Deputies to start patroling Disney Springs on horseback

Orange County sheriff’s deputies will soon begin patrolling Disney Springs on horseback, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and Walt Disney World said.

The units will patrol the shopping and dining complex, previously known as Downtown Disney, beginning in January, the company said.

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Plans to add the mounted units were in the works before a Christmas Day incident in which a 70-year-old Putnam County man was arrested at Disney Springs, a company spokeswoman said.

Frustrated by a long wait, diner Luis Ojeda-Reyes allegedly struck three employees at Bongos Cuban Café, a restaurant owned by singer Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio Estefan.

Someone inaccurately reported to deputies that Ojeda-Reyes fired a gun during the scuffle, but the man wasn’t armed.

Ojeda-Reyes’ outburst triggered panic, nearly causing a riot as a large crowd started running from all directions, deputies said. Several guests were trampled over by people running to the parking garage.

In previous years, the Sheriff’s Office assigned mounted patrols to Disney Village, but that stopped after health concerns over horse manure. The horses will now wear bags to catch manure, officials said.

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With the exception of law-enforcement officers, visitors are no longer allowed to check in guns with park security to have them stored in a safe, the company said.

Earlier this month, Walt Disney World, the Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld installed metal detectors to screen park visitors.