Large Animal Rescue Training
 By Winniefield Park   •   9th Nov 2015   •   1,199 views   •   0 comments

We often see headlines about horses being rescued from perilous situations by emergency response teams. EMTs are the front line for most emergencies and in rural areas, they not only rescue people, but animals too. Firefighters might find themselves evacuating dairy cattle from a burning barn, herding loose animals that have escaped from fields, or getting animals out of tricky situations like bogs, wells and tangles with trees or farm equipment. The problem with these types of rescues is, unlike the human emergencies that they are well trained to handle, rescue workers may not know how to deal with situations involving animals, especially large reactive ones like horses.

Recently, firefighters in our province and other first responders attended training in which they learned how to help horses and other large livestock in emergency situations. Held at a former harness racetrack, the training included the basics of how horses think in these situations. Most firefighters arenít horse people. They donít understand that a horse might be afraid of someone in full firefighting gear, and not recognize them as someone there to help. Getting horses out of a burning barn isnít going to be just a matter of walking up and leading them out. And, when panicked, horses donít think very sensibly.

Also part of the the two day training was methods for extracting large animals from a large ditch. A large pit was dug so first responders could practice putting a sling on a dummy horse and lifting it out. This is a common scenario, whether the horse gets into a bad situation on its own, or a rider is also involved.

The training was done by Georgia-based Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. TLAER training isnít about rescuing horses in need, such as we often see in starvation, neglect and abuse cases, but rescues involving fire, trailer accidents, mud, quicksand, deep ditches and other emergency situations. During the training participants may learn about the behavior of animals in emergencies, methods of extraction, useful equipment and other skills and methods that can help them get scared animals out of bad situations. Participants learn to use ropes, slings, pulleys and other paraphernalia to lift horses safely, and how to keep the rescuers safe as well.

Attendance at TLAER trainings isnít limited to those already in emergency response work. Also attending the local training were horse owners and veterinarians. The training is available to the public and to animal control officers, law enforcement and firefighters.

One of the things that TLAER struggles against is the ďHollywoodĒ perception of horses and rescue. Rescuing is rarely as heroic as it appears in the movies and horses donít act like Hollywood horses. Teamwork, with several knowledgeable people on the team, each with their own expertise are important to successful rescues. And, this is TLAERís goal.

Iím glad our local firefighters were able to attend TLAER training in the past. Knowing many of the people on the fire department and how dedicated they are, I feel even better that they are prepared to help my whole family, even the four legged members, if the need arises.

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