Search team on horses can easily travel through ruff terrain without damaging sensitive growth. As the horses themselves are careful where they step down, the rider can concentrate on the search.
Although horses have been used here in Iceland for centuries searching and rounding up sheep, they have not been use for search and rescue of people recently.
A group of search team from Borgarnes has been operating a team of search horses in Borgarfjörður for almost two years. Halla Kjartansdóttir, representative of the team, says that the group is ready, and presently they are waiting for a call suitable for the use of horses. Another similar group is being established in other areas, such as in the south of Iceland and in Skagafjörður, and this is a good way to combine interest in horses, search work and outdoor life.
“It is unbelievable how fast and well the horses can travel over rough terrain. A rider has a better view over the area than rescue team member on foot has and has more time to look around.” Halla says. The rider also has another set of sense organs he can utilize if he is percipient enough.
“We consider search horses a good addition to the other search possibilities presently being offered”, says Halla. “This is a clear addition to what is going on now. People are searching, using all kinds of vehicles, and some of them are not at all suitable for the circumstances.”
Halla says that the future plan is not just to use horses for search and rescue, but rather to train horses with sensitivity to smell. They can be used for similar purposes as search dogs are, by the scent of the people which are being searched for. Horses are very sensitive to smell, and within such search groups in the United States, a part of horses are trained in order to use their sense of smell in the search, Halla says.
Not just any horse is fit to use for search, the horses need to be well trained and reliable, sure footed, strong and independent thinking. Halla says that this is true for many of the horses which are being used for round up. Also, the rider has to be trained in rescue work in order to be more effective, although sometimes untrained local people have been asked to assist, as they know the search area well.
The problem with using horses rather than motorized vehicles is that the call-out time is possibly longer. Halla says that it is possible that search groups traveling on horses, will rather be used in order to search after the first initial feedback has been initiated, for example in the second day of search or when search work is being reinforced.
The use of horses for search and rescue is known in many parts of the world. Halla is a representative for a preparation group which is working on the establishment of more search groups here in Iceland. She says that it is vital to utilize other people’s experience in these matters.
This article was released on www.visir.is