On the ground with Quesnel Canadian Rangers

Canadian Ranger Instructor Warrant Officer Kirk McColl rides down from Groundhog Lake with the Quesnel Canadian Ranger Patrol.

Canadian Ranger Instructor Warrant Officer Kirk McColl rides down from Groundhog Lake with the Quesnel Canadian Ranger Patrol.

Canadian Ranger Lindsay Chung
4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group

What would it look like if Canadian Rangers were asked to support a ground search and rescue operation using horses to get through difficult terrain?

Members of the Quesnel Canadian Ranger Patrol in British Columbia’s Cariboo region set out to answer that question during an exercise in July.

The purpose of Exercise Goldfield Sojourn, which took place July 15 to 18, was to run a rehearsal of the Quesnel Canadian Ranger Patrol deploying on horseback to assist in a ground search and rescue.

“The exercise was to put all of the moving parts into play and establish patrol-level standard operating procedures,” said Canadian Ranger Sergeant Paul Nichols, Patrol Commander of the Quesnel Canadian Ranger Patrol. “I can say with confidence that it was a success. I think the major success was the emphasis placed on the scheme of maneuver versus just getting out and riding horses.”

To be an effective asset to a search, the patrol needs to move quickly from its home location and self-sufficiently stage out of a new area; so, mobility and communications were a focus of the exercise.

The patrol group loaded their trucks and trailers and drove in a convoy from Quesnel to Wells, where they set up a reception area and met with village residents, community officials, members of the local RCMP Detachment, and the Wells Volunteer Fire Brigade. From there, they drove to a new location and set up an administration area and camp in the village and spent the night.

“From assembling, loading equipment, forming our convoy and vehicle packets to a road move and creating a reception area in Wells, the entire move was broken down into its component parts and rehearsed until we got it right,” said CR Sgt Nichols.

In the morning, the group departed on horseback and rode through the historic town of Barkerville up to Groundhog Lake, riding a rocky, steep trail that followed the old Cariboo Wagon Road and an historic ditch line. At Groundhog Lake, another administration area and camp was established.

After spending the night in their shelters, the Canadian Rangers rode back through Barkerville and returned by vehicle convoy to Quesnel.

“As a patrol, we took the lessons we practiced with our vehicle convoy, applied it to horses and moved every member of the Quesnel CRP on horseback to establish a new HQ area at Groundhog Lake,” explained Sgt Nichols. “From Groundhog Lake, we broke down into smaller detachments and did a recce of the area. We lived and operated out of our everyday carry as if we had been asked to extend the duration of a ground search and rescue patrol.”

Sgt Nichols says the big takeaway from the exercise is that the patrol can operate unsupported on horseback to a high level and be an asset to an operation.

“The horses can be mobile and self-sufficient while being an asset,” he said. “We can operate in difficult terrain and be a readily-deployable, self-sufficient asset.”

For this exercise, the Quesnel CRP brought 11 saddle horse and five pack horses, who carried horse feed and patrol stores up to Groundhog Lake.


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