Eli, a Clydesdale Frisian cross, is a big draft horse.
He spent years patrolling with Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Patrol Unit after an Upper Dauphin County family donated him to serve.
“He came to us when he was about twelve years old, and that was four years ago,” says Cpl. Carrie Neidigh, supervisor of the mounted unit.
Eli is 16 years old and 16.2 hands tall. The sturdy 1800 pound horse has made his way throughout the state.
“We do all the home Eagles football games. We go up to Penn State for their big home football games. We do Presidential visits, protests, any kind of concerts, a large gathering of people,” Neidigh said. “When you’re on a horse, you have people of all races, ages, gender come up to you and they want to have a conversation with you.”
Eli’s days of hoofing it on the streets came to an end when arthritis set in. He has since retired back to the green pastures of his original owners, Robin and Bob Stoner.
State police drove him back with honor, while Robin remembers the day they sent Eli away.
“We’ve never had a horse leave the farm before but we knew it was the right thing to do,” she said.
Their gelding, needed a gig, still, his leaving led to grieving and an idea for Robin.
“I was thinking about Eli, and feeling sad, and I just, all of a sudden started to write ‘When I was born, I was five feet tall,’ and I had no idea, no idea at all, the places I would go and the cities I would see. This, my story, it began at Alanleigh,” Robin said.
Alanleigh is their farm and from that, sprouted three rhyming books for children. “A Horse in Blue Eli, Call To Duty,” “A Horse in Blue Eli, at Your Service,” and now “A Horse in Blue Eli, Returning Home.”
“He was around people that loved him and cared for him, but now he’s back where he belongs, ” Robin said.
Eli lives with five other horses in his herd and is receiving treatment for his arthritis.
Pennsylvania State Police are still looking for draft horse donations. You can send an email to Neidigh at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help.
You can find more information about Stoner’s books here.