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First Responder Refresher for Large Animal Emergency Rescue

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First Responder Refresher for Large Animal Emergency Rescue

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“In an emergency involving horses and other livestock, veterinarians often feel that the situation is entirely their responsibility."

Guelph, ON Mar, 26, 2024 - Equine Guelph’s Large Animal Emergency Rescue (LAER) training team kicked off their 2024 schedule with a one-day refresher workshop at the beautiful Holly Oaks Farm on March 20, in Lynden, ON. Among the attendees were members of the Hamilton Mounted police, York police, McKee-Pownall veterinary services, Troy Equine Services and members of TEAD - therapeutic riding centre.

Part of a successful large animal rescue involves working quickly to bring in the necessary assistance and then working together within the incident command system. 

Dr. Chris Riley, Chair of the Department of Clinical Studies at the Ontario Veterinary College, began the day discussing veterinary roles in animal incidents and the importance of all responders working together and being familiar with those roles ahead of time. Then it was down to business leaving the warm viewing lounge to get busy learning how to safely extricate horses from hazardous predicaments.

“In an emergency involving horses and other livestock, veterinarians often feel that the situation is entirely their responsibility. This course was extremely informative in presenting the logistics for the best possible outcome for both the animals as well as the people involved in a crisis scenario by presenting proven procedure standards as used by fire, police and emergency medical agencies. Participants were engaged in various emergency situations and then coached through strategies to set up a chain of command and clear roles were established for each individual. By the end of the program, everyone felt that they had more skills to best assist in an emergency if necessary and that the best outcomes were a team effort.” - participant, Dr. Angela Whelan

Equine Guelph Large Animal Emergency Rescue workshop participants at Holly Oaks farm pictured with ‘Rusti’ the rescue mannequin. Photo Credit: Dr. Susan Raymond

Using wide tow straps and a 600 pound horse mannequin, known as ‘Rusti’, the crew learned how to execute forward, backwards and sideways drags depending on the mock dilemmas they were presented with.

“The proper use of specialized equipment and positioning of webbing around the body of the animal is so important to having a positive outcome of lifting or dragging a large animal to safety,” says lead instructor Victor MacPherson, EBSP Rescue.

Safety was stressed in every animal handling technique, while the participants learned about equine behaviour. They were cautioned that even a sedate looking horse could react suddenly once freed from a compromising position. Staying out of kick zones is of utmost importance no matter how quiet the horse appears.

“All large animal incidents regardless of cause or scope, present a risk of injury to responders.  The way to improve the odds of a favourable and safe outcome for both animals and responders is through proper training of best practices and the use of rescue equipment,” says course facilitator Dr. Susan Raymond.

The participants learned how to work in tight spots, like horse trailers, with large animals and how to perform confinement techniques. The crew also became handy with ropes, learning how to create an emergency halter. Anatomy was covered stressing that the horses head and tail can never be used as handles. Flossing techniques were covered to position recovery straps in the right places to move a horse without causing further injury.

Ways to lift a horse were discussed and put into practice. In one scenario, specialized equipment included a tractor to facilitate a vertical lift. Another situation required the team to plan the best way to rescue a horse that has found itself trapped in a difficult position in a trailer. ‘Rusti’ found himself upside down in another scenario calling all participants to assist in a cast horse rescue. There were also downed horse and rider situations out on treacherous terrain which gave the participants opportunities to practice securing ‘Rusti’ to a glide for easier transport.

Equine Guelph thanks the supporters, facilitators, and participants of these important large animal emergency rescue workshops. A special thank you to Linda Rawlinson (Holly Oaks Farm) and Sgt Dennis Leonard (Hamilton Mounted Police) for not only hosting the workshop at Holly Oaks Farm but also for generously providing a delicious lunch for the day.

Equine Guelph would also like to thank Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS) for its foundational funding of the Large Animal Emergency Rescue program.

Participants must be a minimum of 18 years of age. First responders, pre-service, law enforcement, animal welfare officers, veterinarians, vet. technicians, emergency animal response teams, horse owners, livestock producers and associations are all encouraged to attain skills in large animal rescue.

Delivered by Equine Guelph (University of Guelph), in the past decade, the LAER program has continued to grow and expand its offerings to a varied group. If you are interested in helping to build this program or would like to discuss offering this program in your area or to your members, please contact Susan Raymond at Equine Guelph. Courses can be offered on a cost-recovery basis, or through sponsorship, to communities/individuals who would like to expand the reach of this training program.

About Equine Guelph:
Equine Guelph is the horse owners' and care givers' Centre at the University of Guelph in Canada. It is a unique partnership dedicated to the health and well-being of horses, supported and overseen by equine industry groups. Equine Guelph is the epicentre for academia, industry and government - for the good of the equine industry as a whole. For further information, visit

Story by: Equine Guelph

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