Apollo

Photo courtesy of NYC Parks
(2003 – )
Owned by New York City Department Of Parks & Recreation
Inducted: 2020

Photos

Apollo has been a part of the New York City Parks Enforcement Mounted Unit since 2008. The 18-hand, 2,000 lb., North American Spotted Draft Horse began his career in the Mounted Unit when he was just five years old and took to patrolling right away. Throughout his career, Apollo has worked to protect New York City (NYC) parks during major events including the New York City Marathon, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Global Citizen Concerts, and many more. He is comfortable in NYC streets with car horns honking, the rumble of subways, blaring music and all kinds of stimuli. Apollo patrols NYC parks where he is often required to navigate uneven terrain off the beaten path. In more congested areas of the parks, Apollo is not fazed by the sudden appearance of pedal-cabs, cyclists, film crews, loud music, street performers, banners, flags, groups of screaming children, and any other mayhem he may come across during a typical day in NYC. On paved streets and concrete, Apollo is surprisingly nimble and sure-footed despite his size.

Apollo can adjust to any situation, season, city, or circumstance. Apollo and his partner, Sgt. Gabriel Vazquez III, are assigned to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, as well as the neighborhoods surrounding it. The job not only involves law enforcement, but also community relations. On any given day, the Mounted Unit may issue parking tickets, make sure cyclists stay on bicycle paths, or remind dog-owners to keep their dog on a leash. On other days, the Unit may encounter crime scenes or request police back up in more crime-ridden areas of the city. They check on trees that have been damaged by vandals or make sure that frozen ponds have the required safety ladders nearby. All of this police work is done on horseback, with Apollo taking lead. The work is always different depending on the season, the time of day, and what is happening in the city.

Officers on the Mounted Unit have described Apollo as the “gentlest of giants,” performing his duties with unmatched kindness and gravitas. Apollo’s even temperament is perfect for the responsibilities of his job. He has the patience to stand in place for as long as needed, whether it be during parades or waiting for police back up when things go awry. Apollo has the bandwidth and the street smarts to be gentle with children and adults, while always being ready to perform his enforcement duties. In crowd control situations, he will walk through anyone in his way, but is careful never to hurt anyone.

While on the job, it is impossible for Apollo to walk more than a few blocks before being surrounded by kids and adults, many of which have never seen a horse up close. This is one of the most touching parts of Apollo’s job, as the people he encounters may never get the chance to leave the city and come into contact with a horse. People reach out in awe to touch Apollo’s massive shoulder or run their fingers through his mane. During these moments, the officers speak about the horses and their job, and allow the members of the public to pet and take pictures with the horses. Apollo stands patiently and allows every child and adult to pet him and pose for pictures. The amount of people Apollo has impacted has been in the tens of thousands. He is a service animal in the very deepest and truest sense and is most deserving to be honored in the Horse Stars Hall of Fame.