Are You a Thoroughbred?
As a police trainer of many disciplines, I have observed many police officers who love to train in what they are good at but avoid training in areas they no longer prefer or have never mastered. I have seen tactical officers who are magnificent with their firearms, but fumble with their handcuffs. Even so, they would be loath to waste their valuable time practicing handcuffing.
They are thoroughbreds.
There are young officers who are so satisfied with the feeling of indomitability that their TASERs have given them that they feel no need to seriously train in empty hand control holds. This number is growing larger and larger. They also are thoroughbreds.
There are those who have been promoted to administration and investigations who wear a firearm to work each day but choose to use their rank to avoid training in both firearms and empty hand skills. They feel justified in becoming the one-dimensional thoroughbred because they are above the fray - until, that is, the fray is visited upon them.
Does this sound like you? Are you a thoroughbred?
Are You a War Horse?
The war horse realizes that bad things happen to good people and that no matter what your position, as long as you carry a badge, you will find yourself drawn to those places where those bad things happen. Therefore, as long as the war horse lives, they prepare themselves for their next challenge. The war horse:
1.) Trains with all their firearms constantly to insure victory under the worst conditions.
2.) Perfects their empty hand as well as verbalization skills.
3.) Physically develops muscular strength and endurance, muscular and joint flexibility and cardiovascular strength and endurance for the inevitable future physical struggle.
4.) Knows they must be mentally vigilant for the inevitable battle may lie just over the next horizon.
5.) Knows complacency is a mortal enemy and vigilance a trusted ally.
6.) Train constantly, regardless of compensation. The thoroughbred will only train on the company’s dime and the company’s time.
7.) Has the ability to communicate effectively and offer either an open hand or a clenched fist, while possessing the wisdom to know when each is appropriate.
8.) Lives a life dedicated to service to others in need, during their most difficult hours as does the thoroughbred.
9.) Is committed to return to their loved ones after each shift as is the thoroughbred.
The War Horse and the Thoroughbred
A career in law enforcement is a challenge-filled and dangerous profession for both the thoroughbred and the war horse. The difference is the thoroughbred has been dulled by “routine.” They have grown complacent, because of time, experience, their position, or the perception that bad things happen to someone else.
War horses, on the other hand, prepare themselves mentally and physically to meet every possibility. Thoroughbreds sometimes scoff at the preparation of the war horse and judge it to be symptomatic of paranoia.
A war horse can be a member of a tactical team, operate a patrol car, conduct investigations, or be a member of administration. Just as a thoroughbred can walk a beat, work a traffic car, or even be a member of a SWAT Team.
No one decides to be a thoroughbred. It just happens. They gradually come to conclude, “I am good enough, fast enough and after all it is the same old race I’ve run a hundred times before”
A police officer however chooses to walk the difficult path of the honorable war horse.
Which one are you…a thoroughbred or a war horse? If you’ve read this far you either already are — or long to be — a war horse.