Horses Use Scent Detection in Search and Rescue Drills - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Horses Use Scent Detection in Search and Rescue Drills

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Horses using their legs to trot around northern Nevada is nothing out of the ordinary, but when they’re using their noses to find a person, well that's a bit less usual.

"These guys have some really good skills as far as scent detection,” said Willis Lamm, President of Least Resistance Training Concepts.

In a series of training exercises,  Lamm and his search and rescue team show Channel 2 just how strong a horse's sense of smell can be. He starts by showing us the basics with an Indian mustang named Murphy.

"What we're going to do is have someone who's obviously in front of him holding the peppermint treat,” said Lamm.

Murphy trots straight to the subject, but Lamm admits the first trial was too easy. In the next exercise, the subject moves further back and hides behind a tree. Without missing a beat, Murphy finds his target.

"When we first did this we couldn't believe it,” said Lamm.

Throughout the morning the exercises increase in difficulty. Lamm starts by adding multiple subjects who don't have treats and yet the horses continue to hit their mark. They’re even able to find a subject in a rural landscape about 100 yards away using nothing but the scent from a jacket.

“They're used to being out on the range as they're growing up using their senses to find the resources they want and so forth, so we're just adapting that behavior to something that's useful,” said Lamm.

To Lamm and his team, eventually using this training to save lives is what they find to be useful. And although equine scent detection may be seen as a lost art to some, for these riders, there's still a whole new world to explore.

“Once they perceive what it is we're looking for, they're pretty darn efficient at finding it,” said Lamm.

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