Welcome to the Equine Unit of GPSAR.
CURRENTLY UNDER RECONSTRUCTION!
MOVING EQUINE INTO THE 22ND CENTURY
Other activities we participate in to broaden our experience level for
Search and Rescue work:
Valley Forge National Park Volunteer Patrol, Safety Demonstrations, Competitive Trail, Jumping, Gymkana, Team Penning, Parades, Paperchase/Pace Events, Shore and Mountain Trail Rides
UTILIZATION OF A SEARCH HORSE
- Cover large areas quicker and with less fatigue than foot searchers
- Quick transport of articles to front line searchers
- Perimeter containment
- Rider has higher and larger visual circumference vantage point
- Radio transmission focal point between command post and searchers in
- Keen hearing and awareness of surroundings over great distance
- Can identify dangers, interest items, and alert items through variety
of body language
- Identify direction of people
- Horse/rider combination sometimes less frightening to the lost
Experienced Trail Rider:
Mounted Unit members must be experienced trail riders at least 18 years
of age. The team members must be comfortable searching in wilderness
and other large undeveloped areas.
Some relevant questions to be considered...
- Are you an experienced trail rider? Even if you are a skilled rider, if your riding is mostly in a ring or other controlled environment, you
will need to spend more time trail riding before undertaking to train
for search and rescue work.
- Are you accustomed to riding for long periods of time? Are you physically
fit to do so? Although the search pace is generally slow, you may need
to stay out all day in any kind of weather.
- Are you willing to ride unfamiliar trails? You must be confident
working with topographical maps, compass, etc.
- Are you and your horse patient and calm in stressful situations? The
search pace is slow, methodical and tedious.. rarely done at more than a
walk. The search command post area is noisy, busy and energy charged.
- Mounted unit members spend many hours (50+) in training toward becoming operational. Mounted field training sessions are held two times a month (conditions permitting) in various locations to expose the riders and horses with different stimulus each time. The mounted unit members are responsible for re-enforcing training received in between training
sessions with the mounted unit. Field training is held on the weekends
and will include at least two two-day/overnight exercises per year.
Planning/training meetings will be scheduled as needed by the Captain of
- The operational team is available 24-hours, 7-days per week. Team
members need to consider whether their work and family responsibilities
are flexible enough to be able to respond most of the time. Obviously,
there may be instances when a member cannot respond.
Horses used for SAR work must have a quiet, cooperative disposition,
free of vices, and generally fit to ride all day. Specifically:
- Absolutely no kicking, biting, or other dangerous intimidating
behavior. This is a safety factor not only for the mounted group
members, but also the public and other search groups during searches and
training exercises. All team horses must be able to work closely with
one another without intimidating body language. The SAR horse must be
steady and reliable. In a search situation, the rider must devote
his/her attention to the trail and surrounding area in order to locate
clues to the victim's passage/location, as well as navigating with map,
compass, radio transmissions, etc. The rider has an intense job to do
and must have a cooperative, sensible horse that requires minimal
direction. A hyper, flighty horse that requires the rider's fall
attention is not an effective search horse.
- The SAR horse must tie safely for an indefinite period. In search
situations, riders may dismount, tie the horse, and proceed on foot to
assist a victim, search an obscure thick area, and possibly tie the
horse in camp overnight.
- The SAR horse's reaction to stressful situations is critical. Does he blow up and "lose it"? Or, does he simply snort, blow a little, and
eventually accept what is asked of him? The SAR horse must be prepared
to correctly deal with the search environment.. which includes: excited
people and dogs, flashing lights, flashlights, spot lights, fire
trucks/ambulances, sirens, motorcycles, road flares, bicycles,
helicopters, umbrellas, bridges, streams and ditches. Some of this
stimulus training can be done by the rider individually, while some will
be conducted as a group training exercise. The prospective SAR horse's
personality and trainability must be carefully considered by the rider
and other mounted personnel.
- Fitness and conditioning are extremely important. Although search work is generally conducted at a walk... slow and tedious; it may require
active search all day (sometimes 2-3 days) in extreme weather conditions. A fit horse will be better able to tolerate adverse conditions for long periods.
- Safe loading and trailering temperament directly affect the team's
response time. The rider needs to confidently load/unload and trailer
alone if necessary. Distant locations of mounted members prohibit
assisting each other in this task. Abusive loading tactics do not
promote a good public image and will not be tolerated.
- The SAR horse must be healthy. These shots are required: Rabies,
4-in-1, negative Coggins Test. Certification of these shots are
required annually and will be kept on file. Shot records and Coggins
Test must be available at any GPSAR function. Since travel to various
locations is required, Botulism and Rhino are also suggested. A health
certificate may be required to cross state lines. Regular worming is
also required to keep the horse in good condition. The SAR horse is
exposed to other livestock, other SAR horses, and grazing where disease
and/or sickness could be present. Regular shoeing is required unless
the horse has exceptionally hard hoofs that can withstand travel over
rocky areas. Horse's age is a consideration... preferably four years
old or older. Age directly relates to the horse's growing years and
stamina, as well as its worldly experience. Also, "aged" horses will be
considered on an individual basis related to conditioning, fitness, and