By Justin Seward
The Mounted Search and Rescue (MSAR) team falls under the umbrella of South East Alberta Search and Rescue (SEASAR) and its focus is to search for the missing subject on various landscapes by horseback.
“We want to be able to have a good, calm quiet horse that if we find a subject that’s injured, we can put them up on their backs,” said Jessica Tory, MSAR’s team lead.
“And when they (the horse) need to be able to go up to their pasterns in water—they need to be able to quickly load night or day in a trailer. They need to be able to go in all different types of terrain. They need to be a really good all-around ranch horse, trail horse to qualify for this.”
The team gathers a few times a month with the horses to do different types of training including search techniques such as practicing with bags, smoke blowers, weed whackers, bubbles, kites and drones.
“Every training practice, we just pick a few of those things and work on them and build them until the horses are good at them,” said Tory.
“When they come to training, they already should be good at walk, trot, jog, neck reining, moving off your leg and quiet. We’re not there to train the horses, we’re there to teach them the stuff that we need for searching.”
If a person wants to join the MSAR team, they have to be a member of SEASAR, have to be ground searchers and do all the basic training.
“Then when they come with us, they need to be a confident rider,” said Tory.
“They need to be comfortable at a walk, trot lope (to move or run with bounding steps). They need to be able to handle a horse because as much as we want to train the horses and do everything with them, we’re going to meet some different circumstances that might spook a horse or get them a little nervous.”
The MSAR team is important because members can get to places that may take a little longer for a ground team to get to and motorized vehicles can’t get to.
“When we can get out there, we can get to them,” said Tory.
“Horses also have that therapeutic component. So, when we find somebody who is scared and lost, we can help them calm down, they can pet the horse. If they’re injured, we can put them up on the horse or even if they’re lost, we can put up them up on the horse and get them out of there.”
Tory says in Elkwater there are a lot of places with a lot of trees and brush that UTVs (Utility Terrain Vehicles) and vehicles are not be able to get up to.
“We can cover that terrain,” said Tory.
“We can get a perimeter set. So often when somebody is lost, we’ll go and set a perimeter that we think they’re inside of and we want to go and ride that perimeter. If we are able to go and set that perimeter nice and quick with a horse in areas the vehicles can’t go to, then that helps close off that area we’re looking for.”
MSAR currently has eight trainees currently and would like to have nine trained certified members at all times because searches are conducted in teams of three.
“We’re looking for minimum of nine—we’d prefer 12 to 15 members on the Mounted team,” she said.
Lora Sanduliak is a MSAR team member in training and she is also a part of SEASAR’s ground searching team and tracking team.
“I loved horse all my life and I’ve ridden—it only made sense,” said Sanduliak on joining MSAR.
“But Search and Rescue, I’ve had such a good experience with them—just to be able to help people—(and) to be able to find that missing family member. I have children myself, so if one of my children were to ever go missing, I would hope to God somebody would call Search and Rescue and have them find them.”
SEASAR is hosting a basics course at the end of May.
People can contact SEASAR at (403) 928-1231 if they’re interested in the course.