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Rio Grande Valley Adds To Border Horse Patrol

Courtesy: U.S. Customs And Border Protection

MISSION, Texas — Jared Barton has ridden horses since he was a toddler.

But rumbling on a Florida cattle ranch isn’t the same as the trails he’ll traverse going forward — the rough terrain of immigrant and drug smuggling trails in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Monitor reports Barton is one of the latest members of the U.S. Border Horse Patrol, a specialty group of agents that work on horseback and have been doing so since the early 1920s.

The 38-year-old agent was one of seven agents who officially completed a six-week training course to join the group in the Rio Grande Valley sector.

“I grew up on a cattle ranch in Florida and have been riding horses since I was 2 or 3 — so I did have a considerable amount of experience when I got here,” Barton said. “My grandfather had a ranch and owned more than 100 horses — I’d go out and help my family work the cattle and continued to do that until I left home.”

The Horse Patrol has 30 agents working the sector, where there are plans to enlist another 10 agents and 10 horses by July.

Horse Patrol supervisor Ruben Garcia Jr., who has worked with the Border Patrol for more than 15 years, said the agency needed a new stable to keep its horses after it canceled a commercial boarding contract all while doubling the size of its herd to 30 horses.

Border Patrol partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to convert an unused warehouse into the Morillo Banco Horse Patrol Compound. The stable, located about a mile from the Rio Grande, has room for up to 38 horses and features two full-sized barns on a two-acre plot.

The Rio Grande Valley sector’s Horse Patrol unit during the 2014 fiscal year caught about 10,500 people — the highest amount of apprehensions nationwide with one of the smallest herd of horses, Garcia said.

For Barton, his first day on the back of his new partner — a 7-year-old American Paint named “El Santo” — comes Sunday. “I’m really excited to move into this phase of my career,” Barton said.

[This an AP Member Exchange story shared by The Monitor]