Mounted search and rescue team starts

CANDO, N.D. (AP) -- A love of horses and a desire to help others have led to the formation of an equestrian search and rescue team to work with law enforcement officials.

CANDO, N.D. (AP) -- A love of horses and a desire to help others have led to the formation of an equestrian search and rescue team to work with law enforcement officials.

The Sheriff's Posse Urgent Response Squad (SPURS) officially started in January.

"When they go out, they will go out under the name of the sheriff's office. I'm very impressed with them and very delighted they started this organization," Towner County Sheriff Vaughn Klier said.

One of the SPURS founders, Brenda Halvorson, said the group went to Minot last year to help with the search for 3-year-old Reachelle Smith.

"We went to Minot to search for a little girl, but we weren't organized," Halvorson said. "After that, we decided to get organized."


Halvorson said the group has 20 core members, and about 90 people signed up to help in case of an emergency.Those who do not ride help with such things as lunches and other tasks, she said.

"It gets people together," she said. "It is a positive experience, it's relaxing and it gives you more time to spend with the animals."

In fact, spending a lot of time with a horse is a prerequisite for members.

"Some people ride once or twice a year and that's not enough," Halvorson said. "We need people to have a relationship with their horse, so if they are in trouble they (the horse) will trust them."

The horses and riders must work well together and get used to such things as sirens or helicopters, she said. They must learn how pull things, how to stay focused even with distractions and they must be comfortable with people riding double.

Riders must know CPR and basic first aid and have a background check, Halvorson said.

Anyone is welcome to come and ride and practice at the monthly meeting, but actual searches are limited to team members, Halvorson said.

"They don't want just anyone to search," she said. "They want them to be official."


Halvorson said she decided to become involved because she was looking for a way to contribute to her community while spending more time on horseback.

"I've had a lifelong love for horses," she said. "In my personal life, my horses are my friends, my confidants, and I wanted to do something constructive with them."

The group is working closely with the Towner County Sheriff's Department. The team will search areas not easily accessible by vehicle and areas that may be too vast to walk, such as sloughs, culverts and other hard-to-reach locations.

Sheriff Klier said he is a member of the group, and has been taking horseback riding lessons with his son. He is a big supporter of SPURS.

"They've got their tax-exempt status and they're covered by work force insurance and they've all had background checks, so they're pretty much ready to go," Klier said.

"We're going to be getting information out to other jurisdictions on the group before long," he said. "They're just a wonderful bunch of people dedicated to going out and helping others. They're using their own equipment and horses -- it isn't free to them. It's one of those things where the community is very fortunate to have citizens who want to go the extra mile."

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