COBLESKILL — John Bagdovitz loves his job as a campus police officer for the State University College at Cobleskill . And a lot of that has to do with his his partner, a 14-year-old retired racehorse named Flapjack Attack.
Bagdovitz is the only mounted campus patrol officer in the SUNY system. He became the steady rider of Flapjack Attack — whom the officer simply calls Jack — in late 2008, after Steve Ackernecht, vice president for student affairs, suggested it would be a good idea for the campus force to acquire a horse.
At that point, Bagdovitz was 48 years old and had never been trained to ride a horse. But he said he viewed the task as an exciting challenge, so he enrolled at a seven-week riding school run by the State Police in Saratoga Springs.
“It was a painful lesson to learn, but a good one,” quipped Bagdovitz, who has been an officer for 25 years.
Bonding with Flapjack Attack, he said, was nearly immediate. Every horse, he said, has his or her idiosyncrasies, and Bagdovitz said he was patient as he learned what spooked Jack, and what didn’t.
“If you walked right up to me and handed me a flag, he’d start wigging out,” he said.
But if the gelding is allowed to first inspect an object before it is handed to the rider, he will stay relaxed, the officer said.
“I’ve gotten to know what he likes and what he doesn’t like,” Bagdovitz said.
What Bagdovitz initially did not know about his new mount was that he had been a champion trotter, retired from racing because of an injury. Among titles he had captured was Trotter of the Year, an accolade bestowed on him by the Saratoga Harness Horsemen’s Association.
While patrolling the campus atop Flapjack Attack, Bagdovitz discovered that almost everyone he encountered wanted to be his friend. The Cobleskill campus specializes in agricultural programs, one of the reasons why administrators thought the horse would be a good fit.