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White Knoll man trains horses to be “ultimate crowd controllers”

White Knoll, SC (Angelica Iglesias) – If you have ever been to a Gamecock football game, you may have seen the officers on horses. They control the crowd to ensure no one gets out of hand and to keep the event safe. Clifford Fisher is the man responsible for this great Midlands asset.

Fisher is the owner of Owens-Fisher Construction Company, Inc. However, he lives on a farm where he tends to horses and many other animals like sheep, cows, and even camels.

About 11 years ago, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott was running in the celebrity category at the South Carolina State Fair and told Fisher he wanted to use one of his horses to ride. Sheriff Lott won and knew right away that Richland County needed a horse patrol for events with big crowds.

Six months later at age 52, Fisher and his wife became reserve police officers. He took classes in North Carolina and Florida to learn how to train the horses and train people to work with the horses.

He had been working with and showing horses for years, but he quickly realized how different this kind of training was for a horse. Only about one in every 20 horses he tries to train will actually have what it takes for the job. Horses instinctually know to run away from a loud sound when they hear one. Officers, especially ones controlling a crowd, go toward loud noises and commotion. Fisher ultimately has to completely alter the way a horse is naturally born to think.

“Training is only so much. After you think a horse is ready for the field, it’s still going to take about four or five months to know if he’s really cut out for the job,” Fisher said. Very few horses actually have what it takes to control a crowd.

Fisher said in an interview that patrol horses make the “ultimate crowd controllers.” When he patrols on a horse, he is much higher than everyone else, so he can spot just about anything that goes on in a crowd with about a 100-yard radius and his weapons cannot be reached by anyone else. Fisher says he can do anything on a horse, even handcuff someone.

A horse uses the sides of its brain fairly literally, so if a horse hears something from the left, its left ear will turn to the noise. This makes a horse completely aware of its surroundings. Horses can see at night and tear gas has very little effect on them. These are just a few perks that make horses such great crowd controllers, according to Fisher.

A horse needs to be able to control every movement when patrolling a crowd. Luckily for a trainer and horse patrol officer like Fisher, this is a lot more natural for a horse to learn because it is the same kind of movement any cattle horse would do. He can train and use a horse to trap people with its body just by simply making it take a couple steps sideways or diagonally. This is not completely natural to a horse, especially in a tight space in a crowd but that is what a trainer like Fisher is for.

Fisher can clear 10 to 15 yards of about 100 people in a matter of seconds. He believes it is because most people are somewhat afraid of horses, which is a natural response to a 1,300 pound animal. If people are not afraid of horses, they always respect their size. Because he can clear a crowd so easily, EMT crews will often wait for him to arrive with the horse at the scene to get to the person in need more efficiently.

Today, Fisher has trained about a dozen horses successfully and four or five officers to ride them. Richland County Sheriff’s Department does not own any of the horses Fisher has trained, so their owners allow the department to use them for events with large crowds, like South Carolina football games and large high school football games.

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Call Paul Kirby

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