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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Wanna Ride The Trail With Us?

July 24, 2014

Polly on the Trail We ride every weekend, it goes with the job. Often we ride here at the ranch or the surrounding area. Sometimes it’s nice to break the monotony and find some place new or revisit a trail we’ve ridden in the past. Many of our rides away from the ranch are made at the last-minute. We load the trailer and go. Because these spur of the moment decisions are usually made with little advance notice or warning, folks don’t get invited.

The rest of the week all we hear is, “Man, I wish I’d known you were going there. I wanted to go!” We especially hear it when Shawn rides.

People like to ride with him because they learn a lot. With years of training horses professionally and a lifetime of riding horses, he has the answers. More important, he honestly shares what he knows. But, you have to be ready for complete honesty. If you want to be told you’re a great horseman, then you have to be one. Otherwise, the advice and comments are straight-forward and intended to make you a better rider. Most people appreciate the tips and readily accept the benefits of his experience.

In any event, we decided to pick a date to ride and give everyone some notice. If you want to come ride with us, you are welcome. It’s not a trail riding club. There’s no fees or charges. No rule books or releases to sign. We are just going to tell you where we plan to ride and the date. If you ride with us, there’s only one rule. You ride with respect; respect for the horse and the other riders.

This ride is not an organized trail ride, but the opportunity for all of us to ride together and enjoy some pretty country from horse back. If you want to come, put September 20, 2014 on your calendar for the Will Rogers Centennial trail at Oologah Lake in Oklahoma. We intend to leave the main trail head at 9am. This time we’re telling everyone well in advance the place, the date, and the time. If you want to ride,  we’ll see you there!!


City Slicker Trail Ride Early Registration Form

May 30, 2014

If you are interested in the City Slickers Trail Ride coming up June 7th, it’s time to register for the ride. Early registration gives you the chance to win saddle bags and other prizes. The flyer with the details and the registration form are available under the link. The Bad Girls Trail Riding Club would love to see you there! City Slickers Flyer


Good Horse Gone Bad

April 25, 2014

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Ever wonder why the nice, sweet, gentle, well-trained horse you bought, is all of a sudden acting badly?

You are not alone. Years ago horses had a purpose, we rode them for transportation, and they worked daily and hard. Some also plowed the fields and gave the little ones a thrill on their back. They were bred to do a job, they were not fancy horses, and they were hardy, even-tempered and willing. They were great horses, because they were bred well and they were worked daily.

Nowadays, we do not ride for transportation; we ride for a competitive sport with the horse, or just for fun, with really no purpose at all. We breed for sport but many breed just because their horse is not a good riding horse.

So what horses used to be and what they are today is completely different. We have bred them to have more energy but do not give them things to do with it. We have also bred them poorly to have bad unwilling and ill temperaments and we do not give them structure or rules to improve their attitude.

Each horse needs a purpose and it should not be to take up space, eat and look pretty.

In nature horses can walk up to 30 miles looking for food and water. Nowadays, they just stand there and it is given to them. No wonder they are acting up, they are kept in a box or in a paddock with nothing to do all day long. You feel bad because they are locked up, so you feed them more, which gives them more energy but you do not give them anything to do with it.

So they come up with their own jobs, such as scare my owner, guard my stall, kick at my neighbor, break the halter, break the tie up post, run from the trailer, there are so many jobs they have given themselves, I can’t even name them all.

When your horse was trained, he had a job. He was probably worked in a round pen or turned out daily, or possibly both, he was groomed and tied up until the rider was ready and then worked with a purpose. This could have been a ranch horse where the rider worked cows, fixed fences, rode the perimeter of the land. It could have been worked in an arena on being soft in the bridle, backing, doing rollbacks, canter departures. Each rider gave the horse a job. Even a trail trainer would have picked certain trails with challenges and given the horse jobs as they rode the trail. Maybe go over a log, up and down steep hills, over rocks or logs, circle around a tree and then tied up at lunch and ridden some more.

So now your gentle horse is bucking, bolting, rearing, striking out, pinning its ears, not letting you catch him, biting at the girth. Can you hear what he is saying? GIVE ME A JOB! He is acting up, because he has to do something to get your attention, and walking around the barn or down a flat trail once a week is just not doing anything for him.

I train many horses, and all the bad horses turn good. They are given rules; jobs and they are not rewarded when they are bad. Rides always end on a good note. I round pen them to get rid of extra energy and get them thinking. I ride them with a plan, I pick trails depending on their energy level, if they are spunky I pick the steepest ones I can find, if they are not energetic I pick an easier trail. I ride over logs, move cows, follow squirrels, follow bikers, separate from the other riders, stop and back, even go off trail and ride over rocks, in creeks, whatever I can find. In the arena, I have a plan of what the horse needs to work on. Once the horse is good at his job, I vary what I work on or do it a little differently. The smart horses need challenges, the athletic horses need challenges. If you don’t give them any, this horse will out think you and possible dump you on the ground.

The lazy quiet horse also needs challenges. These horses get stubborn and may refuse to go away from the barn and get quick coming home. They may also turn their back on you or kick out.

The best advice I have is, learn what kind of horse you bought. What was the previous owner doing that made the horse so good? Ask them. If you know his breeding, what was he bred to do? Is he smart? If you know you bought a cutting or reining horse, research what their job was. A horse that previously was quiet but the owner use to canter 30 minutes a day, may not do well with your once a week workout. Too many horses go bad because the owners do not want to put in the work. Your bad horse can be good again, but the real question is, can you change?

Gaye DeRusso -The Majestic Rider is a professional horse trainer in California and guest writer. Ms. DeRusso is an accomplished rider and trainer that spends her time training gaited horses. For more information about her, check out her webpage:www.majesticrider.com


Mary Ben Marshall Trail Ride at Bell Cow Lake

April 2, 2014

Julie Cameron reports the Oklahoma Equestrian Trail Riders Association is hosting a weekend of trail riding and camping the weekend of April 11 – 13, 2014. There will be a lot of trails to ride and entertainment in the evenings. Saturday night will have a pot luck dinner to create some new friends and get to know each other. But, the most important and best part of the weekend will be riding the trails in the Oklahoma Springtime. It will be green and alive with all the new growth that always starts this time of year. The cost of attending is very reasonable, $15.00 for non-members and $10.00 for members of OETRA. Children under age 12 may attend free of charge. Julie wants to put the word out that everyone is welcome! If you want more information, send her an e-mail lazyjfarm@sbcglobal.net.


Trail Riding Offers Health Benefits

January 23, 2014

According to The Horse Riding Site, horse back riding offers many health benefits. The benefits are more than just physical in nature, but also include emotional and psychological ones as well. Riding horses and especially trail riding lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, and gives you a happier outlook on life. The physical benefits from the calories burned, muscle development, and fresh air provide advantages similar to other forms of exercise. The big difference is many people won’t regularly attend the gym, but trail riding is fun so participation is easy. Weight loss is a natural result and especially since the tendency to eat diminishes when you are active and busy. Undoubtedly, trail riding is good for you!


Trail Riding Aids in Western Dressage Training

December 30, 2013

Dressage comes from the French word, “to train or drill”. Originally dressage was training for war horses. They were taught to execute manuevers to maim the enemy and protect the rider. Today dressage is no longer about training for military actions. It is however a highly competitive discipline of horseback riding in which large numbers engage.

Western dressage is the blend of “dressage” techniques using western tack and with a less rigid rein action. The horse is requested to perform many of the same dressage movements that our trail horses receive as part of their routine trail training. As an example, our horses are taught to open and close gates. The horse is side-passed to the gate and once unlatched, asked to step sideways pushing the gate until open or closed.

Climbing over rocks and fallen trees involves dressage as the horse is asked to place his feet in particular positions as part of the everyday training given. Learning foot positioning gives discipline to the horse that translates into rider control and ultimately a safer horse. By using ranch and trail obstacles for the training, the horse learns quicker and starts to understand a purpose for the training rather than rote drills. Giving the horse a job to do while training brings purpose to learning.

Rainee McGeehan makes the point on how much better a trail horse performs that has dressage training. See Western Dressage Association post. I suppose we see it just the opposite, i.e., how much better a western dressage horse performs that has been given a lot of trail training. If you enjoy dressage, mix in some trail training to make your horse better in the ring!


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.


Horses Need a Purpose

July 2, 2012

Have you ever noticed how a couple months of doing nothin’ can really mess up a horse’s attitude? While a well-trained horse should really be able to be left unworked for a quite a while without changing, almost every horse, whether they act like it or not, will be much happier when they have something to do. For example, we have a couple of “retired” trail horses that treated us well for many years until they couldn’t do the job anymore. Now all they do is stand in the paddock, eating and drinking. We felt kinda sorry for them the other day and decided to take them for a trip. Even though they can no longer be ridden, they did just fine being lead. They were thrilled to be “back on the trail” instead of being left at home.