Volunteers train to search for missing persons by horseback

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HENRY COUNTY, Tenn. — If a person gets lost in the woods in Henry County the sheriff’s office calls in its equestrian search and rescue team. The all volunteer unit held its first field exercise today at Cherokee hills ranch in Buchanan. They’re not on the payroll, but the all volunteer equestrian search and rescue unit plays a very important roll at the Henry County Sheriff’s Department. “Any time we have an Alzheimer’s patient, a child, a hunter, whatever, if someone gets lost in a rural part of Henry County we call our volunteer equestrian riders out,” Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said. Saturday’s field exercise was the first for the unit. Sheriff Belew hid a mannequin in the woods on Friday and on Saturday gave the riders the general direction on the 400 acres. One of the rescue leaders, Steve Sanders, tells us what they look for, “we get off and we look if we see brush covered up we get off and look in this brush make sure something’s not inside that.” Belew said the horses also help them get through rugged terrain, “the horse gives them a better view point from where they’re sitting and they can travel twice, three times as fast.” When Sheriff Belew sent the groups off he anticipated they would be back in a few hours. However, the mannequin was brought back just a half hour later. So much faster than expected they ran the exercise a second time. A seasoned searcher, Robert Medlock, found the dummy both times. “If it had been a real life person you wanna get to him as quick as possible and that’s what my mind was the first and the second time,” Medlock said. Belew said the quickness and accuracy of the unit is impressive and will be very helpful in real life situations. “It just reassures us and reassures the citizens of Henry County of how good a unit this is and the good thing about it is it doesn’t cost the tax payers a dime,” Belew said. The search and rescue unit is made up of about 60 volunteers that are always on call. Sheriff Belew said they hope to make this field exercise an annual training session. He said they add new members each year and welcome any rider with their own horse.

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