Page 22 - Chiron Spring 2018
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 Historically, the Pack Animal Transportation Course has been run at The Defence Animal Centre since the mid 70’s when the Royal Corps of Transport handed over the responsibility of delivering the course to the RAVC. The DAC delivered the course to Special Forces and infantry soldiers and it was also delivered to RAVC soldiers during their basic training but now due to the reduced need for the capability, the course has not been run since 2008.
Although the use of the pack animals has decreased in the modern army, a need could always arise where this capability could be utilised again, therefore handlers and commanders need to have an understanding of the role, employment and organisation of the pack animal.
With this in mind and the potential of this capability being called upon for future operations, especially in undulating terrains, it was decided to find a couple of budding pack ponies from our current holdings to train, and from which we could even very quickly spring The Pack Animal Transportation Course into life once again.
On taking over the post of Estate Manager, I started by rifling through the current prospective young horses for rehoming, with a view to re-employing them into the field of transportation. After ruling out any animal over 15.2hh, we were left with two potential smaller horses Elita (Ellie) and Pandora that, should they progress through training would make ideal pack transportation animals.
Two very keen volunteers came forward, Mrs Sue Stevens (having worked at the
DAC since 1974 and having passed the course in 1985) and Mr Carl Prackauskas, who quickly embarked on the training with the help of several other Equine Training Squadron instructors.
With Ellie already in the fields enjoying herself, she was brought in and cleaned up much to her disgust, having failed the training for KTRHA due to her mareish behaviour and her fondness for dismounting her rider with spectacular bucking sessions, I warned the team they might have a challenge on hand.
Training began in earnest with the progressions of the pack gradually
"With Ellie being a sneaky and devious mare we couldn’t rest on our laurels"
being added onto Ellie throughout her training sessions. As expected, on a few occasions throughout her training Ellie decided to remind her handlers that she was the boss and if she didn’t want the pack on back. She would shake it off by any means necessary, on one occasion whilst being introduced to water with the pack she decided she had had enough and decided to bolt across the river, up and over the bank and continue to gallop across the field dislodging the entire pack leaving her handlers still in the river, up to their waist in water. This kind of incident became commonplace in
her training much to Ellie’s amusement, it became such a regular sight to see her handlers come past my office covered in mud, shaking their heads and muttering under their breath, and when asked how training was going, the reply was generally unrepeatable.
With Ellie half way through her training it was decided to bring Pandora in to join her training sessions, with some lessons learnt from Ellie the training for Pandora went without a hitch and she was an absolute delight to work with clearly showing Ellie how it was supposed to be done.
With their training complete, it was decided to keep them turned out and bring them in for training sessions twice a week to keep the capability alive should there be a need for their new capability at short notice. With Ellie being a sneaky and devious mare we couldn’t rest on our laurels as on one such continuation session she plotted with Pandora to remind us that they are indeed in charge and being the powerful animals they are, proceeded to have a spectacular bucking session around the entire yard, dislodging both packs and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, the scene that unfolded in front of us would not have been out of place at a rodeo.
Looking forward we will continue to work with these two mares to keep their training up to standard should we require the capability in the future, hoping that through the continuation phase not to have too many repeats of the rodeo scene.
Reviving Pack Animal Transportation
By SSgt Kerry Alford – Estate Manager, Equine Training Squadron

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