In July I told the story of my neighbor’s fallen horse, Eve, and the tremendous effort it took to get her up and walking again. A couple of weeks later, I'm sorry to report, Eve went down again. This time she was found in an open field. The vet surmised that poor Eve had been having seizures and the humane decision was made to let her go peacefully.
From this experience, I try to take back a positive which leads to the topic of this blog. Tanya Wescovich from Stonington Animal Control was our hero the day that Eve fell the first time. Her expertise in safely maneuvering a recumbent thousand-pound animal had Eve standing in less than two hours whereas several others (including the Ledyard Fire Department) had already tried for six hours with no results. The problem wasn’t insufficient willpower or muscle, but a lack of training in how to place straps, move and lift a horse without hurting her or anyone else.
After Eve’s ordeal, there was an interest in learning the techniques Tanya used. Tanya set up training recently with CTSART (Connecticut State Animal Response Team) and Dr. Peter S. Conserva for all interested animal control officers, firefighters and horse owners at the Mohegan Sun Fire Station. I attended to learn as much as I could about large animal emergency response as I’m now regularly helping out with the care of my neighbor’s horses.
Dr. Conserva is a down-to-earth equine veterinarian, an interesting speaker with decades of experience as a first responder where a horse (or mule, donkey or cow) is caught in a situation it can’t get out of by itself. Many of the cases Dr. Conserva works on involve trailer accidents, barn fires, horses that have fallen into swimming pools, frozen ponds, mud, or simply cast like Eve was. CTSART has a trailer complete with horse-sized emergency equipment (most approved to lift up to 5000 pounds) which may be called into service after a 911 call is placed and the fire department or animal control contact CTSART for support.
The pictures Dr. Conserva showed were real-life disasters he has experienced and disturbing reminders of how easily a horse can get stuck. The first part of his program was geared toward teaching firefighters about horse behavior and body language. Many first responders have never handled a horse, much less put a halter on one to lead it out of a burning barn. Dr. Conserva mentioned he’s holding a separate class for large animal veterinarians.
I have been certified in the past for CPR and first aid for humans and pets, where we practiced our technique on a mannequin human, cat or dog. CTSART has Emuleo, a mule mannequin (mulequin?) for training purposes. We didn’t do CPR on Emuleo, but simulated lifts and dragging him on his side out of tight quarters.
Some of the horse people I attended this training class with plan on getting their own emergency response equipment. The most important items seem to be the wide webbed tow lines. I have to stress that knowing how to place the tow lines so that one doesn't injure the animal is vitally important.
It’s good to know that the experts at CTSART are there for animal emergencies. Dr. Conserva mentioned they even have rows of cages to accommodate cats and dogs that can be put in shelters if an area evacuates due to a natural disaster. The training and resources available from Dr. Conserva and CTSART are invaluable for anyone who works with animals or is a first responder.