Mounted Search and Rescue Operations Use and Need the Skills Learned In Trail Riding

September 22, 2014

Trail Riding SkillsTrail riding develops the skills used in mounted search and rescue missions (MSAR). We aren’t the only ones who have noticed that active and regular trail riders have many of the necessary tools for searching for lost children and missing people. According to Irvin Lichtenstein, Chief of Operations for the Southeast Pennsylvania Search and Rescue unit, trail riders can put their knowledge and riding experience to work helping others.

In terms of search and rescue, he points out that horses have excellent smell, hearing and see things humans often overlook. As a prey animal, people don’t typically develop the senses a flight animal uses. As such, a horse will notice smells and pay attention to sounds a person will miss. Horses are wonderful observers.

Mr. Lichtenstein gives a number of ways that you can make you and your horse ready to help a search and rescue effort. You start by riding the trails a lot, camping, trailering, and spending sufficient time on the back of your horse to get to know his reactions. He correctly brings up the need to trust your horse and for the horse to trust you. This relationship only develops with time together and experiences that create the bonds and mutual understanding needed for the work.

We also appreciated his advice in taking trail rides fully packed for a search and rescue. It teaches your horse to be prepared and ready. The last thing you need when out to rescue someone is your own injury from an overly excited horse surprised by some new piece of equipment or the excitement he senses from you. The suggestion to practice riding the trail just like you were searching for a lost person makes sense.

Trail riders be ready! You and your horse may be needed at any time and we know you will be able and ready to lend a hand!

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Mounted Search and Rescue Training Operations Offer Huge Benefits

September 13, 2014

Hats off to the Livingston Co. Sheriff’s Department for their field training operations. Last month, the mounted patrol conducted a practice search and rescue operation for its mounted posse. The advantages to actual in the field training exercises for officers and their horses are significant:

  • become familiar with an area likely to require a MSAR unit
  • expose their horses to the commotion and stress of a search
  • give less experienced members and horses training
  • allow the public to know the unit can be mobilized when needed
  • builds confidence levels for both horses and riders
  • enables leadership to know areas for training reinforcement.

This training session allowed the mounted patrol to practice two drills. One searching for a special needs child and the second looking for discarded evidence from a fleeing criminal. Both scenarios are tasks well suited to these volunteer officers making their community a better, safer, and more secure place to live.

 

 


Brush and Trees Require MSAR

March 19, 2014

JackRocks, brush, trees, and heavily vegetated terrain are difficult to search by any means and particularly in the Spring and Summer in eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. Horse back offers the most effective means to cover large areas. MSAR, mounted search and rescue, frequently uses volunteers who provide their time, equipment, and horses free of charge to render aid to their fellow-man. Searching wooded areas in rocky, hilly parks and recreational areas is hard work, but mounted patrol riders put in the long hours knowing full well the rewards in uniting a frantic mother with a lost child or locating an Alzheimer’s patient who wandered away.

For Oklahoma residents, there are a number of these units ready to pull out on a moments notice. One unit near us, the Rogers County Mounted Patrol is expanding the volunteer force and actively seeking qualified horses and their riders willing to help out in times of need. If you are interested in what it takes to be part of a MSAR, mounted patrol search and rescue unit, contact the Rogers Co. Sheriff’s Department.


Is Mounted Unit work for you?

March 14, 2014

Mounted Police Trail ObstacleBy: Joann K. Long of Gentle Dove Farms

Do you want to enjoy your equestrian passion while contributing to your community? That thought was how my husband and I became actively involved in volunteer mounted patrol work. Our local Sheriff’s department had a Mounted Unit and we could proudly serve with our own horses if we met the membership criteria.

There were several criteria to be met, including an initial interview and background check. Of course the horses had their own testing as well. Fortunately, we had quiet, well-behaved horses that would be an asset to the unit. Each unit has their own testing criteria, but most include demonstrating equitation, obstacle maneuvers, public demeanor, and horsemanship skills. If the criterion were met, then a commitment would be made to participate in regular training and support Law enforcement and Search and Rescue activities.

Training consisted of formation riding, sensory and obstacle control, basic search and rescue techniques, crowd control, police equitation, arrest techniques, situation control, vehicle extrication, and fireworks and night maneuvers. Further, scenario training included simulated real life events such as containing protesters, search and rescue situations, and VIP escorts. Each member puts in numerous hours of individual training on their horse to prepare them for patrol.

Service and duties vary from patrol to patrol, but typically the Mounted Unit devotes many hours to traffic and crowd control, patrolling parks, concerts, fairs, festivals, and other public relation events, as well as participation in parades and park & pets (where the horse needs to stand calmly as children run around and sometimes crowd the horse to get their pets in).

In addition to the regular duties and community service, some mounted unit members participate in mounted police competitions held throughout each state and internationally. Competitions act as a form of training, networking with other Mounted Police Units, and a means of sharing strategies, methods and skills in the challenges of mounted work.

The general equestrian public typically take trail rides through a park, but one of my favorite ‘trail’ rides was riding down the center of my town on my horse, looking for new experiences and stopping to let the kids pet my horse. If you have a sense of ‘oh that would be fun’ then you’d be a great candidate for your local mounted patrol!

My husband and I were proud to serve our community. Most people were excited to pet our horses and talk to the mounted police – in contrast you don’t normally see kids excited to walk up to a patrol car and try to pet it! Mounted units provide a great way to make a positive connection within the community. Personally, I’m privileged to have belonged to a Mounted Unit and enjoyed my passion for horseback riding while giving back to my community. You may still see me riding down the city streets of my town!

Joann Long Mounted Patrol Officer

Joann Long Mounted Patrol Officer

The mounted unit provides training from which every horseman could benefit. Their training was the framework towards developing our equine partnership. We had great success in police horse competitions and were frequently asked how we trained our horses. From those inquiries, Gentle Dove Farm was born – to teach the general equestrian public mounted police style training. We encourage partnership, communication, and exceptional trust mounted police style! If you’d like to know more, please visit www.GentleDoveFarm.com!

Happy and safe riding!

Joann K. Long

©Gentle Dove Farm


Rogers Co. Mounted Patrol Unit; Big Plans For 2014

February 22, 2014

The Rogers Co. Mounted Patrol, whose focus is primarily search and rescue operations, has big plans for 2014. Rogers Co. Sheriff, Scott Walton and Deputy, Coy Jennings, are about to announce the plans for 2014 for the mounted patrol. One objective that can be disclosed is the goal to increase the number of volunteers qualified to participate. Both Walton and Jennings feel strongly that active community participation with the Sheriff’s department brings all types of benefits to the community, helping make Rogers County a better place to live.

Wisely, Sheriff Walton and Deputy Jennings recognize mounted search and rescue (“MSAR”) is an efficient way to find lost and missing people. By using community volunteers, the Sheriff’s department can leverage its resources in emergency situations by involving the local citizens. After all, more ground can be quickly covered by horseback than any other means, especially when you consider both horse and rider have the ability to hear and smell. Unlike searches by plane, patrol units can listen for cries for help and offer assistance. Mounted patrol can also investigate brushy and areas hard to see from the air.

The plans are underway and just as soon as we are authorized, the events will be posted. If you would like to assist in the mounted patrol, you can contact Coy Jennings at the Rogers County Sheriff’s Department 918-923-4477.

 


Rogers Co. Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol Spreads The Christmas Spirit

December 26, 2013

News on 6 reports on the Rogers Co. Sheriff’s Mounted Patrol  (Mounted Search and Rescue Unit “MSAR”) watching over the Christmas shoppers at the local Wal-mart in Claremore, Oklahoma. As a courtesy to the citizens, the mounted patrol members escorted shoppers to their cars and kept an eye on their vehicles so folks could come and go worry-free. Service with a smile to brighten up the holiday season! Pete had a great time and enjoyed all the kids petting his nose!


Rogers Co. Sheriff Certifies Pete & Jack: Level 1 MSAR

December 6, 2013

PeteThe Rogers Co. Sheriff Department has certified Pete and Jack, two of our AQHA quarter horses, for the mounted search and rescue “MSAR” patrol. Both received approval for Level 1 Certification, this means they are approved to be called for any situation at any time. There are three levels for horse certification in the department. Level 1 is the highest certification available and approves the horse for all situations. Level 2 means the horse is certified for limited operations and by approval in only limited situations. Level 3 is certification to attend training events, but no field operations. Level 3 is intended for horses that have potential, but need additional training before use in a real life event. There were a number of applicants that received no certification as the horses were not qualified for the program.

A separate certification is required for each volunteer to serve as a reserve officer for the MSAR operations. We are happy to announce Shawn McKibbin received his certification as a responder and serves on an “immediate” call basis. Shawn oversees the training program at Post Oak Ranch and spends a lot of his time teaching young horses the ropes. The crossover from the routine daily training to develop trustworthy trail horses to certified MSAR mounts is a natural one. Our horses must pass a number of internal tests for soundness, stamina, disposition, and ability, many of the same attributes required for search and rescue horses. We insist that our horses be “using horses” and “working animals” ready for a variety of activities including MSAR operations.

JackSome of you will no doubt recall Jack was used in a search and rescue operation during the first year in our training program and located a lost little boy. He has keen hearing and pays attention to his surroundings. The boy was heard by Jack over the noise of helicopters, 4-wheelers, and a full-scale search and rescue operation. He alerted Shawn who had been requested to assist by local law enforcement. When Jack became interested in something that could be neither seen nor heard with human senses, Shawn turned the direction of Jack’s focus to investigate further. The little boy was found a short while later resulting in some greatly relieved parents.

Congratulations to Shawn for qualifying the horses and himself! He will be a real asset to the Sheriff’s mounted patrol posse!


Equine Search and Rescue Units Need Trail Ride Experience

December 2, 2013

MontanaSearch and rescue volunteers need a lot of time on the trail to develop the skills for the job. In today’s world, horse training just like every other profession has become very specialized. People that show want someone who has an interest and the ability to train for the ring. Cutting horse trainers are expected to bring out those talents needed for the horse to be competitive; and so it goes. Every discipline demands that trainers spend nearly all their time working towards a few specific goals. Unfortunately, the end result are horses very good at a few select tasks and functionally illiterate for any other activity. Search and rescue operations requires riding in situations not always familiar to the specially trained horses from various disciplines.

If a dressage rider decides to volunteer to help search for a lost child, it only impairs the effort if the horse and rider are not ready for the environment. Brush, rocks, and wildlife may cause anxiety for a horse that spent the last five years in the show ring. Other specially trained and advanced horses may not be ready for the trail. Has the competition horse trained to run barrels ever crossed a creek? Has he crossed one with saddle bags banging his sides as his feet slip on the mossy rocks underneath? Is the combination of the slippery surface and the saddle bags beating his flanks going to end up with a wreck? It is far better to find out these types of things before an actual SAR is under way. These are the intangibles that just can’t be taught from a book or classroom setting.

Trail riding also works a horse and rider much differently than eventing, reining, or most other disciplines. In many equine activities, the horse is finished in an hour, two at most. Often there are breaks in between sessions and the horse can stand and regain some composure. Trail horses start early and work late. There’s not a five-minute competition that ends with them being led back to a stall. Trail horses figure out really fast that the day can be long so conserving energy is important. Don’t get us wrong, all disciplines and riders should be welcome to participate, we simply suggest some day long, or even weekend long rides will give some much-needed experience to volunteers who may not recognize how 10 hours in the saddle feels.This doesn’t mean a show horse or a rider from another discipline can’t be useful to search and rescue operations. It does mean they both need some “real-time” on the trail to develop the skills necessary.

Search and rescue members, (not just the horses) need time together on trail rides. Time together on the trails allows the search and rescue volunteers the opportunity to see how their fellow members handle situations with their horse. If asked to pair off with someone and ride a given area, the last thing we want to find is our team member on the ground because their horse acted up. If so, the unit is out of commission with a downed rider and most likely other units will be called away from the search to attend to the hurt volunteer.

Before heading off for a MSAR, we like to know the abilities, skills, nerves, and readiness of the people in the unit.  For instance, is the co-volunteer going to have his own water? Has he been “turned around” (lost) in the woods himself? Does he understand he might be leading his horse back to the trailer with some unexpected injury? Has he trail ridden enough to know that water for his horse isn’t always available? We’ve seen MSAR’s where water wasn’t there for the horses. It’s definitely not the preferred way to treat working horses in the hot sun. Trail riding is about as close to “search and rescue” as any activity you can engage using a horse to simulate and teach what will likely be encountered.

If you intend to participate in a MSAR group, make sure your team is familiar and ready for the task at hand. Not simply communications training and operational skills, but the challenges that come with riding in the brush for a couple of days at a time.


Trail Challenges and Mounted Patrol Qualifications have Similarities

October 22, 2013

Sunday afternoon two of our horses, Pete and Jack, went to the Rogers Co. Sheriff department’s qualification test to see if they were a good fit. They were. Interestingly, the trail challenge obstacles courses we blog about from time to time are not all that different. Both are designed to test the horse and rider to see if obstacles will pose a problem. Clearly the last thing the Rogers Co. Sheriff needs is an accident involving someone trying to help. While the Sheriff needs your help and assistance, he has enough on his hands in a search and rescue operation to deal with. He doesn’t need untrained horses in the mix.The qualification process is designed to eliminate horses that are not suitable before the next emergency. Horses that are not calm, cool and collected aren’t appropriate. We learned some applicants try to apply for service using horses that may perform well in some event or show ring, but not in search and rescue operations as they are just too high-strung and jazzed up. Search and rescue from horseback, “MSAR” short for Mounted Search and Rescue demands horses that don’t spook, aren’t afraid of unusual situations, and ready to work hard to find a missing child or person.

If you have any interest in helping the effort, you can contact Coy Jenkins (918)798-7723 with the Rogers Co. Sheriff department for more information or check out that smiling face on the Facebook page.