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Many People Are Experiencing The New Thrill and
Amazement of Riding a Scent Detection Horse

I have experienced my share of thrills while mounted on a good horse; examples include cutting, working cow horses, reining and roping competitions. These events did give me a thrill, but they do not compare to the thrill and sheer astonishment I get when riding a scent detection horse. “While riding a scent detection horse, you will have the best seat in the house to witness an instinctive phenomena from your horse that most people never before thought possible!”  Even if you never have the opportunity or desire to help out in a lifesaving search and rescue effort, scent training will still serve as a major benefit to your horsemanship education. You can train your horse to scent detect a variety of sources that can range from clothing, people, treats or even a equine toy. When riding and training a  detection horse, you will witness and learn natural horsemanship skills at an accelerated rate. The skills that you will learn, have for the most part, been lost and all but forgotten for the last 100 years. You will quickly learn to read the equine sign language while experiencing the lost art of equine scent detection.

Experience The Ride of a Lifetime

Your nerves will start to tingle as your horse gives a signal that he has caught the target scent on wind currents. Next, on its own, the horse will turn up-wind and eagerly proceed with nostrils flaring. At this point you will only act as an observer in the saddle, it will be the equine’s instincts that determine where you go from here. You will have a front row seat as you are about to experience one of nature's true wonders. Your horse's sign language, which can range from quivers, speed changes and vocal indications, will now have meaning. This sign language will tell you if the source of the hunt is close or a long distance away. The horse's neck and head will act as probing device, swinging in every direction trying to determine on which level of air current the strongest scent flows. You will all but quit breathing as your horse, at times, loses the scent, circles, and after several exhilarating seconds, refines the elusive scent drift. The horse will proceed forward with a drive that is second to none in the animal world. Suddenly, your horse’s body frame drops, your heartbeat rapidly increases while your mount’s speed changes to stalking while his head and neck snake out in a unmistakable position. This equine sign language tells you the scent source is very close. Abruptly, the horse stops and either freezes into a point or uses his hoof or nose as a pointer, communicating to you that his job is done as the scent source is located. A feeling of accomplishment will be present as you take a moment to reflect on the fact that you have just witnessed a natural instinctive behavior that few others ever have! You have just experienced the lost art of equine scent detection!

Describing An Actual Scenting Experience

This past summer on a warm Saturday night, I was riding mounted patrol security at a town celebration. As a member of a sheriff's mounted posse I have been trained to watch for underage drinking, vandalism, illegal drug related activity, etc. As I was riding through the dark alleys, the sound of rock 'n' roll music blared from a near by street dance. I was patrolling without my custom designed mounted lighting system because I wanted the element of surprise on my side. As I rode along, all of a sudden I noticed that my horse's posture changed; I recognized his silent alert signal, my horse Storm was going into his human scenting mode. Even when I could not hear or see anyone, my horse's signals told me that I was not alone in the darkness!

The signal that Storm gave me was not an abrupt startled signal like many untrained people would expect to see, but rather just a small slight change in position, he did not even stop . As you see, human scent does not scare horses like a bear scent would, but they still do give a silent signal when a strong human scent is present in unusual or unexpected locations. By reading his signals, I can usually tell if the scent he is picking up is coming from close or distant locations. Our horses constantly try to communicate with us, it's just that most people do not understand what they are saying. In this case, I did not have my horse tacked up with his special air scenting tack that cues him to follow scent when he finds it because I was not intentionally trying to air scent search. If I was not trained to watch for and acknowledge slight signals, my horse would have obediently continued down that alley and no one would have detected the human presence lurking off to the side in the dark!

Odds were that someone was where they were not supposed to be at 11:00 p.m. My mind questioned the possibilities of this new development. I checked the wind direction, which told me in what area and direction that I must go investigate. I leaned over and gave my horse a quiet "search" command. As I dropped my reins on his neck, Storm knew he was on his own. His training kicked in as he started out searching like he was on autopilot, following his nose into the wind. Storm's natural instincts told him where to go, I was just along for the ride, "I had the best seat in the house." All I had to do was use reasoning power. The only sound that could be heard at that time was my own heart pounding, "the hunt was on!" With caution, Storm proceeded around some obstacles into an large empty lot. Storm slowed his pace as a cat would when stalking a mouse; it was another signal, and I knew we were getting very close to the source of the scent drift. It felt as if the hairs on my neck were standing on end, but I still could not see or hear anything. It was blacker than black in that vacant lot. All of a sudden my horse stopped, his eyes are better in the dark than mine, I stared in the same direction as Storm was looking. (Another signal) After a few exhilarating seconds, my eyes finally focused in on some movement by the subjects of our search! It was a very startled and embarrassed young couple who had been making out on an abandoned sofa. As the couple made their way back to the main street, I just smiled and continued on with my patrol, thinking that I wished everyone knew how great this air scenting works! Storm, of course, got praise and a good neck scratch, something that he really enjoys.

Now just think if this were a MSAR mission, how valuable a tool it would be to have an extra sense to use that could detect people that you cannot possibly see or hear? Not to mention the thrill and excitement of being in the saddle when this happens! I know that it sure made my night more interesting!

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