Last week we discussed the general subject of disposal of equines--a sad and sometimes frustrating job for any horse person. This week we will look at the scene and think about some of the challenges of physically dealing with 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of dead horse to be disposed of before it bloats, rots, and generally becomes even more frustrating to manage. Some situations are far more difficult to deal with than others.
What do you do if you are an emergency manager for a county and suddenly someone calls you and says "Hey, there was a trailer accident on the interstate this afternoon and there are two dead horses laying on the side of the road. What do we do with them?" Most emergency managers are not horse people or tied into the equine community--are they going to be aware of the issues involved in carcass removal, disposal, and safety? They may need a resource list to be provided of landfills, renderers, and dead animal equipment operators for your community.
If you had a horse die trapped in a tree after a flood or it fell off a cliff on a trail ride, how would you handle these issues? What if you live in Minnesota and a horse dies when it is -12 degrees F in January? Is it a problem to wait until the ground thaws out to bury it? What questions should you ask yourself before this happens so that you can more professionally and rationally deal with the situation?
First of all, call a local backhoe operator, emergency equine ambulance, or dead-animal rendering company. This is a good phone number to have available at all times, in case your or a friend's horse dies you want to be able to easily access these types of information. Make sure you know how much they charge, what their services actually entail, and think about how much money you can budget to have your horse disposed of in a manner that makes you feel better about the loss.
Then, assess the scene and decide what equipment and resources you might need to move it. For example, is the carcass easily accessible? On the side of the road in the grass, this is easy. If it's trapped in a tree, off a cliff, or down in a neighbor's well--that presents a bunch more challenges. How can you get to it? Do you need a harness and climber's rope, a 4x4 ATV, or a skidsteer? Is the animal dead inside of a stall, trailer, or other confined space that requires use of a sked to pull it out?
Find someone to support you through this. Although it might be possible to pull the horse out of a well with a tractor and a chain around the legs that is not a scene that most owners, children, and friends that knew the horse in life want to see. Who do you know that can come to assist you with this process? Can you take your kids to see the animal, get a lock of the horses' mane or tail, say your goodbyes, and have someone else take care of the burial or transport arrangements?
Next, think about how are you going to move the carcass from its location to burial, rendering, composting, etc? In a future blog I will discuss equine ambulance services in detail, which in many cases can be hired to remove the body of horses. Some of them utilize TLAER techniques for handling the scene (i.e., providing a simple method of wrapping up a necropsied animal, using a Rescue Glide to remove the animal, moving it into a trailer for transport, etc.). More common is to use a tractor or backhoe to lift or shift the animal into a hole that has been dug for that purpose, or onto a trailer for transport.
No one likes to think about the death of their animals, but having a plan, resources, and people to turn to in these types of situations can make it much more palatable and allow you to concentrate on your wonderful memories with your horse, instead of bad last ones.
What are your ideas, experiences and stories related to moving dead horses--morbidly funny, sad, moving, inspiring, or entertaining? We would love to hear them. That is what this blog is all about.