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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Elvis no longer a Tampa city horse, of course

TAMPA — Elvis has left the stable.

But Tampa City Council still needs to make it official. This morning, council members will vote to “dispose’’ of Elvis, a police horse who worked with the city’s mounted patrol for two years. He retired early last year because of health problems.

Even before he came to Tampa Police Department, Elvis was a bit of a tough-luck case.

He was on the small side for a standardbred horse. While standardbreds are easy-going, Elvis proved too wild for his owner, who refused to ride him at the Polk County farm where he lived.

In 2010, the owner donated Elvis to the Tampa Police Department. He he became the relief horse for the city’s five-person mounted patrol.

TPD spokesman Laura McElroy, said officers thought Elvis would benefit from the firm hand of the department’s trained riders.

He played understudy when the mounted patrol took to the streets during the 2012 Republican National Convention.

But even in his role as reliever, Elvis had problems.

Officers found him still a little too wild for on-duty jobs of crowd control and public relations.

Then there were the allergies.

They started soon after Elvis moved to the department’s stables in Thonotosassa, McElroy said.

Something in the environment -- maybe it was the strawberry fields, maybe it was the weedy dog fennel -- got Elvis all shook up. His hair began falling out and his health declined.

Blood tests at the University of Florida “determined he was allergic to so many of the common things around our barn, including the feed,” said TPD spokeswoman Andrea Davis.

Special diets didn’t help. Elvis got too expensive to care for, Davis said.

TPD usually retires its horses when they hit 20, McElroy said. Elvis, who as 14 at the time, took early retirement because of his health problems.

No mounted patrol officers could take him in, which is customary for retired horses and police dogs, McElroy said.

So Elvis found his way back to Polk County.

Today, he lives at Farrington Farm in Polk City. Owner Emily Cowper houses several retired police horses and runs a riding school on her farm.

This morning, Tampa City Council will vote to make the move official.

Today, Elvis goes by the name Hershey, McElroy said.

He doesn’t show up in the gallery of horses on Farrington Farm’s Web site.

Elvis may still be a bit too wild to train novice riders, McElroy said. But his former bosses at the mounted patrol are happy with his new situation.

“They’ve determined it’s a good fit,” she said.

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