ďA corporal and a sergeant from the Canadian Mounted Police spent two days working with 50 riders from 12 registered units,Ē Cheryl Veldkamp, Paynesville, a member of the Stearns County Sheriffís Mounted Reserve, said.
Since its inception in May of 1993, the Stearns County Sheriffís Mounted Reserve has been dedicated to becoming one of the best search and rescue teams it can be. ďWe are one of the few teams in the state that actively trains in this area,Ē Arnie Veldkamp said. ďTo this end, we are always looking for more and better ways to train ourselves and our horses. This training program was a wonderful example of what local trainers in conjunction with professionals can achieve in this often overlooked field.Ē
Riders participating from Stearns County were: Jim Kotschevar, Arnie and Cheryl Veldkamp, Paynesville, Jim Stueve and Steve Blenker, Albany, Rod Harren, Avon, and Jay Knevel, St. Cloud.
Observers from the local unit were Linda Fisk, Paynesville, Steve Dockendorf, Avon, Paul Hunstiger, and Pat Knevel, St. Cloud, Sheri Burg, and Nancy Schmitz, Albany, and Eric Boucher, Rockville.
ďWe implemented observers to become the crowd so we could learn to move people in adverse conditions, i.e. noisy, irate crowds shaking signs and yelling at the horses while being obscured by smoke bombs and backed up by sirens and flashing lights. Many of the horses went through without too much trouble but some had a problem with the smoke and noise. Stearns County did well at this drill and drew many compliments from the observers and instructors alike,Ē Veldkamps said.
Drills were in the tradition of the Canadian Mounted Police and 32 riders had a radical workout the second day, working four feet from the horse ahead or stirrup to stirrup when side by side. ďWorking in close quarters with strange horses and coming head to head and head to tail at a trot wasnít as much challenge as it could have been with less experienced riders and horses,Ē Cheryl said. ďOnce again our county did excellent work and was very favorably noticed. Even thread the needle wasnít too tough with the expertise of the Canadian Mounted Police behind us.Ē
The wrap up for the two-day session was a competition to test the skills and horsemanship of the participants. The competition was a tough, timed trail test set up in the indoor arena. ďWe encountered such obstacles as a teeter-totter bridge with noise affects on it, walking through a pit of pop cans and odd objects, a jump, etc,Ē Veldkamps said. The Stearns County unit finished third overall, beating out full-time mounted patrols, with Steve Blenker, captain of the local group, earning first place honors individually.
The Stearns County Sheriffís Mounted Reserve is a volunteer unit as were some of the others at the program, but many were professional police units. The local unit has 27 members. This past summer as part of their training, they held a rescue drill at Camp Ripley.
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