The latest SHOCK DEVELOPMENT in Horse-gate is that David Cameron, long time riding buddy of Rebekah Brooks, did indeed ride her horse. That's not an innuendo (but you're welcome for the mental image). It is a reference to the news earlier this week that the Metropolitan Police loaned Brooks a retired police horse between 2008 and 2010, when she was editor of the Sun.
In an admission of dishonesty that's up there with Watergate, Cameron conceded that he had allowed a "confusing picture" to emerge about his riding of Raisa the horse. He told reporters:
He [Charlie Brooks -- Rebekah's husband and long-time friend of Cameron's] has a number of horses and, yes, one of them was this former police horse Raisa which I did ride.
I am very sorry to hear that Raisa is no longer with us and I think I should probably conclude by saying I don't think I will be getting back into the saddle any time soon.
The Met's line has consistently been that it is no big deal and retired horses are re-homed all the time. But how exactly would one go about it? Maybe I'd like a retired police horse. It's always good to keep your options open.
I called the Met's press office this morning to ask how it all works. The nice man I spoke to read out the information that I'd already seen on their website:
At the end of the police horse's working life the animal is re-homed at one of many identified establishments who have previously contacted the Mounted Branch with a view to offering a home.
The Mounted Branch is looking for suitable homes for retired horses, that is homes where the horse will not be ridden.
Anyone in the southeast of England offering such a home will be considered first.
But who are these people? Apart from national newspaper editors, obvs. "Anyone in the south-east who offers to take them on," he tells me, sounding bored. "They're people who register an interest in re-homing a horse with the Mounted Branch. Officers will assess whether it's a suitable home." So they go and check the house? He laughs. "I don't know if they check the house. They assess whether it's a suitable home."
I'm still not getting a sense of exactly the process works, so I ask again. Who are these people? How do they apply? He repeats the paragraph above, which is helpful.
Although he tells me that in 2011, eight horses retired, in 2010, 10 did, and in 2009, 11, I can't shake my suspicion that there was something not quite regular about this case. Brooks returned her horse, Raisa, after two years. That doesn't sound like retirement. Indeed, the arrangement has been most frequently described as a "loan". Is that the same? "Well, yes," he says, impatient at my idiotic implication that retirement isn't normally temporary. "They can still be returned to the care of the MPS after they've retired."
And another thing -- the only suitable homes are those where the horse will not be ridden? "Yes, they are homes where the horse will not be ridden."
If Brooks was indeed part of the rehoming programme, she might want to have words with Cameron, who has inadvertently grassed her up for breaking the rules. Raisa was not just ridden by her owners, but by the future Prime Minister, no less. The Mounted Branch office might want to work on that suitability assessment process.