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HomeAt Home & BeyondDisney “Celebrity” and Friends Keep Watch Over the County

Disney “Celebrity” and Friends Keep Watch Over the County

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Since 2004, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol has provided invaluable aid for the citizens of Florida’s Adventure Coast. Deputy Bob Cloversettle, who has been the leader of the Hernando division for eight years, spent the previous five years with the Pasco Mounted Patrol. The local unit has provided a wide range of services for the county, including search and rescue operations, patriotic events, parades and other celebrations.

Search and rescue is one of their major functions and they will carry out the service anywhere in the county, as well as in neighboring counties. One such local who was saved thanks to the patrol was a woman who had overdosed on pills roughly five years ago. It was very fortunate for her as they had found the woman in the Lake Lindsay area after eight hours of searching just before sundown. Beyond this, the unit will also perform patrols in any neighborhood across the entire county.

Cloversettle and company assist with all the local parades, such as Fourth of July, Christmas, and Martin Luther King Day, among many others. They helped the county celebrate St. Patrick’s Day earlier this month, too. The mounted patrol’s coverage of festivities extends to events like fairs and summer camps as well. September 11th events, Flag Day, and school or church events also fall within their purview. They even cover Black Friday weekend while averaging between four and six events per month.

Deputy Cloversettle rides a pair of horses as part of the patrol: Triton and Duke. Triton, who is described by the patrol leader as a “celebrity,” is a 19.2-hand (6 and half feet tall at the shoulder), 2100-pound Percheron horse. The gentle giant’s popularity is due to his being acquired by the mounted patrol from Disney World three and a half years ago. Triton had served in Cinderella’s parade at the Magic Kingdom and was donated to Hernando County during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. The officer’s other pal, Duke, is a quarter horse.

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Every rider must have at least 20 hours of training and that includes hazards such as lights, sirens, flares, umbrellas, tarps, water, wood bridges, flags, gunfire, helicopters, fire trucks, bubbles, air horns, and more. The horses must also be comfortable wearing costumes as during Christmas time they will be decorated with bells, lights, and Santa hats. This is a very serious issue for the officers as the safety of the citizens around them is paramount.

“When you go out in public when you have a horse, you got to know when those little things pop up that your horse is not going to flip out because you could have 200 people in front of you […] you got to know your horse is rock solid,” Cloversettle said.

With animals comes messes, though. So, the sheriff’s office has “ground control” to clean up the waste and to keep children from getting behind the animals.

The unit requires and encourages a passion for horses, as Cloversettle is the only deputy on the squad; the 18 remaining members are civilian volunteers. The officer himself is even technically a volunteer, but every rider joined because “we love doing it.” Considering their status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the sheriff’s office does not pay for the horses’ feed and upkeep; the owner does. According to the officer, an illuminating study was conducted five years ago on just how expensive it is to care for one of these animals. Even with a healthy horse, the food, upkeep, medical bills, dental, and hoof care will run upwards of $4,000 a year. If cared for properly, these horses can make excellent and perceptive companions.

“We had a school we went to about six months ago and I was riding my horse, Duke […] this lady had come up with a boy in a wheelchair that had cerebral palsy and we had already seen about 600 students,” said Cloversettle. “My horse put his head down for that little boy to pet him. That is the kind of smart insight the horses have to people and what is going on around them.”

These large four-legged friends, who all wear badges as well, love being out around the public. Citizens have told the deputy that his crew “make[s] us feel safe” and that is what the mounted patrol is all about.

HCSO Mounted Patrol at the 2024 Swamp Fest. [Credit: Rocco Maglio]
HCSO Mounted Patrol at the 2024 Swamp Fest. [Credit: Rocco Maglio]
Mounted Patrol horse and rider at the 2023 Christmas Parade. [Credit: Cheryl Clanton]
Mounted Patrol horse and rider at the 2023 Christmas Parade. [Credit: Cheryl Clanton]
Deputy Cloversettle with Duke [Credit: HCSO]
Deputy Cloversettle with Duke [Credit: HCSO]

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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