The Nose Knows: How Horses Can Help With Search and Rescue

Equine adventurer, trainer, and author Tik Maynard got the chance to watch a “scenting” horse used for search and rescue in action. Here’s what happens when you let a horse follow her nose.

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The Nose Knows: How Horses Can Help With Search and Rescue
The horses, usually with a rider, are trained to find, then follow, the “hottest” scent in the area—the anomaly. During my visit, Beardsley demonstrated how this works, sending a friend to hide among 10 acres of junipers a little higher than I could see over. | Photo: Tess Freeman

The late Richard Feynman—author, prankster, and Nobel-Prize-winning physicist—had a neat party trick. He instructed friends to handle a book from his library while he was out of the room, then replace it on the shelf. Feynman would enter the room and smell the hands of the three people and then smell the books. He would identify the three books that were handled. Then, to the guests’ astonishment, he would correctly identify who had handled which books.

His friends thought there was a trick to this, perhaps a confederate that signaled which books had been touched. But it was no trick. He invited the others to try as well.

In “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” he writes, “We did a few more experiments, and I discovered that while bloodhounds are indeed quite capable, humans are not as incapable as they think they are; it’s just that they carry their nose so high off the ground

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Tik Maynard is an eventing and horsemanship trainer and clinician. He is an “A” Pony Club graduate and Canadian Pony Club hall of famer and represented Canada in modern pentathlon in the 2007 Pan Am Games. Today, Maynard and his wife, professional event rider Sinead Halpin, run Copperline Equestrian, in Citra, Florida. Maynard recently wrote his first book, In the Middle Are the Horseman.

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