EDINBURG — Two agents with the Starr County Special Crimes Unit graduated from a horse patrol certification course, bringing local search and rescue services to Starr County for the first time.

Those services are available through state agencies and U.S. Border Patrol, said Robert Caples, commander of the Special Crimes Unit. But the SCU wanted to be able to provide those services themselves.

“The search and rescue aspect of Starr County is very needed,” Caples said, explaining how the area differed from Hidalgo County. “Let’s just say an elderly person gets lost. Here, it’s very likely that they can walk along the street for a very, very long time. In Starr County, it doesn’t take very long before you end up in the brush.”

“When you have people that are out there, completely exhausted from the heat, they’re not able to run around and wave their hands looking for a helicopter of for a drone,” Caples added. “You have to get on the ground and go look for these people.”

The course was conducted by the Border Patrol RGV Sector’s Horse Patrol Unit in conjunction with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

With the agents’ completion of the program, the SCU is looking into adopting wild mustangs for those search-and-rescues, Caples said.

The horses are used for search-and-rescue operations because it allows the agents to be at a higher level where they can see a lot farther than they would standing on the ground, one agent explained. The horses are also able to cover more ground than people on foot.

Throughout the four-week course, they trained in moving the horse correctly and in way that was comfortable for the animal, the same agent said, describing the experience as difficult and exhausting.

“It’s a very intensive program; we do not lower our standards for anybody,” said Ruben Garcia, RGV Sector horse patrol coordinator. “I can guarantee you, the pin that they’re going to wear, it was earned not given.”