Riding With A Purpose
Pictured are members of the Buffalo Trace Area 8 Search
and Rescue Team and 2 members of the crowd control team.
A true love of the outdoors has tempted many horsemen and women to go beyond recreational trail riding to participate saving lives. Riders and non-riding equine support volunteers can belong to a very special group of volunteers: the Buffalo Trace Mounted Patrol.
Mounted search and rescue teams are active throughout the United States. They provide a tremendous resource and service in their local communities and often beyond.
Qualifications for The Patrol are sensible:
Volunteers need to be in reasonably good health and maintain a positive attitude. In becoming active, participants have the opportunity to learn valued skills through training within the Mounted Patrol. These include 'man tracking,' use of maps and compass, rough terrain, CPR and first aid. Familiarity with radio and GPS skills are essential. All members of the Mounted Search and Rescue Unit keep up with on-going training and search activities. Those who join the mounted unit have specific requirements regarding the suitability of their horse and their own horsemanship skills.
This includes searching for lost persons and evacuations from normally inaccessible areas.
All members of the Search and Rescue Unit work together, as needed. Members also may be called upon to go outside the county to help if that area has exhausted its manpower resources.
Specifically, for horse people, it's important to develop needed skills to be an effective Search and Rescue volunteer. Riders need good basic experience in horsemanship and in being able to "read" their horse. Horses are valuable as their senses of eyesight; scent detection and hearing are highly developed.
Horses are far-sighted, and an alert rider will note when the horse suspects anything unusual by the animal's head position and ears, as well as changes from body relaxation to tension. The rider is much higher than a searcher on foot, and also can travel faster and longer on a horse. Horses can go where all-terrain vehicles cannot.
The horse often detects the missing person instead of the rider, so that means the rider needs to be alert to their horse." Lost children, who may be frightened and in hiding, find an affinity to a horse, and will come out and be calm. On the other hand, in a more confrontational situation, the horse demands respect.
Horses also go through training before being passed as qualified search and rescue mounts. They may be of any breed, a mare or a gelding, but must be "bombproof" and at least 4 years of age. Training sessions for them emphasize dealing with emergency situations.