Equine Air Scent Training
SAR K-9s find people who are lost by using their noses. Horses can do this too! With their extremely-sensitive sense of smell, huge sinus cavities, a long neck that gives them a wide range of motion to track high scent as well as low scent, and their innate ability to sense threats around them due to their prey, well-trained Equine Air Scent Detection horses are in fact ideally suited to being deployed as an air scenting resource in a search. Trail riders know their horse always knows what's in the woods around them! It's the rider's responsibility to learn how to interpret what their horse is already communicating, and to teach the horse in what scenarios it's expected that the horse take over navigation and go find the scent source.
In 2016 and 2018, MMSAR members participated in two multi-day clinics with Terry Nowacki, nationally experienced clinician and author of "The Air Scenting Horse" (the first equine scent detection training manual). Terry has years of experience in SAR, training K9s for scent detection and obedience, and training horses in scent detection of live humans as well as cadaver and narcotics. In fact, Terry trained the first certified air scent detection horse as well as the first publicly known and proven cadaver and narcotics scent detection horses. His website is https://www.airscentinghorse.com/home.htm
Our members have continued to practice the techniques and methods that Terry taught us, and we look forward to someday certifying many of our mounted teams in Equine Air Scent SAR. Please check out our air scent training videos below!
2016 - After only 2 training exercises to "learn the game" Kodak was quickly getting it as did most other horses and riders. Scent is frequently conducted by depressions and watersheds and you may notice the head cast or head swing before they turn towards our right to follow the scent. When the horse gets scent riders need to give the horse its head and let it follow the scent in. In this case the scent was apparently low to the ground so watch the horse's head. Amazing training evolution and very effective training techniques by Terry Nowacki.
2018 BLIND SEARCH - This was the second search in this field, the first had been to find a man hidden behind a round bale a little closer to the drone. The rider had no idea where the hiders were for this search. Early in the search, Kodak came off the search grid line and walked toward the 1st hider's location. After Sharon determined that this was probably where Kodak was trying to go, she turned him back onto the grid line. When he reached the treeline he was pulling to the right pretty hard so she let him loose. He then walked directly to the hiders, ~280-300' away with a slight hill/rise in between.
2018 - Sugar searched the 5.5 acre field next. You can see her get a little distracted at 1:03 or so, but when Tammy turns her back into the scent drift she picks it up and follows it in. Uncomplicated and successful!
2018 - Monica and Ember had an interesting run. You can see Ember lose the scent at 1:15, so she goes back to a grid search and then turns him around, back into the area where she knew from his body language that he had been inside the scent drift. Ember picks it back up at 1:48 or so and turns back upwind toward the hiders. Then as he approached closer, the wind coming over the tree line came down and swirled the scent around so that he lost it a bit. It took him a few seconds to get back onto it and find the hiders.
2019 - You can see Kodak come down through the trail and turn on his own toward the search subject. His rider did not cue him to do this, her reins were loose and in fact she didn't know where the search subject was hiding until Kodak turned directly toward him and she looked up to see his camera.