Arriving at the barn you open the door and begin distributing hay. Each horse’s eager face greets you and the yummy flake of green goodness – except one. She is down and cannot get up. You summon all of the help you can find, attach ropes to the pasterns and halter, pull and push her into a position where she can then be flipped and hope the momentum is enough to get her back on her feet. Several attempts are made and it becomes quite obvious that she is either unwilling or unable to rise. You rule out colic as she is hungry and there is adequate manure in her stall.
The vet is called and all the information is relayed. Upon the arrival of this equine medical professional he/she administers some pain relief, I.V. fluids and calcium. A sufficient time passes to allow the horse to recover from exhaustion and a few more attempts are made to assist and entice the horse to stand – all with negative results. The vet makes a phone call to the Large Animal Rescue Service/Team. Usually in conjunction with several volunteer fire departments these dedicated people work with Humane Societies, large animals welfare agencies and sanctuaries, large animal veterinary services and for the good of the general public whenever a large animal – be they horse, cow, mule or donkey, and I presume other assorted animals that can weigh upwards of 3,000 pounds, are in need of being lifted up or out of harms way.
Equipped with a “glide” this dedicated group can accomplish what no human or group of humans can accomplish alone – they can move a recumbent horse from place to place and more specifically out of confined spaces where large equipment cannot go. The glide is a horse size piece of heavy duty plastic that can, with some effort by this same group of people, be placed beneath the horse. The horse is generally sedated, strapped to the plastic and then maneuvered out of the stall or confined space and onto the grass with hopes that, upon regaining her full senses she will be encouraged to try to rise on her own on the more natural footing. Short of tearing down the walls of the barn this is the safest way to move a downed horse out of a stall when she cannot do so on her own.
If the horse is still unable to stand another vital piece of equipment, a portable hoist, is assembled. This contraption can be found in most mechanics’s shops and is used to remove engine blocks. With a few modifications it is transformed and utilized for the lifting of horses that cannot rise on their own. With the help of an equine sling, which again requires a small army of dedicated souls to maneuver under the prone horse so that it can be secured around the animal’s body, this device gives a downed animal a fighting chance to regain his footing and once again stand.
These Large Animal Rescue Teams also attend motor vehicle accidents involving a trailer that contains horses or livestock. They work with the attendant emergency crews to ensure that standard procedures are evaluated for the safety of the animal(s) involved. Small but important differences are considered - differences that can make or break the success of the animal’s rescue – lights but no sirens, no loud reciprocating saws and protecting the lives of the human crews from a panicky horse are but a few such considerations.
Horses trapped in the mud, in a well, in the water or down a cliff are all rescued by such individuals and teams. Wayne County New York is lucky enough to have such a Large Animal Rescue Team. Working and training with the large animal sanctuary “Cracker Box Palace,” these dedicated folks are on call 24/7. Supposedly funded by the county for which they serve, governmental budget cuts have forced many such services to seek out private funding. If you have a horse, love horses or animals in general please contact your local Humane Society and or Fire and Rescue Departments and ask if they too have a Large Animal Rescue Team. If so consider donating – if not perhaps you should ask what can be done to create such a team in your locale.
If you live in Wayne County or Western New York consider contacting LART and or “Cracker Box Palace” and ask what you can do to help – both are linked below.