Friday, March 18, 2011

Sign Cutting and Tracking Horses

When I was a Range Rider, one of my duties was to respond to lost persons. During the initial investigation, I would determine the last known location and time of that person in order to develop a search area - based on normal and fast possible speeds of travel; develop search parameters and boundaries, and in particular, sign cut areas from which to jump forward, located sign and begin the track.

If we were using Trucks, the simple fact of the truck tires running over a dirt trail was often enough of a "drag" to make a second pass later and be more apt to determine if someone had crossed the trail or line of drift behind us.

Sign cut areas are areas that allow for easy travel and are more likely to capture sign of someone’s or some thing’s passing. Simply to you a higher likelihood to see disturbed ground. The best sign cut areas are road, trails, arroyos or other natural lines of drift and the person or animal you are tracking has to cross. Even hard top roads can be used, if you use the soft dirt shoulder. The softer the ground the harder it is to conceal to sterilize signs of passing if the person being tracked was attempting to do this. Again shoulders are normally the best areas to cut sign from someone or something crossing the road or trail.

The best position of the sign cut area or any tracks that you are on is for them to be between your position and Sun. You can see how the shadow cast by being out of position can hurt you locating or reading sign.

In the video I cut sign on a couple horses and show what to look for to determine direction of travel and if the horse was shod or not. From hoof prints you can normally tell direction of travel (from the pressure release and the toe dirt), if the horse was shod, speed or gait (walk, jog, lope or gallop from a combination of the prints, their location ot each other, amount of toe dirt, and stride length). All this may come in handy if your looking for a lost horse or rider.

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