Welcome to the newest blog on THE HORSE!

If you have ever been in an emergency situation and wished there was a phone number that would answer in a friendly voice, "Horse 911 - What's your emergency?" then you understand how scary it can be to wonder what to do when the unimaginable happens. The job of this blog is an effort to communicate ideas, answer questions, and educate us all about what can and does happen to horses and their people, and how each of us can prevent, prepare, and respond better to actual situations with horses. My intent is to learn from others out there, not to point fingers and be accusing.

We welcome your comments, stories, and of course pictures of your own rescue attempts - successful or not - where we can discuss the suggested best practices out there for saving your horse. Along the way we will learn about how the emergency services response personnel (firefighters, paramedics, police and sheriff's officers) and sometimes animal control officers interact to respond to incidents involving horses in a myriad of scenarios every day - from simple trailer wrecks to animals trapped in fencing, from horses stuck in mud to those that get struck by cars on the side of the road.  Sometimes it involves people getting injured or even killed; our aim is to learn more about how to NOT have those things happen to each of us and our beloved animals.

Together with Dr. Tomas Gimenez, my partner at TLAER.ORG, and a wealth of dedicated assistant instructors, we have provided training events and responded to local live rescues since 1995. Today, we have given up our "normal" jobs to be able to provide training to emergency responders that get these types of horse calls at 911 centers all over the U.S., and in other countries (whether you dial 000 or 999, etc.). We travel all over the world showing veterinarians, horse owners and emergency responders the types of simple information and techniques that make people safer handing horses that have been injured, trapped, loose in traffic, or need to be extricated from a difficult situation. And we teach them how to make the horses safer, too, through increased knowledge of behavior and animal handling portions of the courses.

Parents might need to maintain vigilance for their children - some of the pictures that I will post may be bloodier that you wish them to see - but all of this is the reality of being responsible for living things. I try to provide the correct credit for all pictures to the photographer - please share your pictures with the blog community, but ensure that the photographer who actually took the picture is credited.

Caveat - There are many scary situations where you as a horse owner really should call for help from friends and neighbors, and others that you should call 911 and get assistance from the local fire and rescue services in your area!

  1. If a person is injured, or there is a very great risk of injury - i.e. barn fire, traffic situation with trailer accident or loose horse in the road, mud or water rescue - call 911 first and explain that there is a person injured and the potential for others to be injured.
  2. If you are alone, do not attempt to "rescue" or extricate a horse from any situation where it is recumbent, trapped, stuck, or otherwise needs to be extricated or manipulated to safety. Always use the buddy system.
  3. If an animal is stuck in any type of water or mud scenario - please call 911. Water and mud are some of the most intrinsically dangerous rescue scenarios and can kill well-intentioned people as well as the animal victim.
Horse trailer flip exercise

Let's start this first week by looking at a typical trailer wreck from the perspective of the horse that was in the trailer. In this picture we have placed a 500-pound horse rescue mannequin inside the trailer on the left side, then we rolled the trailer over to the left side to simulate an accident. We allowed the mats and divider gates to do what they will do based on gravity. Here, you are seeing what a firefighter and police officer might see when they arrive to control traffic around the accident, deal with people injuries, and finally to assist with the animal(s) in the trailer.

For this scenario - we will assume that 911 was called, there are no human injuries, responders have controlled the traffic and any other dangers, and rescuers may now approach the trailer with your horse in it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What would happen if you really ran up to the trailer to check on your horse and quickly opened the back doors and ramps (as in the picture)?
  • If the horse is tied in the trailer on a short trailer tie (or worse, a bungee type tie), what do you think might happen when it tries to get up?
  • What could you do to assist the horse to extricate himself from the trailer?
  • Is there a safe way to release the trailer tie without crawling over the horse's body or head to get to it?
  • How could you control your horse if it managed to get out of the trailer without a leadrope or halter on its head?
  • Do recumbent and trapped horses lay quietly in these situations?
  • What do you think the horse can HEAR, SEE and FEEL while it is laying there?
  • Is it going to be calm or stressed?
  • Why isn't the horse already standing up?

Next week we will examine some "best practice" answers, feature some of the innovative ideas from previous students, and highlight responses from readers of this page. In the meantime, we want to hear from YOU. Have you ever had a horse in a serious trailer wreck? What caused the incident, and what was the response from others to assist? Did the horse(s) survive? Were they injured?  What was the outcome and how have you prevented this from occurring since? I know you have many other questions and comments - that is what we are all here for!