Retired CPD horses helping fellow first responders focus on mental health

Medical Watch

PALOS HILLS, Ill. — After years spent protecting the city streets, two retired police horses continue their commitment to service and have found a new path at New Beginnings Therapeutic Riding Foundation.

Chicago firefighter Traci Hill comes to the foundation to destress and connect with her fellow first responder, Bosak.

“Bosak is he is so sweet,” she said. “I don’t know how he was a police horse, he is so darn sweet.”

Before Bosak arrived at the south suburban Palos Hills facility, the 22-year-old quarter horse worked for the Chicago Police Department. 

“The fact that we’ve been in very stressful positions, somehow we have that connection,” Hill said. “I don’t know how that works but it’s cool. Him and I can bond and chill out and be at peace.”

He’s named for William Bosak, a policeman killed in the line of duty in 1979. All horses in the mounted unit are named for fallen officers.

Hill is not an experienced rider but Bosak helps.

“He makes me feel like I have no worries right now and it’s very peaceful,” she said.

Bosak’s not the only former police horse serving as a therapy animal at New Beginnings. Fahey was a solid presence on the streets for years. 

“He knew his job. He never overreacted to any situations he was in,” Officer Renee Gonzalez of the Chicago Police Dept mounted patrol unit said. “He’s seen and done it all. He could go out there and if we needed to move a crowd or pose for pictures you knew Fahey could do his job well.”

Wiliam Fahey, the officer this 26-year-old thoroughbred is named for, died at the age of 34. Erin Fahey Kelly was 4-years-old when her father died in the line of duty.

“Everybody who knew him loved him,” she said.

Her children are still too young to understand what happened to their grandfather.

“I tell them that he would love them so much he would be so happy to be a grandpa,” she said.

Officer Fahey along with patrolman Richard O’Brien were shot while conducting a traffic stop. Both died from their injuries.

His extended family and members of the Chicago Mounted Unit recently gathered to help the service horse celebrate. He was named Thoroughbred of the Year in honor of his equine therapy work.

“There’s lots of different ways my dad’s memory has been honored but having a horse is pretty unique,” Erin Fahey Kelly said.

Not all police horses are cut out for therapy but Fahey and Bosak are naturals.

“They’ve done their service with helping on the streets making sure everyone is safe and now they come here,” New Beginnings’ Scarlet Camacho said. “And they have their turnouts and their free time but when it’s time for work, they’ll jump in and do their service again and take care of the riders.”

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