Jennifer Woods

Firefighters take the reins of large animal rescue

If you need to calm a horse down quick, put a bra over its eyes and tampons in its ears.

If you need to calm a horse down quick, put a bra over its eyes and tampons in its ears.

This is just one technique firefighters learned last weekend at the large animal rescue course in Metchosin.

Volunteer firefighters learned to extract horses out of the mud, a fire or a car crash involving a horse trailer in the first large animal rescue course hosted in Metchosin. Fire departments from the south Island were invited.

“We do get various calls involving large animals,” said Metchosin fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop. “I thought it would be very realistic to the area.”

At last weekend’s course, firefighters didn’t strand animals in actual mud, but they did learn harnessing techniques to lead horses out of dangerous situations without injuring the animal or themselves.

If a horse were stuck in a muddy ditch or trapped in a building, it’s more about calming and guiding the animal out, rather than yanking on it’s reigns.

“We would harness him and work with the horse to get him out,” Dunlop said. “We would help to pull while the horse jumps out.”

Although one might be hard pressed to find one in a barn, a nautical life jacket can be placed over a horse’s head to get it out a situation where its head could be injured by surrounding objects.

If a horse is already injured and bleeding “you can use diapers or maxi pads for the wound,” said Jennifer Woods, a livestock handing specialist and the course instructor. “If they are startled the horse won’t be easy to catch, they can freak out at any time.”

Metchosin volunteers have gear, such as portable panels and gates, that can help control large animals in emergency situations, but Dunlop noted that it’s best to have someone on scene familiar with whatever animal is in jeopardy, such as a horse.

“They can watch the horse’s breathing and ear positioning,” Dunlop said, explaining firefighter could then be alerted if a horse could spook or is under distress. “But the flight response is different for each animal.”


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