While footage of Saturday's mass anti-lockdown protest through Sydney's CBD prompted widespread anger across NSW, there was one image in particular that shocked the nation.
A 33-year-old Surry Hills man faced court on Sunday after allegedly striking a police horse during the protest – with an image of his alleged offence quickly going viral in the wake of the protests.
Thankfully, Tobruk the horse, a beloved member of the NSW Police Mounted Unit, was not harmed in the incident.
Video broadcast across news bulletins hours after the protests showed several horses from the Mounted Unit at the heart of the chaos, often surrounded by angry protesters in what were tense scenes.
There was inevitably a strong community rebuke of Saturday's rally, with social media awash with messages of support for the horses involved, and sympathetic to the testing scenarios they faced.
Superintendent Michael Rochester, Commander of the Dog and Mounted Unit, reassured the public the horses involved have ample experience to handle the scenes witnessed on Saturday.
"Both horses and riders go through extensive training for a number of scenarios," he told Yahoo News Australia on Monday.
What do horses bring to policing during protests?
For incidences like Saturday's protests, Supt Rochester said Mounted Police can be an invaluable addition to officers on the ground.
"In a protest scenario, they’re used for crowd management, observation and assisting officers on the ground," he said.
Supt Rochester said the benefits of using horses include:
A superior vantage point from being on a horse
Improved manoeuvrability through large crowds
Better community engagement
An ability to assist general policing
Senior Sergeant Glen Potter, the head of Western Australia's Mounted Police section, told the ABC last year there was undoubtedly an "intimidation factor".
"People generally go, 'wow, OK, a horse' and they back off. It completely reduces the tension," he said.
"If you've got one horse, it's like having 10 coppers on the ground."
Supt Rochester said it was vital the public remembers the horses and riders are there to keep the community safe and to target unlawful behaviour.
He said he and the team were thankful for the community response to Saturday's protest.
"We’ve received overwhelming support from the community in recent days, with phone calls and deliveries of sweets for the horses. We’d like to thank the community for their continued support."
And for Tobruk? Well it's fair to say he's had a better Monday morning than most of us.
The 33-year-old man reportedly did not apply for bail and will front court next month.
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