On Patrol: 9OYS gets inside look at historic Border Patrol unit

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On Patrol: 9OYS gets inside look at historic Border Patrol unit

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED Feb 13, 2014 - UPDATED: Feb 16, 2014

WILLCOX, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - It's just another day on the job for this group of law enforcement.
First order of business: tacking up Cody for a day of patrol.

"He's one of our older horses actually," said Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent Bobbi Schad.

Schad is part of a unique group of Border Patrol agents.

"We get to work and see a lot of terrain that a lot of agents never get to see," said Schad.

They make up just two percent of Tucson Sector Agents, but their work is invaluable to keeping our border safe.

"The horse patrol units make some type of an apprehension every day," said Schad. "Whether it's narcotics, whether it's illegals."

The horses give agents a height and size advantage, but they can also sense things that agents can't.

"Their hearing, their eyesight is much better," said Schad.

A typical day for these agents means they are on horseback for up to six hours, following trails and looking for any kind of illegal activity.

"They'll look for foot signs if possible, they'll look for any type of evidence of an incursion in that area," said Schad.

It takes a certain level of training to become one of these agents and that training takes place at the horse patrol training facility.

The facility sits on 237 acres of land about 15 miles south of Willcox, Ariz., land previously involved in illegal activity and seized by the government.

Luis Hernandez is on his third day of training.

"It's definitely not easy and I'm sore," he said. "It's definitely a learning experience and it's been a little bit difficult."

Hernandez supervises the Cochise County Ranch Patrol, which works closely with Border Patrol. He wanted the same training and skills his deputies have.

"I didn't really know anything about horses, from the bare minimum, so everything here is new to me," he said.

This is the same training a Border Patrol agent would receive to join the Horse Patrol. And it's not easy.

Agent Schad says only about 50 percent of agents graduate from the grueling month-long training program. That 50 percent join a historic group of agents.

"Originally Border Patrol started with horses," said Schad. "Back in 1925, that's what was required. You had to have a horse and a gun, and they provided you with ammo."

These agents develop special bonds with their horses, but just like their human counterpart, these animals can't work forever.

After the horses serve their country, they spend their days roaming pastures at the training facility, where they await adoption, either by a Border Patrol agent, or they might also go to a non-profit organization.

"I adopted mine when we retired him out," said Schad. "You'll go out and you're working many hours with these. Yeah they're not a canine and they're not coming home with us every night, but you're still out caring for it, you're doctoring it... so you're still going to have that relationship with them."
As long as a threat remains in the border communities, these agents will saddle up and ride out.

Rikki Mitchell

Rikki Mitchell

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Rikki Mitchell is a proud University of Arizona grad and joined the KGUN9 team after graduation. Rikki reports for the evening newscasts.