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Horse team rides to rescue

February 11, 1999

Rescue horsesBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




GREENSCASTLE, Pa. - Riding their horses side by side, Katie Bruner and Lydia Lundgren are focused on their task. The Greencastle girls carefully scan the brush below for tracks, wreckage or signs of someone who may be injured.

They are performing a drill to prepare them for a real-life search and rescue as members of the newly formed Hagerstown Horse Team.

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Being part of the organization allows the girls to combine their love for riding with the desire to help the community.

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"I enjoy the training and being able to eventually participate in real (emergency) situations," said the 12-year-old Bruner.

The most enjoyable moments are "being out in the bush looking around - you know you're an important part of the search and rescue team," said Lundgren, 14.

Lead by Lundgren's mother, Amye, the Hagerstown Horse Team brings together area horse owners of all ages who want to perform public service missions. Their primary coverage area is Washington County in Maryland and, Franklin County in Pennsylvania.

The team works in conjunction with members of the Hagerstown Squadron Civil Air Patrol Unit, doing search and rescue missions and participating in exercises. The Hagerstown Horse Team takes its name from the city's Civil Air Patrol unit, although none of the current members are from Hagerstown.

The Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force with roles in aerospace education, a cadet program for youth ages 12-18 and emergency services.

The horse team was started about three months ago. Still in training, the members haven't taken part in formal missions, which can include searching for lost people or a downed aircraft.

The horse team will shadow the Hagerstown Civil Air Patrol and go out whenever it is called for search and rescue missions by the state police or other law enforcement agencies, Amye Lundgren said.

"It went really well. They loved it," she said of a Saturday drill.

Joining the team gives participants a feeling of self-worth, knowing they can help out, Amye Lundgren said.

Lundgren started the Hagerstown Horse Team with about 10 members of the American Girl Drill Team, a Greencastle, Pa., riding club for females who perform in parades and competitions.

"We wanted to do something besides drills and parades and expand it to public service," said Amye Lundgren.

The Hagerstown Horse Team is open to everyone 12 and older, she said. Those wishing to take part must own or have access to a horse and trailer. They must have control of their animals and take part in training. They also must take part in additional first-aid and other training, she said.

No formal certification is needed for the volunteer program. Lundgren determines prospective members' readiness by watching them ride and seeing how they handle their animals, she said.

Teens and adults need emotional maturity in addition to riding skill to benefit the team, she said.

"One of the things we are careful about is working with kids," she said. "They won't participate if it's beyond their ability to perform."

Horses are invaluable in search and rescue missions since they can cover ground quickly and allow riders to see far over brush, which can easily be 4 feet high, she said.

In addition, horses can be used to relay information when radios are unavailable and to transport supplies or an injured person if necessary.

The team likely will be used most often as a relay service, said Amye Lundgren.

For Carrie Frey, 12, of Mercersburg, Pa. being a part of the horse team is an opportunity to enjoy all her favorite things - the outdoors, friends and her horse.

"It's a lot of fun and it's a different way of serving the community," she said.

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