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Horses trained to have a nose for finding people

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Jul 03 2013 08:32:25 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 03 2013 08:57:17 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent talks with a Camp Sherman woman who's training horses to help find lost people.

TERREBONNE, Ore. -

Move over blood hounds, there's a new tracker hot on the trail--one with four hooves instead of four paws.

When NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent hunkered down in a large field in Terrebonne Wednesday morning, it took less than two minutes for a horse named Joey to find her.

With a snort, just seconds into the search, Joey was already picking up a scent.

"He's been able to pick up scents from over a half-mile away," said his owner and trainer, Laurie Adams.

Adams is also a Jefferson County Search and Rescue volunteer. She's trained in what's called 'Equine Scenting,' using horses to pick up scents.

It took her three days to learn the basics -- it took Joey half an hour.

"It's a game -- he likes doing it," Adams said. "I'm just tapping into what they naturally do, and he enjoys having a job to do."

Joey picks up scents through the air. He blows through his nose when he's caught one, telling Adams where to go.

When Joey's working, he's mostly in control -- there's no bit in his mouth, just a muzzle to keep him focused on the job.

Adams monitors the direction of the wind for Joey, throwing baby powder in the air, and keeping Joey perpendicular to any breeze for the best chance of success.

"They can find whatever we ask them. As long as we reward them, they will follow that scent to the source," said another Equine Scent trainer, Kate Beardsley.

Beardsley runs an equine shelter, Mustangs to the Rescue, and trains some of the horses to scent.

Joey's assisted on rescues before, like carrying out someone who hurt his leg.

But as far as working rescues as a scenter,  he hasn't yet fully taken the reins.

Adams said horses can perform better than scenting dogs in some situations.
That's because scents often rise.

Horses have the height advantage and can also cover more ground.

She hopes someday, Joey's skills will save someone's life.

"Being able to use a partner like this and make it fun and have a purpose is what we like to do," Adams said.

Adams, Beardsley and others are working with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to develop a program to use Equine Scenting. Adams is also working on a certification program to allow horses to become officially qualified to search for lost people.

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