FWF Undercover

Photo courtesy of Bridget Gandee Photography
(1998 – 2020)
Owned by Taya Workum-Byers
Inducted: 2021

Photos

Photo courtesy of Eric L. Silvi
FWF Undercover, aka “Sherman”, a Georgian Grande born in 1998 and passing in 2020, was a ‘once in a lifetime horse’ for Officer Taya Workum-Byers and the thousands upon thousands of people he impacted during his life of public service. The Georgian Grande Horse breed was developed in the 1970s from crossbreeding the American Saddlebred with the Friesian horse and assorted draft horse breeds with the goal of creating a Saddlebred-like horse with the best qualities of heavier breeds.

When Officer Taya Workum-Byers purchased him as a mounted police prospect, she had no idea what she had really found. “He was a gangly and, well, ugly, yearling when he came to northeastern Ohio in 1999,” said Workum-Byers. “He had never been handled and was basically feral, but I fell in love with him and brought him home”.

Over the next couple of years, he grew (and grew!) and began learning the basics of how to be a police horse. When Workum-Byers became a certified peace officer in 2002, she joined the Willoughby Hills Police Department. Sherman’s many years as a patrol horse began when the Chief asked Sherman to join her.

As the only mounted officer, they worked alone. You would often find them outside the movie theater when the matinees got out where children would cluster around excitedly. His appearances at the local housing projects helped deter criminal activity. He was visible, approachable, and memorable. The kids would come up to him lured by the novelty of a “cop on a horse” and talk about things going on in the neighborhood that they would never tell a police officer in a cruiser.

Over the course of his 18 years as a police horse, Sherman worked for five different police agencies, one fire department, and one municipal Court. His duties included patrol, special events, educational programs, search-and-rescue, parades, crowd and riot control, traffic control, scene security, and escorts. Sherman's international service includes time spent in Ontario, Canada, where he was an honorary member of the Governor General’s Horse Guards Cavalry Squadron. As part of the Squadron, Sherman participated in ceremonial escorts of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario during the Queen’s Plate (the Canadian equivalent of the Kentucky Derby) and represented the Squadron in multiple parades for Canada Day festivities. Sherman was also commissioned as a Lieutenant for the Willoughby Hills Fire Department and remains the first and only horse in the fire service in Ohio during modern times.

Sherman had a way with children and was ever-so-careful when entrusted with one on his back. He could go from full on “police horse”, pushing back rioting crowds and standing his ground during tense moments, to carefully putting his head down so a tiny child could pet his nose, all in the blink of an eye.

One of his most important functions was as the caparisoned horse, also known as the riderless horse, at police and military funerals where Sherman would carry the boots of the fallen officer backwards in the stirrups. Sherman had the honor of performing this duty for local law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty as well as for an active-duty military member killed in Iraq. He stood to honor fallen police officers during the National Police Week ceremonies in Washington D.C., and also at several police funerals - both as the caparisoned horse and as a member of the honor guard.

Workum-Byers and Sherman worked throughout the state of Ohio at festivals such as Jamboree in the Hills (the largest country music festival in the U.S.), Red, White, and Boom (the pre-4th of July celebration in Columbus), and the “Fests” and Halloween Block Party events in Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University -- events attended by tens of thousands of people. A remarkable ambassador for his breed, Sherman and Workum-Byers often did breed demonstrations showcasing the beauty and versatility of the breed and represented the International Georgian Grande breed for several years at Equine Affaire-Ohio.

Sherman’s kindness knew no bounds. He was happy to have anyone ride him. He gave confidence back to several riders that had lost theirs due to difficult horses or bad crashes and took countless people on trail rides and ‘pony’ rides, and happily carried others for performances.

Outside of his career in public service, Sherman also competed in the traditional horse show disciplines of eventing and dressage. Workum-Byers and Sherman competed in USDF recognized competitions in 2007, finishing with an All-Breeds Award for the International Georgian Grande Horse Registry in Adult Amateur and Open Training Level. He was being campaigned by a friend at USDF recognized competitions for the 2020 competition year and had qualified for the regional championships prior to his death.

Sherman loved to trail ride and logged thousands of miles on trails all over Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. He was the go-to horse if someone wanted to ride and did not have a horse of their own. Workum-Byers’ miles on him were usually bareback, as he preferred that over having to wear a saddle.

Sherman was occasionally called upon to help out with weddings. One of the most memorable was a wedding with a medieval theme where Sherman wore the trappings of a medieval horse and carried the groom (also outfitted in that style, complete with sword) to meet the bride. Not only had the groom never ridden a horse before, neither had the bride when she was tossed up on Sherman for a side-saddle type photograph.

“Sherman had more adventures, touched more people, and brought more smiles and joy than I ever could have on my own,” said Workum-Byers. “He was willing to try everything I ever asked of him.” Sherman made people smile wherever he went. Workum-Byers was often told that Sherman was “larger than life”. He was.