MANCHESTER — Nerves might have gotten the best of The General, the police horse formerly known as Clyde, or maybe it was just nature taking its course, but when a class of fourth-graders came out for his debut at Smyth Road School Tuesday it wasn't the smell of roses in the air.
"Eww!" shrieked the children, some holding their noses.
"It smells like flowers, doesn't it?" asked Officer Scott Tardiff of the Manchester Police Department's Mounted Unit.
"Noooooooo," the children said in unison.
"The kids love that. It's always a crowd pleaser," laughed Lt. Maureen Tessier.
A shovel and a bucket took care of the horse manure and the "ewws" from the fourth-grade students in Mrs. Joleen Stephens' class quickly went to cheers when police Chief David Mara told them they won the contest to rename Clyde, the department's newly acquired 7-year-old gelding.
The horse, a mix of Shire and Clydesdale (hence the name Clyde), will now be known as Gen. John Stark or The General for short, the fourth-graders' winning entry.
The police department held a citywide contest giving children in kindergarten through fifth grade a chance at renaming the horse. Herlicka Financial Group, LLC purchased the naming rights for $2,500 and then turned them over to the city's school children.
Dave Herlicka and Jeff Mayer of Herlicka Financial also attended the event and were presented with a plaque. The $2,500 is used to feed and care for the horse which, along with Valor, a 12-year-old gelding, is boarded at the Sununu Youth Services Center.
Mara told the children it took a little longer than usual to select a winner because the first horse, named Jerry, didn't work out.
He didn't tell them that the young excitable horse threw a rider in Veterans Park, was pink slipped and sold to a family in Ohio where he is now a pulling horse.
Clyde, previously a field horse in Vermont, was leased with an option to buy for $3,800, according to Tessier. He passed a 30-day trial period last week.
Mara shook hands with the children as he presented each with a certificate. They were then allowed to get up close and personal with The General, who stood quietly as the children gathered around and petted him.
Valor, who was tethered to the horse trailer, got his share of attention from the children as well.
Tardiff said The General eats 30 pounds of hay a day and a couple of cups of grain. His favorite food is grass, however, and when he is especially good he is treated with a carrot or apple. And, because he is on pavement a lot, he goes through shoes every six weeks.
Tessier said the horse has a wonderful temperament and the only thing he has disliked so far is having his teeth taken care of and new shoes nailed on.
The fourth-graders came up with the name while studying New Hampshire history.
Peyton Sanuth, who scored an A+ on the history test, said the class agreed on the name after learning about Gen. Stark, a Revolutionary War hero from Manchester.
A statue of Stark riding a horse is featured in a North End park named for him.
After the visit with the school children, The General and Valor were put back into their horse trailer and headed, where else, but to Stark Park where The General was to pose for photographs next to his namesake's statue.