Horse ownership and money go together quite well and a substantial portion of those who can afford a protective team will have some contact with the world of horses. As a result, those working in close protection should have some understanding of what that entails for protecting the principal.
If the principal owns a ranch or horse farm and just enjoys riding, then the protection team should have a few members who are good riders to accompany the principal. When Ronald Reagan became president, members of the Secret Service who were not already capable riders went through training in horsemanship with the National Park Police. Agents could then accompany the President as he rode around his ranch.
Injuries To Beware
When protecting a principal who rides, members of the protective team must be prepared to deal with the types of injuries that can arise from falls. Splints for broken or sprained limbs should be available as well as a cervical collar. If the principal rides jumpers and rides to hounds or does steeplechase riding or competes in jumping, then the cervical collar and knowledge of how to properly use it are essential.
It should be kept in mind, too, that many horse owners put great sentimental and monetary value on their horses. If they have a racing stable, they may well have horses worth millions of dollars. As a result, members of the security team may well be tasked with guarding the stables. Some knowledge of health matters that affect horses is useful so that the bodyguard can spot an illness or other problem with a horse.
Generally, there will be trainers or other stable employees who are continually nearby, but taking the trouble to learn a bit about the four-footed “principals” can be useful. As an example of how seriously horse owners can take security I’ll cite a situation after 9/11. When many prominent Saudis thought it prudent to leave the US, some assigned their contract bodyguards to guard their horse farms to prevent anyone from taking out their anti-Islamic feelings against the horses.
If the principal has racing horses, then they will be spending time at the track. Normally, owners’ boxes are fairly easy to secure and other aspects will be just like escorting a principal to any other sporting event in a large stadium or arena. Bodyguards will have to watch the crowd and stay close enough to prevent unwanted approaches to the principal. A good evacuation plan will have to be in place and plans for avoiding the crowds while getting the principal in and out of the track should be updated. The VIP driver should have the limo positioned for quick movement in case the principal wants to leave immediately once his horse or horses have run or if an evacuation is necessary. Plans should also be in place for escorting the principal to the stable to see the horses before the race and to the winner’s circle or to the stables after the race. Basically, the protective team needs to advance the track and stables well enough that they have multiple routes in mind for any circumstance.
Principals who play polo create an entirely separate set of problems for the protective team. First, the speed of play in polo combined with the size of the field, 300 yards long and 160 yards wide on a typical outdoor field, require that plans be in place to get to the principal quickly in case he takes a fall and gets injured. Fortunately, an ambulance will be standing by at many matches and doctors are very likely to be either playing or amongst the spectators. Still, the protective team should have the cervical collar and inflatable splints ready.
Because the principal will be riding back and forth over such a large area, the bodyguards cannot really cover the entire crowd. Fortunately, the speed of play would make it somewhat difficult for a shooter to get a clear shot at the principal while the play is going on. However, between Chukkas (periods), the principal will be switching ponies and may be somewhat static. Members of the protective team will need to be especially observant at that point. Fortunately, for the most part, those who attend polo matches are of a fairly distinctive type who look and act affluent. Watch for anyone whose attire and demeanor do not seem to fit in with the rest of the crowd.
The protective team should be prepared for the “divot stomping” that takes place at halftime during a polo match. Spectators will normally come onto the field to stomp down any mounds of earth that have been thrown up by the horses’ hooves. Some players like to mingle with the crowd at this time and help with the divot stomping. This helps them stay loose and gives them a chance to mingle with some very fine-looking polo fans if they have an eye for the ladies. If the principal goes divot stomping, then stay close to him. My experience has been that though polo groupies mostly like the wealthy players, some may find the bodyguards interesting, but do not get distracted.
I put bodyguards on both sides of the field towards each end to watch the crowd and put one bodyguard with the principal’s string of remount ponies to cover them and the principal when he is switching between Chukkas. Just as a point of information, if the principal plays fairly high-level polo, that string of ponies will probably be worth $100,000 or more.
Riding ability and knowledge of horses is another skill that can make the bodyguard employable. Open areas and crowds can make protection at horse-related events challenging. Members of the protective team in charge of medical situations will also find planning for dealing with injuries that may arise from galloping along at high speed on a large animal a challenge as well. Compared to protecting the principal amidst urban crowds, time outdoors around horses isn’t really so bad.