1999 Special Recognition Award Goes to Arabian Police Horse
January 18, 2000
As a police horse, Arabian stallion Klassic Fortune helped serve and protect Florida's communities. As a show horse, he won in a variety of disciplines. As a friend and companion, owner Vicki Burgans maintains there was no equal. And, in recognition of his contributions, even as his health deteriorated and failed, he was posthumously named as one of two horses to receive the 1999 International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA) Special Recognition Award.
At the time of the award, which recognizes accomplishments of Arabian horses in all-breed competition, Klassic Fortune, or "Beau," as he is affectionately known, was the only Arabian horse to ever win a national title in the United States National Mounted Police Competition. He won it twice. Competing for the award against all breeds in 1995, 1996 and 1997, the 14.2-hand gray stallion walked away with the top award over more than 250 horses in both '96 and '97 and won the novice division in '95.
The competitions were held to test and demonstrate the skills of horses that work in a police, military or ranger capacity. Horses had to demonstrate superior capabilities in negotiating obstacles during either day or night conditions and responding to situations like gunfire, sirens, smoke and flames. Competitions also consisted of inspections and equitation tests.
"Klassic Fortune was so honest and trusting in me that he competed in his last competition, even though he was losing his sight in both eyes," said Burgans, a horse trainer from Milton, Fla., who raised and trained him. He was retired in 1997 after close to six years as a police horse, due to chronic kidney failure, and was humanely euthanized in July 1999 at the age of 12.
Burgans was part of the Escambia County Sheriff's Posse, a volunteer police organization. While these volunteers are non-sworn, they serve the same functions as sworn officers, and under many of the same circumstances and long hours. Burgans said one of the more memorable events they worked was a Mardi Gras in Mobile, Ala., where there were about 450,000 revelers to monitor for signs of trouble.
According to Burgans, there were a few other Arabians in her unit, but very few generally involved in police work. When training him though, she had no doubts about Klassic Fortune. "I knew he'd be good at it. He's honest and would do what you asked. He was always rock steady and always the one paired up with the horse that was afraid. They'd take cue from him and go. He had total confidence; he trusted me and I trusted him," Burgans said.
"People would come up to me and say, 'I really don't like Arabs, but he sure does change your mind.' He was calm, quiet and well behaved, and they wouldn't believe he was a stallion to boot. He knew his manners. He was just a good, all-around horse," she said.
According to Burgans, overcoming stereotypes about Arabian horses was a frequent occurrence. However, one stereotype - dislike of water - applied to Klassic Fortune. "We all know they're sand chasers and don't like to get their feet wet. He didn't like it, but if I said, 'Go,' he'd go," she said. "I attributed a lot of his good, even temper to his grandsire, Khemosabi++++//."
In addition to police work, Klassic Fortune excelled in the show ring, winning classes such as hunter pleasure, hunter over fences, western pleasure, trail, driving and dressage at a regional and class A level. In his spare time, he was also a lessons mount. On one occasion, he was even the transportation for a bride and groom after the wedding ceremony.
"You could count on him to try 100 percent," Burgans recollected. "He was the kind of horse that the first time you got on, he was broke." For now Burgans is taking a break from police work, although she still helps others train their mounts for the challenges they'll face. But, the future may bring another police horse to the spotlight. One of Klassic Fortune's babies, an 8-month-old Half-Arabian filly, seems to have some potential. "I don't know my plans for her yet. She's a nice mover, so I'll show her and go from there," Burgans said.
In the meantime, she remembers Klassic Fortune fondly. "I couldn't have asked for a better minded horse. He was all business when it was time for business, and he knew how to play when it was fun time," she said.
"He was the kind of horse who could compete at a class A or open show in multiple divisions, compete at a national mounted police competition, give a small child a riding lesson, go for a trail ride and most of all, always be a best, most loyal friend," Burgans said. "I miss him. He's kind of always been there. His stall's an empty place now."
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