Ridin’ and shootin’ with the Mounted Posse | RecordCourier.com

Ridin’ and shootin’ with the Mounted Posse

Henri and Tom Stone of the Douglas County Mounted Posse ride their horses through an obstacle Saturday during a 'de-spooking' clinic in Washoe Valley.
Brad Coman

One of the classic images of a posse has riders chasing the bad guys on horseback firing their six-guns.

While the Douglas County Mounted Posse hasn’t been called on to hop in the saddle in pursuit of bank robbers, recently — or ever — they still take training their horses not to spook very seriously.

Posse member Henri Stone said the group spent a weekend in Washoe Valley recently in a de-spooking clinic

“It’s about trust that you want to develop between the horse and the rider,” she said. “The horse needs to trust her not to send it someplace bad.”

The clinic stats with obstacles designed to ease the horse into more and more disturbing circumstances.

“The goal is to get the horse to trust you in any situation,” Stone said.

She said the clinic features a device called the car wash, which has balloons hanging off it.

“There are pieces of things hanging off that will intimidate the horse and make it trust the rider.”

The clinic’s second day was more intense.

“We had a barrel full of burning hay and lots of smoke,” she said. We had flares that they needed to walk between and finally had a .45 shot from the back of the horse.”

The pistols had blanks with wax in them that would break balloons.

“It’s fun,” Stone said. “You either have a gun horse or a gun shy horse. You go through a gradual process of guns firing at a distance and then the rider fires. You want to develop an attitude on the part of the horse that it really doesn’t care.”

Stone said some of the horses really jump and flinch, and sometimes they’re steady.

With flags flying and bugles blowing parades can be a real challenge for horses.

Stone said they were next to Civil War re-enactors firing musket volleys during a Nevada Day Parade.

“At first the horses spun around so that by the end of the parade, they would just trust the rider,” she said. “If they have been through these situations, then they learn very quickly that it’s OK.”

Stone said that de-spooking is also helpful when hikers and mountain bikers come close on the trail.

She said she and her mustang Zia have been through the Carson City Posse’s 40-hour de-spooking clinic.

Stone adopted Zia during the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Department of Corrections horse gentling auction.

Last week, the posse continued another tradition by giving a $1,500 scholarship to Douglas High School senior Emma Smith, who’s been accepted at Colorado State University where she plans to attend veterinary school.

“She’s amazing and we’re just so thrilled with her,” Stone said.

Over the years, the posse has given more than $42,000 in scholarships.