ROCKWALL COUNTY, TX (May 7, 2014) Mounted on matching red sorrel horses; wearing uniforms of crisp white and deep denim blue; carrying the U.S. and Texas flags… the Rockwall County Sheriff’s Posse is a powerful visual of western heritage and American patriotism at the lead of the hometown parade.
But look beyond the intrigue and appeal of the stunning horses and their rugged riders,
and you’ll find an equally strong sense of duty.
“We come from all walks of life, but we’re bonded by our love of riding and public service,” said Jim Wardlaw, commander of the Posse and a member since it was formed in 1991.
How was the Posse formed?
The idea of creating the Rockwall County Posse was conceived by Rockwall County Sheriff Jacques Kiere and another original Posse member, Roy Hance. Sheriff Kiere went to the Rockwall County Commissioners for approval, and it was granted on April 8, 1991. Today, the Posse continues to be a valuable volunteer resource directed by Sheriff Harold Eavenson.
While most recognize the Posse for its patriotic role in parades and special events, the skilled riders are organized under a military structure and well trained for public safety and emergency response activities.
What does the Posse do?
“The Posse is capable of assisting law enforcement in a search event where horses can go, and most vehicles can’t,” explained Sheriff Eavenson.
When the Space Shuttle Columbia crashed in 2003, the Posse went to East Texas and recovered a significant amount of crash debris by riding through the fields. The Posse is called out on missing person searches, and they are naturally the ones to handle the round up and containment of livestock that’s broken out of pastures.
The volunteer riders have also proven to be very effective in crowd surveillance and control at venues like the Wilkerson Sanders Stadium parking lot during Friday night football games and other special events.
“Sitting much higher on their horses, the Posse can observe and report things that a ground level officer can’t,” said Heath DPS Chief Terry Garrett, who as a sergeant with the Rockwall Police Department in the early 2000’s recognized the Posse’s value as a crime deterrent force.
“We’ve broken up a few ‘would -be rumbles’ during our time simply by riding down the middle of the opposing sides and forming a line,” said Commander Wardlaw. “It makes a big difference when you bring in the horses. Before you know it, the trouble-makers are talking to us, petting the horses, and then moving their separate ways peacefully.”
Fortunately, those rumbles have been far and few between, and the Posse has spent most of its time at Wilkerson Sanders Stadium keeping a close eye on attendees going to and from the stadium and parking lot. “Especially the women and girls who are alone,” Commander Wardlaw said. “We try to follow them until they are safely in their cars.”
How are Posse members selected?
Being a member of the Posse requires a greater investment than just volunteer time. Posse members are responsible for all of their own costs of keeping a red sorrel horse, which includes the trailer and equipment for transportation. But it’s a price worth paying, they say.
“I felt as excited as a kid when we were approved,” said Heath City Manager Ed Thatcher, who was accepted in 2013 along with his son, Rockwall County Assistant DA Jon Thatcher. “I have always wanted to be a member of the Posse. It’s a great opportunity to spend time with our horses, my son and serving the community.”
To be accepted into the Posse, members must complete a written application to initiate the process. The Posse’s Membership Committee then conducts a background check and interviews.
“Probably the most important step is the horse review session, which is as much about the horse as it is the rider,” said Thatcher. “The applicant has to show the Membership Committee that the horse has been trained and is capable of performing all the necessary tasks under his or her control.”
Once an applicant has met the Posse’s approval, applicants are submitted to Sheriff Eavenson for a final decision. This stringent process has resulted in a high caliber group that’s brought positive recognition to Rockwall County through the years.
An award-winning history
The Posse has earned six first place and four second place awards at the Southwest Exposition and Live Stock Show Parade in Fort Worth. “There are a great number of riding clubs and sheriff’s posses from other counties in this parade each year,” said Sheriff Eavenson. “This is a most significant accomplishment relative to the high level of competition. Rockwall County is a real stand out.”
While Posse members cover their own expenses, funds are still necessary for things like maintaining liability insurance and caring for estray livestock at the Posse’s corral located on Townsend Drive in front of the Rockwall County Sheriff’s offices.
“Our most important fundraising event is the annual Trail Ride coming up on May 17,” said Jon Thatcher, Assistant Commander of the Posse. “This is a great time to get out on your horse for a long ride through some beautiful country.”
“It’s also a way to check the Posse out,” he added. ‘We’ve got room for two more good men or women to join us.”
You can follow the Rockwall County Sheriff’s Posse on Facebook, visit them at rockwallcountysheriffsposse.com or call 972-365-6239.
By Suzanne Brooke, Bayleybrooke.
See the Posse in action! Click here to view the VIDEO by Mark Brooke, Bayleybrooke.
Rockwall County Sheriff Posse’s Trail Ride
Saturday, May 17, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Starting at: Northeast Corner of Ben Payne Road & Highway 66, Fate
$20 per rider, $5 for children under 12
BBQ lunch provided
Tack Sale, Silent Auction, Saddle Giveaway, Gate Prizes
(Gates open at 10 a.m., lunch at 11:30 a.m., ride out at 1 p.m.)
Rain out date May 31
Current Negative Coggins Required and Checked at Entry Gate
Info: Jim Wardlaw – Commander, 972-365-6239
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