The incomparable Sir Mark Prescott is often quoted as saying that 90% of horses spend their lives trying to kill themselves, with 95% of their grooms aiding and abetting them. The Fire Services in this country definitely fall in to the remaining 5%.
Stephen Howard’s ex-racehorse, Pacco, is yet to truly test the Prescott theory but prevention is better than cure. The stalwart of our Wellingborough office was fortunate to have a demonstration at his yard last weekend from the Wellingborough Fire Service’s ‘Animal Rescue Team’, highlighting the various dangers and the best ways to avoid them. This particular Fire Service is one of the leading crews in the country, rescuing horses that have become cast in their boxes, fallen into watercourses, or become entangled in a horsebox or trailer partition.
Their equipment and techniques were first developed in North America and Canada nearly 20 years ago and these dedicated teams now ensure that 90% of all horses they are called out to survive. The most common scenario is freeing a horse that has become cast in its box or whilst out in the field. Normally they can simply be pulled over using a lunge line, but if the horse has been down for some time they are often too exhausted to stand or help themselves. The crew attach webbing straps around the horse’s flank and girth before they can manoeuvre them to safety and then if necessary winch them up off the ground to allow the blood to circulate around their system. The Wellingborough Service has a specialist all-terrain vehicle for this purpose, which can also be used to extricate horses from ditches or deep water.
Transporting horses exposes them to another range of dangers, especially when the vehicle in question is not fit for purpose. Sadly the team reported that far too many of the boxes and trailers that they attend are poorly maintained and there is a proliferation of modified LCVs which have not always been adapted correctly. Rotten floors, low partition walls and simple mistakes such as leaving feed just out reach, can lead to disaster. There was no shortage of gruesome imagery to accompany the talk, but thankfully a large number of horses now survive these ordeals because of the fire team’s experience and proficiency with cutting equipment.
Fire services across the country are adept at saving both human and equine lives.