Archived Outdoors

When disaster hits, horses will still hold their own

out frWill it be a bomb, an oil shortage, energy grid damage or an electromagnetic pulse that renders America’s modern modes of transportation useless?

Or will it be the collapse of modern society or simply the collapse of your bank account under the pressure of mounting fuel costs that removes the option of driving a car from the transportation equation?

Whichever reason it is, horse trainer Catherine Hunter knows where she’ll go: to the stable.

Hunter, who has a small horse farm just outside of Canton, has been riding horses for 52 years — and she’s 54. But what started as trade of professional riding, jumping and racing, passed down to her from her mother, recently took a new twist.

Hunter has recently come under in the umbrella of the survivalist and preparedness circles — a crowd that is vigilant about preparing for a future, and as they believe an imminent one, when people will have to rely on the traditional skills of our parents, grandparents and ancestors for survival, rather than the support of modern society.

Hunter’s contribution is her broad equestrian knowledge and experience with horses in the field.

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At a three-day survivalist symposium coming to the Haywood Fairgrounds at the end of September, Hunter will put on a class called “Be Ready with Horses” that will cover the utilitarian uses of a horse for work, transportation and even defense. (Hunter formerly trained police horses.)

The press release for the class totes the eye-grabbing title: “An EMP won’t stop your horse.”

EMP is the abbreviation for an “electromagnetic pulse” — a charge in the atmosphere, presumably detonated as an act of war but possibly caused by a cosmic event, that would knock out everything from telecommunications to the energy grid.

Although the science is still debatable on whether an EMP would actually stop a car from running, the point is obvious. Any number of other calamities, such as gasoline shortage or roadway destruction, would substitute.

And, in the aftermath of such a society-altering event, you would have a choice, as Hunter plainly put it.

“You’re going to be on foot or on a horse,” she said. “And being on a horse is so much better.”

She listed a litany of the advantages of having a horse, post-car era. They can plow gardens, draw a wagon to market, allow you to escape dangerous situations at speeds of 25 or 35 miles per hour and allow you to cover long distances of 50 miles per day if need be. And, for long-distance communication in light of the collapse of the communications grid, you’d better have a fresh supply of carrier pigeons or a willing horse to take you the distance to deliver the message yourself.

Hunter is no stranger when it comes to traveling long-distance by horseback either. In 2004 she rode her horse, Count of War, named after its triple crown winning ancestors War Admiral and Count Fleet, 900 miles from upstate South Carolina to ground zero in New York City. She said she did it to promote peace and honor U.S. troops following the collapse of the twin towers.

But, the experience also got her thinking about how different it was to travel by horse rather than automobile.

“A horse doesn’t need gasoline,” Hunter said. “They can graze on the side of the road.”

This ancient formula is the same one that proved successful for the war-ready Mongol soldiers when they traveled great distances on their small horses to conquer much of Asia. They relied on the horses for everything from its speed and endurance to its blood and milk for sustenance.

Although Hunter doesn’t teach the tactic of cutting slits in a horse and then drinking its blood, such as the Mongol soldiers were believed to do on long treks after stores had vanished, she does teach their riding style.

She said the method of forward riding, which she claims was passed down from the steppe horsemen, allows for more control of the horse and improves cooperation between the horse and the rider. She said the riding style is excellent for riding speed and distances over terrain and outside of a competitive riding arena, making the style a perfect utilitarian fit for after society collapses.

But, she said that art of riding — as well as other riding styles and general knowledge about equines — has been on the decline since after World War II when the United States and other first-world countries accelerated their levels of industrialization and the agrarian components of society began to disappear.

She said at that point horses finished a transition that had begun earlier: transforming from a beast of burden to an animal largely used for pleasure or the screens of Hollywood. Though Hunter has been teaching riding for most of her life in the pleasure driven areas of racing and jumping — she has the broken bones to prove it — and has also appeared in movies and Civil War reenactments with her horses, the addition of a heritage horse skills class, one that teaches riding technique as well as how to care for a horse in an uncertain future when a veterinarian might not be a phone call away, is a contribution she believes is important.

“I am blessed with the skills to help others,” Hunter said. “People have used horses for transportation, communication, work and defense for ages. If something does happen, that will be the first place they turn.”


Can you survive a collapse of modern society?

Learn dozens of useful survival skills during the Heritage Life Skills symposium at the Haywood County Fairgrounds September 28 - 30.

The weekend of workshops and classes is designed to teach people the skills they need to be self-reliant should society as we know it collapse — whether it’s due to disease, war, a meteor strike, natural disaster, implosion of technology or a crash of the energy grid.

Two big names in the survivalist circuit will be speaking at the event on Saturday, including the renown author of One Second After, William Forstchen; and author of Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms and the Prepper’s Instruction Manual, Arthur Bradley.

Classes at the life heritage skills event will include instruction such as how to butcher a hog, fertilize with worms, design and connect solar systems, use basic weapons and self-defense maneuvers. Workshops will also cover canning and dehydrating food, dutch and sun oven cooking, bread making, gunsmith and weapon maintenance, candle and soap making, knot tying, food storage, herbal salves, tinctures, spinning and weaving, medicinal plants and fire starting.

The event is organized and sponsored by Carolina Readiness Supply in Waynesville. Cost of the three day event is $100 for adults and $50 for children. Free RV parking and tent camping will be available. 

Go to, or stop by the store on Montgomery Street in downtown Waynesville, or call 828.456.5310.

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