Portland, Ore. (KOIN) — Each year, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s posse of horse mounted volunteers helps secure the perimeter of the Clackamas Town Center shopping area in December.
The patrol doubles as a popular attraction for shoppers, many of whom enjoy greeting and petting the horses.
“People really like to see us out here every year. We have people that come back every year just to see the horses. We have people that it’s their first time, they’ve never really seen a horse up close or touched a horse,” Wim Vandenbroucke, the posse’s captain, told KOIN 6 News. “Especially for kids, it’s nice for them to be able to touch a horse.”
Should any security concerns arise, the posse will notify mall security or the sheriff’s office, Vandenbroucke added.
Dennis Curtis, the senior general manager of Clackamas Town Center, expressed gratitude for the tradition of the volunteer group securing the shopping center that dates back more than 20 years.
“We appreciate the partnership between Clackamas Town Center and Clackamas Sheriff’s Posse and their assistance in keeping our parking lot safe during the holiday season,” he said.
The volunteers of the posse, all of whom own their own horses, offer the service in exchange for a donation to their organization for their operating costs, Curtis added. The patrols occur during the weekends for the entirety of December, up until Christmas.
The posse engages in activities related to safety and community building all year round. Recently they teamed up with the sheriff’s office to help respond to calls of animal neglect and abuse, as well as hold blood drives, horse shows, and other activities.
The group has historically been involved in search and rescue missions but that need is not as strong as it used to be due to more people living in the cities and more advanced technology law enforcement uses for such activities, like the use of drones, Vandenbroucke said.
The group originally formed from members of the Lake Oswego Hunt Club in 1938, their website stated. They were asked the following year by then-Clackamas County Sheriff Fred Reaksecker to serve as a mounted posse. To this day, the sheriff’s office provides the group with official uniforms.
The tradition of volunteer-run mounted posses in Oregon dates back to the 1850s, according to the book Hidden History of Portland Oregon by JD Chandler.