Torontonians Honest Ed and Tecumseh will be at U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington on Monday.
In front of thousands of Americans and Mr. Obama, the horses from the Toronto Police Mounted Unit will join university bands and military units to show off their formation training in the inaugural parade through downtown Washington, invited along by the Michigan Multi-Jurisdictional Mounted Police Dill Team and Color Guard.
The Michigan team called Toronto's Mounted Unit four years ago, looking for two extra horses to participate in Mr. Obama's first inaugural parade.
The phone call came as no surprise to the Toronto officers: Members of the unit are past winners of the prestigious McCarthy Trophy at the North American Police Equestrian championships. The Toronto Mounted Unit has worked with police horse trainers in Michigan for more than 12 years.
Honest Ed and Tecumseh were chosen from among the unit's 24 horses, in part, because of their names.
Honest Ed was named in honour of Toronto theatre impresario and businessman Ed Mirvish, for "all that he's done for the city in the arts and urban development," said Staff Inspector William Wardle, who will ride the horse on Monday. Tecumseh was named after a Shawnee chief killed in battle in the War of 1812.
"[Tecumseh] is seen as a hero to both sides of the border," Staff Insp. Wardle said. "They see him as an American hero, too."
While Tecumseh will be making his debut in Washington this year, this will be Honest Ed's second inauguration. He also met the Queen in 2010 and attended Mr. Mirvish's 90th birthday party.
Nonetheless, Staff Insp. Wardle said, the invitation to attend the inauguration is a great honour for the Mounted Unit, and an incredible opportunity for him as a police officer.
"You just don't usually – as a municipal police officer – have the opportunity to be in such a major event," he said. "It really shows that everyone [in our unit] has enhanced our reputation, both north and south of the border."
The horses have participated in weekly training sessions that Staff Insp. Wardle described as a long, slow, process that builds trust and confidence.
The two horses are also at the "perfect age" for such a undertaking, said training Sergeant Jim Patterson, Tecumseh's rider. At 13 years old, the horses are mature, but still full of youthful energy, he said, adding that their experience in "thousands of parades" will help them stay focused on Monday.
When the Toronto police welcomed Honest Ed to the force 11 years ago, he "came in like a storm," Sgt. Patterson said.
Today, he is a "dream horse for everyone out there," he said, adding that Honest Ed is still one of the fastest horses at the Mounted Unit.