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To Ride the Search

August 24, 2008

Earlier this month, I told you about a search that our Mounted Search and Rescue group participated in. It was from my prespective as a 'ground support person'. I finally talked Tim Kienitz, one of our mounted searchers, to write up his experience out on the trail. Now mind you, Tim is a fireman and a paramedic so he's tough. But even with that in mind, I know that it was a very different experience than mine becauce of how relieved everyone looked when they first walked off the trail and back into the command center. 
So here is Tim's account of their ride ---

So there we were, The Fence Riders at the Clark County Fair, relaxing, waiting to head out on our afternoon ride at the Fair when the day is shattered by a phone call from the Sheriff’s requesting the Clark County Mounted Search and Rescue to help in a search. An autistic boy is lost outside of Chelatchie Prairie area in the mountains and has already spent one night out alone. 

About 2 years ago the Fence Riders, AKA Clark County Fair Mounted Patrol, was approached by the Clark County Sheriff’s Department to form a Mounted Search and Rescue group. A hand full of the Fence Riders said yes. That group of Fence Riders formed the Clark County Mounted Search and Rescue. Today the team would be put to the test. 

The unit was activated, all the gear and horses were gathered up and we headed up to aid in the search. The drive was long, maybe an hour and by the time our team was assembled the hour was late, later than we would have liked. We met with the Sheriff’s Department and were briefed on who and what to look for. Our team was 7 mounted and 2 ground-support people.

By the time we were finally in on the trail it was the better part of 2 pm. The team dropped in at the Siouxon trail head. This trail is about a horse wide and cuts back and forth through the forest dropping from 1700 feet to about 400 feet. Mostly a nice drop and the team was able to set a pretty good pace; not placing the fastest horse up front. There were a couple of spots on the trail that would test a good rider. One was crossing under a log with flat rocks that were covered with moss and had water cascading over them. This is one spot were boots vs. shoes was a topic of discussion for some people. 

The trail was good until we approached the river crossing. The trail to the river was, well for lack of other terms, not really there. There was enough room for a horse to think he could fit through and they did. That just landed us on a rocky area were we were able to cross the river. I was on a 15.3 hand horse and was still getting my boots wet. My horse still went on. On the other side of the river was another bank quit similar to the one we went down, it was steep up and narrow as could be. There were plenty of low branches, enough that I laid my head down on my horse’s neck, dropped the reins and said “get up the hill”. Sure enough he did. The rest of the trail up was more switch-backs and a very steady up-hill climb. The higher we went up the steeper the trail became. One side was steep down and the other side was steeper up. There were plenty of trees to break our fall though. 

Less than half way in on the ride we reached a downed log over the trail. This was tough. The log was about 40-50 feet long and 2-3 feet thick. With no way around, we thought the best course of action would be to cut through it. Well, with 2 hours of cutting with a small pruning saw and a hatchet, we were through the log. By this time the Sheriff’s Department had ordered all teams out of the search area so the air patrol could use a heat sensing device from an airplane to look for the boy. Our only course of action was to turn around and to retrace our steps. So down the switch-backs and down to the river. Once across the river it was more steep climbs, and looking for the child while on our way out. We exited the trail head at about 7pm, dusk. We hauled our horses to a close spot to bed them down for the night, while we rested our selves. The plan was to ride out at next daylight and complete our trail. 

The morning greeted us with our host cooking fresh coffee and the best biscuits and gravy I have tasted in some time. Just before first light, we loaded our horses and up the mountain we went. The team arrived at the spot we were to tack up, parked our rigs and got our horses ready to go again. Our saddle pads were still damp for the ride the day before. At about the time the horses were tacked up and our riders mounted and ready to ride, the boy walked out of the woods unharmed. That is a wonderful thing. 

We may not have found the missing boy, and this is not our first search, but it is always a good thing when the person is found and is in good spirits and uninjured. 

Our search and rescue group is always looking for people that are interested in a lot of training and not much action. Both the rider and the horse need to be certified before they can go out on a search. 
We have a meeting every other month on the 2nd Thursday at a local fire station. If this sounds interesting to you, let me know and I'll make sure you get notified of our next meeting.

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