Austin police on horseback patrol the downtown area, day and night.
These officers have safety challenges other officers don't. That's why the Mounted Patrol Unit trains every week practicing different formations for crowd control.
For example, officers use the line formation when they need to move crowds from the street to the sidewalk. Like at the end of a weekend night on Sixth Street when it re-opens back up to traffic. The wedge formation is used to soften a crowd, it's less jarring and intimidating than the line formation.
Just sitting the wrong way on a horse can make it easier for an offender to dislodge an officer. That's one reason these officers use biomechanics training to improve their riding.
Senior Police Officer, Julie Payne, says that's why they use biomechanics training.
"How can we train our body to sit in a secure safe position in order to not fall off our horse or be pulled off our horse, if we're having to arrest someone," said Payne.
Payne demonstrates some of the techniques they learned through biomechanics. Why riding with thumbs up is the safest for officers.
"If she straightens her elbow, see how that puts a lot of weight forward? And see how he leans forward? What we do affects what the horse does," Payne.
Payne says falling forward is the most dangerous type of fall. That's how actor Christopher Reeve was paralyzed.
"The other one is chin forward. Even that slight change in her body starts putting more weight on the front end of the horse," she said.
Biomechanics also teaches that you can maneuver a horse through slight body movements, without the reigns.
"I can't be holding both of my reigns with one hand and doing a lot of high level maneuvers if I'm trying to arrest somebody and handcuff them. Wouldn't it be easier if I can just move my horse towards the camera by turning my head and my shoulders and walking that way, my body causing my horse to move that way," Payne said.
Here's a demonstration of that. No photographer was injured for this.
Officers are trained to sit on a balance point, the most secure and safest position on a horse.
"A lot of times, people are told to sit way up on your pubic bone, hollow your back out. Well it puts you in a very unstable position, falling forward, really off balance. And you'll see some western guys sitting back on their pockets with the chair seat and so we sit somewhere in between there," Payne said.
And that's where biomechanics come in. Training to ride straight and not crooked.
APD's Mounted Patrol Unit is just one of many law enforcement mounted patrol units using Colleen Kelly's biomechanics system. She is world renowned. Soon, APD is bringing her to Austin for a clinic.
The department is opening it up to the public as well. Learning techniques that will prevent injuries and increase safety for everyone. The clinic will be held in Austin April 22-25. For more information, contact Julie Payne at 272-5634.