From initial planning to intensive training, the mounted Princeton search team is four years in the making. (Contributed)

From initial planning to intensive training, the mounted Princeton search team is four years in the making. (Contributed)

Princeton Ground Search and Rescue has the only mounted team in B.C.

Horses and one donkey, along with their riders, are highly trained

Princeton Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) has some of the most special horses and riders in the west.

The local group is the only GSAR organization in the province that boasts a mounted team.

“A team of certified equines and riders are ready to expand their search abilities into various terrains,” said president Paul Fyfe.

It took almost four years for the vision to become a reality.

Fyfe started laying the ground work to set up a mounted search team in 2018, and then two years ago Princeton GSAR welcomed trainer Marion Weisskopff.

“The mounted team had an ideal leader and certifier,” said Fyfe. “The team worked hard to establish a set of rigorous certification requirements for riders and equines.”

Mounted members must be fully GSAR certified and master over 60 specific tasks, mounted and unmounted.

“Riders need their equine partners to be confident and strong, tolerate traffic, crowds, sirens, flashing lights, and much more. They need to be able to stop on a dime, or step carefully around potential evidence.”

Five GSAR members, with their seven equines – including their first mule – make up the initial mounted team: Anita Kleinschrot, Debbie Powell, Mandy Blais, Margot Galozo and Weisskopff.

According to Fyfe horses have an incredible ability to scent and can bring unique traits to a search. Horses differ from sniffer dogs in scent detection. Most differences are due to each species’ evolutionary predispositions. One is a predator, while the other is prey. A distinct advantage horses have is being able to reach from the ground level, to two metres or more, above the ground.

Princeton GSAR is also equipped with ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles, snowshoes, backcountry skis, swift water/ice rescue rafts and medical gear.

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Anita Kleinschrot, Debbie Powell, Mandy Blais, Margot Galozo, and Marion Weisskopff make up the Princeton GSAR mounted team. Photo submitted

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