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Officers saddle up for patrols

It’s part of the lore of the ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’

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Officers saddle up for patrols

The Oakdale Police Equestrian Unit rides through town with horse rescue Officer Joe Cruz in the lead and Officer John Deming on the left and interim Police Chief Lester Jenkins on the right gallopi...

Photo courtesy Oakdale Police Department/


POSTED April 20, 2012 9:10 p.m.

OAKDALE - Oakdale police officers from the “Cowboy Capital of the World” saddle up every year on their own time to assist Ripon with its Almond Festival at the Mistlin Sports Park.

It’s a form of mutual aid that the Oakdale force provides without cost to offering equestrian security to the community that draws some 50,000 visitors to the festival. It was this past February that mounted Officer Joe Cruz and Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins most recently patrolled the event. They talked with both adults and thrilled of children at the carnival.

In a time of serious cutbacks these two officers added a public relations component to the event recently, at the Oakdale Rodeo festivities Cruz and his fellow equestrian officers did captured a DUI suspect, who was allegedly beating his pregnant girlfriend while he was stuck in traffic leaving the rodeo grounds.

Cruz now rides with fellow officer John Deming and his chief at his city’s parades and special events, including the Chocolate Festival. The trio of officers show their empathy toward the abandoned and rescued horses. They ride in uniform, providing a positive image in their community. And in Ripon and Livermore as well, where countless residents and their families have met the officers and their mounts Lobo, Moe, and now Hoss.

Both officers are a weekly curiosity in Oakdale, going through the drive-up window at Starbucks where their steeds are treated to blueberry oak bars, being spoiled with the welcomed snacks. Lobo has even been given a restaurant “Gold Card” demonstrating his popularity with the staff.

It’s just a short drive to the Cowboy Museum Mondays through Saturdays near the heart of town in Oakdale near the railroad tracks.

The sights, sounds and Western heritage of the Cowboy Museum are sure to be a joy to see for anyone looking for a unique collection of memorabilia that illustrates the past lifestyles of the American Cowboy.

Action photographs along with numerous personal collections, tell the story of the community’s early western beginnings. On display are the tools of the ranchers of years ago, including branding irons, boots, spurs and chaps. Specialty memorabilia is also displayed for a hands-on experience for visitors and children are also encouraged to dress up in western attire.

Oakdale claims to have attracted countless young cowhands 50 to 60 years ago who worked on area ranches on the week and entered rodeo competitions during the weekends.

There were a number of those cowboys – over 25 of them – who won professional world championship their titles, winning national acclaim.

Mounted patrol reborn after rescue of ‘Lobo’

The mounted police unit in the Oakdale department was revamped a couple of years ago by Officer Joe Cruz, who adopted Lobo from a Livermore based rescue facility operated by Amber Santos. Through her “Love of Horses” operation, she recovered him from owners at a nearby property where children told her the horse was being abused. He had been reportedly standing knee deep in manure. Cruz adopted and befriended Lobo, turning the friendly 11-year-old into a valuable working Quarter Horse.

Cruz said that Lobo had been abused and was in a skeletal condition, having been starved and beaten – about 300 pounds underweight. The halter on his head had grown into his hide near his nose to the point it had to be removed with a screwdriver.

The officer said he saw something special in the animal and the two of them bonded almost immediately. Cruz noted that his horse responded to him, gained weight and became proficient in crowd control after they attended a weeklong police equestrian school.

Cruz later came upon another abandoned horse he named Moe, now ridden by Officer John Deming and a third horse called Hoss that is currently ridden by Oakdale’s Interim Police Chief Lester Jenkins.

“Jenkins really loves that horse,” Cruz said.

Deming and Cruz made national headlines this past weekend from that incident at the annual Oakdale Rodeo where they corralled the driver exiting the festival grounds. After the officers caught up with the driver and the horses “danced” around his vehicle, witnesses said they had enjoyed watching the police event more than they had enjoyed seeing the rodeo in the cowboy capital arena.

While his partner and a patrol officer in a car arrested the motorist last Saturday, Cruz rode his horse throughout the area until he found the injured woman walking away from the rodeo grounds near a Valero gas station.

Cruz added that his horse is better at patrol than he is a rider – both meeting first hand with members of the public and at the Livermore rodeo as well.

It was last summer when Cruz suffered the effects of heat stroke while working the farmers’ market on E Street when Lobo demonstrated his affection and empathy for the officer. Fellow officer John Deming, riding Moe, recognized the telltale signs of heat stroke when he noticed Cruz was pale and sweating from a lack of water.

As his partner helped support him in his saddle, both horses moved along tightly alongside each other taking him to a shady area. The officer suffered an extremely low blood pressure and dehydration, hospitalized and given intravenous fluids being kept overnight for observation.

The officers noted later that the horses normally nip at each other when they would get too close. Cruz later recalled that the horses didn’t move with the approach of the ambulance and the paramedics that responded to his aid. The officer said while on the stretcher he felt the hot breath on his cheek as Lobo pressed his nose against his face.

Cruz credited much of the horses’ care and their training at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol School in Rancho Cordova for their responses and instincts that kept him safe during his medical emergency.

Officer Cruz, who sells propane to Bay Area restaurants as his day job was lauded for his community service recently with the Jefferson Bronze star, awarded for his devotion to the horses’ rescues, rehabilitation, training and to the City of Oakdale.

The cost to the city for the two horses is only $1 a year with the officers paying for their food and boarding.

Manteca Equestrian Sgt. Jodie Estarziau is charged with the small two-horse detail that includes retired officer Joe DeAngelis, currently serving as a reserve mounted patrolman with his Quarter Horse Quinn.

DeAngelis rides with Sgt. Estarziau and her Hanoverian from Germany named Stanley.

The Manteca mounted officers, like those in Oakdale, have to self-fund their horses. The expense inhibits other officers from joining their ranks without funding and without a place to pasture their animals.

Sgt. Estarziau said the Manteca department is looking for anyone who would be interested in sponsoring and expanding the mounted patrol in the community. The two officers were on the downtown streets over the weekend of the Street Faire talking with adults and children alike.

GLENN KAHL

209 staff reporter

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