Back Country Horsemen Train Soldiers to Handle Horses

The Back Country Horsemen of Washington hosted a three-day clinic on basic horse handling, grooming, and care.

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For hundreds of years, the United States military depended on horses to transport supplies and soldiers. When the armed forces became mechanized, the use of the original horsepower ceased, despite the fact that horses and mules are still a highly effective way to traverse the landscape in many parts of the world. This realization has led to new programs to train members of the military in handling and caring for horses.

Ed Haefliger, along with other members of Back Country Horsemen of Washington (BCHW), were asked by U.S. Army Veterinarian Major Therese Krautzberg to teach a workshop on horse handling to officers and soldiers of the 84th Civil Affairs Battalion Alpha Company, out of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. So BCHW members turned to Olympic National Park Ranger Mark O’Neal for assistance in acquiring permission to use the park’s facilities at the Dosewallips campground for a three-day clinic.

A Special Class

The students were highly trained and educated medics, medical doctors, veterinarians, and various grades of officers, and many were combat experienced. The members of this unique unit are our country’s goodwill ambassadors. They travel to places all over the world that have suffered disaster and offer humanitarian assistance. Pack animals are invaluable for getting medical equipment, food, and supplies to areas where roads and other infrastructure have been destroyed.

A fire officer, Haefliger has been teaching similar classes for years to semi-military units, such as firefighters, and to members of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. His goal was, in three days, to make the 33 members of Alpha Company comfortable and safe in handling a horse

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